Opinion

Federal Way City Council vacancy opens the field | Bob Roegner

Just when you thought those lazy, hazy summer days of barbecues and relaxation were just around the corner, Federal Way City Council member Eric Faison hung a vacancy sign on his chair.

What had been expected to be a quiet council election cycle with incumbents Jeanne Burbidge, Linda Kochmar and Faison strolling to an easy re-election suddenly has Federal way’s coffee shop talk up several decibels and has provided a burst of energy. Faison’s retirement announcement caught everyone by surprise, so no candidates were organizationally prepared.

But within days, there has been widespread speculation as individuals and groups started courting potential candidates. First out of the gate to announce her candidacy for the open seat is Diana Noble-Gulliford, president of the Federal Way Historical Society.

Many believe former city council candidates might have an edge in name familiarity and campaign experience. Mark Walsh, a local businessman who ran against Burbidge four years ago, has been mentioned. Attorney Roger Freeman, who ran against Jack Dovey two years ago, could be interested. But both have been pretty low-profile since their last attempts. Former school board candidate Ron Walker’s name has come up, as has real estate agent Steve Ames and city commission member Romona Brandes.

Federal Way Chamber of Commerce President Dan Altmayer was mentioned, but he was recently appointed to the board of trustees at Highline Community College and seems unlikely to be a candidate — although you might see him in a legislative race sometime in the future.

Eric Stavney ran two years ago and did well for a first-time candidate, but has since moved out of town. Several people suggested Teri Hickel, who heads Advancing Leadership for the Chamber, as a possible candidate, but she likes what she is doing and won’t run. The same goes for Friends of the Hylebos Executive Director Chris Carrel.

More names will surface prior to filing week, and some of these will decide, for various reasons, that they’re not interested.

Why all the interest? Primarily because you don’t get an open seat very often, but also because these are critical times and there are critical decisions to make. What do you want Federal Way to be? What do you want it to look like? The budget continues to be a worry as council members deliberate whether to maintain or cut services. Should the council reprioritize its budget allocations? And how do you feel about a performing arts center? Is it the key to economic development, jobs and a downtown vision? Or is it a needless expense better saved for another time? Are neighborhood interests balanced with business interests?

Recently, the city council voted to stop the City Center Access project, at least in part due to opposition from the Steel Lake neighborhood. Some viewed that vote as a demonstration of the council’s sensitivity to its neighborhoods and ability to “listen” to its citizens. Others felt the council “caved in” to one neighborhood and denied Federal Way a needed transit option. Which do you believe? And whoever wins this council seat may be the deciding vote on who is Federal Way’s mayor next January. One council member can make a difference.

These are just a few of the questions candidates will need to address. Governing is a complicated business, which requires intelligence, reason and cooperation. Watch how the candidates think and how they fit the governmental pieces together. Do they actually understand government, and what it can do and what it can’t do? Most important, study the issues and study the candidates.

This will make for a fun summer.

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