After meeting with the candidates individually and listening to their responses at community forums, the Federal Way Mirror editorial board has decided upon endorsements for the local City Council and mayor races in the Nov. 7 general election.
In the Federal Way mayoral race, the Mirror’s editorial board endorses incumbent Jim Ferrell. While his opponent, City Council member Susan Honda, is a capable representative of Federal Way and perhaps more empathetic, overall, Ferrell has qualities better suited to the position of mayor. While he is overly fond of “sound bites” when speaking at council meetings or events, sometimes at the risk of sounding disingenuous, Ferrell undeniably has the gift of gab and a strong public presence, which serves him well as mayor — a position that requires strong public-speaking skills and “the art of the schmooze” when addressing constituents as well as movers and shakers with whom the city wishes to build relationships. He knows who those players are within the region, as well, and understands how relationships with them could benefit the city. At the same time, he needs to better develop relationships and partnerships with different organizations in the city — something he has not done to the best of his ability in the past. While this fact is not lost on his opponent, Honda has missed key opportunities in taking him to task for it in recent months and frequently struggles to articulate her thoughts and plans for the city if elected. Ferrell is also not a strong mayor in name only. He is well informed on the issues the city is facing, as well as their backgrounds, and can speak intelligently and thoughtfully on those topics when he sheds his public figure facade. When he is wearing his elected official hat, however, he is decisive and persuasive and undeniably charismatic. He is also remarkably attentive during public comment at council meetings and, unlike many elected and appointed leaders elsewhere, makes an effort to respond at that moment by either addressing concerns or directing staff to investigate issues. And while he is sometimes too inclined to take credit for efforts taking place, Ferrell clearly has a defined plan for the city’s growth and direction and has already made strides in accomplishing those goals. As politician and mayor, Ferrell has proven himself.
City Council Position 2
In the race for Federal Way City Council Position 2, the Mirror’s editorial board recommends Jesse Johnson. Although he’s a first-time candidate for public office, Johnson is one of the brightest young candidates Federal Way has seen in years. The council would benefit from Johnson’s youth, energy, optimism, empathy and charisma. He understands how schools, affordable housing and job development interconnect and relate — and how they add up to a community’s overall well being.
He also has solid ideas on what should be done to improve that symbiotic relationship. Another asset is Johnson’s experience as an educator and mentor in the region’s public schools, and combined with his own experiences growing up in Federal Way, is well aware of our changing demographics, as well as their needs. He holds a master’s degree, and is intelligent and well spoken — easily communicating his thoughts and ideas in ways that are understandable and relatable to everybody. His insight and background is especially valuable in a city as culturally and economically diverse as Federal Way. Johnson’s presence on the council may encourage more younger residents, minorities and other under-represented residents to get involved in city issues.
Current officeholder Bob Celski was appointed to position 2 in January to fill a vacancy. He had previously served on the council from 2012-2015, but opted not to run for re-election in order to focus more on his family and his business. As a proud U.S. Army veteran and Federal Way native, Celski brings business experience, deep community roots and a pragmatic mind set to the council.
However, Johnson brims with potential and can bring a fresh perspective to the council as someone who represents the future of Federal Way.
City Council Position 4
In the race to fill the City Council Position 4 seat, the editorial board struggled in its decision to recommend newcomer Hoang Tran over longtime community member and public servant Diana Noble-Gulliford. Each candidate would bring a different but equally valuable skill set that would serve both the council and the community well. Tran is a prime example of the “American Dream.” He came to this country as a young man with his younger sister after fleeing his native Vietnam and living a year in stark, almost uninhabitable conditions in a refugee camp.
He became an American citizen, put himself through college, got married, had a family and is currently the administrator for the local Department of Social and Health Services in Federal Way. There he sets policy and manages 35-36 employees and a budget of around $30 million.
That experience will serve him well on the council. Through his job, he witnesses the struggles and needs of the people who come into his office, including the homeless, and he is well practiced in the balancing act of providing services to those people while staying on a tight budget. His personal background of being homeless while living in a makeshift tent in the refugee camp as an immigrant to this country struggling to make a life for himself — and succeeding — will also help him relate to many people in Federal Way. On the other hand, Noble-Gulliford is well-versed in Federal Way’s history and development through the years and has served on the City Council before as an appointment before being unseated by Martin Moore in the last election. Her many years on the planning and zoning committee also give her plenty of insight into city government and planning issues. She is thoughtful and articulate when it comes to the future of Federal Way, carefully studies issues before making decisions and is not afraid to ask questions. In the end, though, the Mirror editorial board recommends Tran for council Position 4 because he brings an outlook and background that is missing from the council.
City Council Position 6
In the race for Federal Way City Council Position 6, the Mirror’s editorial board was deadlocked in choosing between incumbent Martin Moore and challenger Roger Flygare. Moore was elected to the council in 2013 on the strength of his personal story as a child from Bulgaria who was adopted and raised in Federal Way. He has been involved in the political world for several years now, including a stint as a legislative aide in Olympia. Moore exudes a genuine passion for his community, but despite showing some maturation since he was elected, he has few if any concrete policy accomplishments over the past four years. And during two recent public candidate forums, Moore’s answers were high on platitudes and low on substance.
Flygare brings decades of experience as a business owner in the court-reporting industry, and he knows his way around the legislative process. His business background and outside-the-box ideas would be assets, and he seems more likely to stir things up on the council. He has run for public office multiple times, including a 2012 campaign for District 30 state representative in which his integrity was called into question over the accuracy of his military record. However, Flygare brings a lot of institutional knowledge to the table when it comes to local government and Federal Way issues.
Also in this race, former mayoral challenger Mark Greene is running as a write-in candidate. But if you’re going to go the write-in route, the Mirror’s editorial board suggests writing in Diana Noble-Gulliford, who is running for Position 4, but should have run against Moore for this position instead. The Mirror board feels Noble-Gulliford is a better choice and would bring more value to the council than the other candidates in this race.
EDITOR’S NOTE: According to information released by King County Elections in 2016, “4 Things You Need to Know About Write-in Candidates in a General Election,” voters have the right to write in the person of their choice. King County Elections staff do count the total number of write-in votes for each office, but they only count how many votes each write-in receives in multi-candidate races if the total number of write-in votes is more than the difference between the top candidates, in which case staff tabulates how many votes each write-in candidate receives for that office. If the write-in candidate has not officially filed for a specific position, the name must be written as the exact spelling. Variations in name spellings will not count as a vote for that person. According to the information, a write-in candidate for mayor defeated the incumbent in the city of Pacific in 2011. For more information, call 206-296-VOTE.