Federal Way Councilman Celski to step down after term expires

Federal Way Councilman Bob Celski recently announced he will not run for Council after his term expires at the end of this year.

Federal Way Councilman Bob Celski recently announced he will not run for Council after his term expires at the end of this year.

Celski, a council member since 2012, “agonized” over the decision not to run for re-election in November but ultimately decided it was time to focus on his growing family and businesses.

“I’ve really enjoyed working with both mayors and they really live in two different eras of the city,” Celski said in an interview, adding that former mayor Skip Priest brought the city out of the recession while Mayor Jim Ferrell is taking the steps to revitalize the economy.

Celski said with his son David in Afghanistan and his son’s wife, Brittney, about to give birth in May — she lives in North Carolina — he and his wife Sue want to be available as much as possible to help be there for their daughter-in-law as she raises their first grandchild.

“Grandma and grandpa want to spoil her,” Celski said, noting their granddaughter will be named Quinn Kennedy Celski.

The 40-plus year Federal Way resident will also be acquiring new business clients throughout the country for the petroleum distributor IPC (USA).

And he’d like to put more work into his family property management business that keeps him busy with rental homes.

Being on the Council is a commitment that “requires your presence,” he said.

Celski said when he first started on the Council he stressed fiscal responsibility and  accountability with his work on the Finance, Economic Development and Regional Affairs Committee. Since his time on the committee, the city has been able to modify and simplify a few key areas in their finances.

“I reviewed our finances to a T,” he said, adding that he kept Finance Director Ade Ariwoola pretty busy — a man he affectionally refers to as “the professor” because of his expertise in financial matters.

At first, Celski wasn’t a Performing Arts and Conference Center (PACC) proponent, as the city was still in a recession when he was elected. But after taking a step back and seeing the blight of the city he “quickly changed tunes.”

“We want to give Federal Way a home to be proud of,” he said. “We needed to fix our front door and we’ve been doing that.”

With the PACC, came the concept of Town Center, a 21-acre project that includes the PACC property, the Transit Center, Town Square Park and the former-Target site the city recently purchased for $8.2 million.

“I saw it as a vehicle to get investment into Federal Way,” Celski said.

Celski is also proud of the work the city has been able to do on public safety with the addition of five new police officers, represented in the 2015-2016 budget.

“I am very happy about having Brian Wilson on staff,” he said. “He is well connected to the public safety [component].”

Wilson, the current chief of staff, was the police chief for many years.

But Celski still wishes he could have done more.

“This is one of my frustrations, is I haven’t been able to spend time on regional affairs,” he said, noting he couldn’t commit the time to join the Sound Cities Association or Association of Washington Cities. “From a business sense, I could have done a lot more.”

He also wishes he had the time to attend more community activities, although he has attended a good handful.

He hopes the city and Council can accomplish a lot during his last year in office, which includes making progress on the development of Town Center and solidifying plans for a Weyerhaeuser replacement.

“I’d love to see Google or some high tech company,” he said. “We don’t want a school, it needs to be a job magnet — good jobs, good pay, good people — that helps boost the economy.”

Celski still hopes to be a force in putting in a Veterans memorial or monument built into Town Square Park but anticipates it’s unlikely it will happen this year.

“Veterans need a place to congregate and be recognized for their service,” Celski said, an Army veteran.

After his experiences on the Council, Celski’s belief of giving back to the community in some way has only been reinforced and he plans to continue that service once he’s gone.

He’s currently the chair of his church’s — St. Theresa’s Parish — Finance Council. After his term, he’d like to stay connected to the city by potentially serving on one of the commissions.

“What I will miss most is not being able to influence things directly,” he said. “I wish I could make it work but I’m not going to say I won’t run again.”

Celski serves on the Land Use and Transportation Commission and the Finance, Economic Development and Regional Affairs Committee. He’s worked as an advisor for Reach Out Federal Way, acted as a youth coach for the Federal Way YMCA, was a president of the Puget Sound Speedskating Club and is a member of the Greater Federal Way Chamber of Commerce.

After graduating from Federal Way High School in 1974, he was appointed to the United States Military Academy at West Point where he earned a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering. He later earned a master’s degree at the U.S. Naval Postgraduate School in Operations Research and was a graduate of the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College as well.

Federal Way Councilman Bob Celski stands with his wife Sue and sons J.R., Chris and David at his son Chris’s wedding. Contributed photo