2009: A political odyssey | Bob Roegner

History will recall 2009 as a year of challenge, change, tragedy, and maybe hope for what the future brings.

We started with the announcement that longtime King County Executive Ron Sims would be moving to the other Washington, thereby setting off the most exciting race for executive in 20 years. But the euphoric optimism the potential executive candidates presented was soon replaced by the tragic as we learned longtime King County Assessor Scott Noble had been involved in a DUI assault case on I-5.

We were also treated to the “wacky,” as one outstanding and successful candidate for the newly created elections director position was joined on the ballot by an odd assortment of pretenders.

The Federal Way City Council did not renew city manager Neal Beets’ contract, but that opened the door for a group to start a citizens’ initiative to put the position of “strong mayor” on the ballot. The initiative proved successful, but the close vote and perception of questionable campaign tactics left the community divided with raw emotions that will take time to heal. Between the economy and uncertainty in City Hall, the future of downtown, the performing arts center and our neighborhoods have been placed on the back burner.

Noble’s tragic departure from the assessor’s office was unfortunately followed by interim assessor and candidate Rich Medved’s stroke and subsequent passing.

Late in the year, we learned Federal Way's superintendent of schools, Tom Murphy, would be retiring in 2010. While not a total surprise, the harsh reality of Murphy’s departure felt like a dose of cold water on an unsuspecting face.

As winter moved in, new King County Executive Dow Constantine was putting together a team to tackle a huge “to do” list of challenges. And new King County Assessor Lloyd Hara was bringing stability to an office in dire need of it.

But as we prepare to turn the page on 2009, we do see hope for a future in what was otherwise a bleak and difficult year. Recently, as we paused to celebrate the holiday season, I witnessed a gathering of Republicans and Democrats, conservatives and liberals, elected and appointed officials, and just plain citizens talking as people — sharing the hope that by working together, this community can be better. I saw the Deputy County Executive talking to city council leaders and the president of Highline Community College and Chamber business leaders talking to state legislators — who in turn were talking to citizens. I saw the newspaper publisher visiting with regional leaders, but also helping a citizen get her newspaper delivered.

I write about these people, and sometimes I agree with them and sometimes I don’t. But I watched the interchange and felt that even with all the gloom and doom 2009 brought, these people were still working and were still optimistic about education, economic development, public safety and the future of our city.

And you should be too. In January, our city council will elect a new mayor. Next November, we will. In between, city, state and county business will still get accomplished. And as difficult as it will be, our school board will find a new superintendent. We will get through it and we will be a stronger community.

Merry Christmas and happy holidays to you and your family. Thanks for reading.

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