Deputy mayor and new relationships | Inside Politics

With the elections over, you might think that city politics are over as well. That would be wrong.

The holidays are for political maneuvering and speculation, and the hot topic now is who will be elected to the two-year term of Federal Way deputy mayor when the new council convenes in January. Retiring council member Jeanne Burbidge has held that title most recently. No one is saying anything for attribution, but the two most-likely candidates for the ceremonial position are six-year council veteran Susan Honda and two-year council member Mark Koppang.

The position itself has little power, but it looks good on the resume for anyone with aspirations for higher office. The seven council members will cast the votes.

Honda wanted the position two years ago to establish credibility as she pondered a run for mayor against incumbent Jim Ferrell. Ferrell likely played an important role behind the scenes in helping Burbidge get the job so that Honda would not have that helpful title. Had Honda won the job, it might have helped her campaign get off to a better start.

Koppang has been a supporter of Ferrell while on the council but is also viewed as ambitious for higher office.

The council that meets in January will likely be more moderate than the one that has served the last few years. In Hoang Tran and Jesse Johnson there will be two new players who may have established different relationships during their campaign.

Ferrell is likely to continue to oppose Honda getting the job and would help Koppang. However, Ferrell would be wise to look over his shoulder at Koppang a little more frequently.

In the most recent election, Koppang supported Martin Moore in his re-election bid, and it’s no secret that Moore is still interested in the state Legislature. Both are active Republicans, and an agreement of mutual support seems likely. Dini Duclos seems more likely to join them than support Honda. With Koppang voting for himself, that gives him three votes.

During the election, Hoang Tran wisely positioned himself as seeking Democratic and independent votes. They were available as Democrats had supported Tran’s primary opponent Sharry Edwards. As a political outsider, Tran may want to support Honda to send a message of independence to Ferrell, who supported Edwards, and most Republicans supported his general election opponent Diana Noble-Gulliford.

Jesse Johnson may want to send a similar message as he likely recalls that Ferrell, Koppang and Moore supported his opponent Bob Celski. Ferrell even bucked the Democratic party to support Celski over fellow Democrat Johnson.

If Tran and Johnson support Honda and Honda votes for herself, that would give her three votes and a possible tie with Koppang.

That leaves Lydia Assefa-Dawson as the tie breaker. Assefa-Dawson has said she is a Democrat, but she has stirred things up in the party by backing some Republican friends for higher office. She would seem most likely to support Honda.

But everything is still in play, and discussions will continue until someone has the needed four votes. Once the fourth vote is set, then it is a matter of keeping the four votes in line until January when the council will convene and vote. Publicly, the vote will likely be unanimous for whoever gets to four first.

Watch closely; it will tell us a lot about how new relationships will guide city politics for the next two years.

Federal Way resident Bob Roegner is a former Auburn mayor and retired public official. He can be reached at

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