As I looked out from behind the podium at a packed Performing Arts and Event Center last week while delivering my State of the City address, I could feel the excitement and buzz surrounding the positive direction the city is headed.
This truly was a phenomenal, historic event — and the start of a new tradition in Federal Way.
Sometimes, after many years of doing things a certain way just because that was how it was done for as long as anyone can remember, a change is needed.
We needed to give the State of the City address back to the community. For years, the Greater Federal Way Chamber of Commerce graciously hosted the event as part of a luncheon where attendees paid to attend.
By moving the event to a city-owned property this year — a venue built during my tenure — it gave us the ability to present the address to a new audience at no cost. We could also accommodate a much larger group — even giving some residents a special chance to visit the PAEC for the first time.
It’s difficult sometimes to inform city employees on our visioning for the future. By inviting them to the event, it gave us a chance to show them where we’ve been and where we’re going as a city.
Part of my job as mayor is to bring the community together. The State of the City event epitomized that vision. We brought together our community partners in the lobby prior to the presentation; we brought City Hall to the PAEC.
And the community feel throughout the evening was palpable. Decatur High’s Michela Walker sang the national anthem, the Thomas Jefferson High Chamber Choir, under direction of Laird Thornton, provided the closing performance, and Decatur’s Jazz Combo Band entertained guests in the lobby area following the speech.
At many times in our country’s history, the nation’s chief executives have made decisions that go against the traditional thinking at times.
In the early years of the national State of the Union address, President Thomas Jefferson, who hated public speaking, sent his annual message as a document in 1801. In the years following, many presidents followed suit. But in 1913, President Woodrow Wilson broke that old tradition. He thought using a direct address to a joint session would capture the imagination of the country and set a new tone for the administration.
When Wilson announced that he would address Congress directly, some critics stirred up fears of a monarchy. Yet his speech, which some historians place on their top 10 State of the Union Addresses because it broke tradition, was well received by Congress.
The City of Federal Way is relatively young (we turn 28 years old next month), and we’re still examining our traditions. We can see from the results of this year’s State of the City address that this is a new tradition worthy of continuing.
In the coming years, we’ll be looking for ways to make the event better and more ways we can bring it to you.
Jim Ferrell is the mayor of Federal Way. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.