He is often referred to as “the hardest working man in local government.”
After eight years with the city, Economic Development Director Tim Johnson is leaving Federal Way. Johnson is taking on a new role in Oregon state as the Lincoln County administrator.
“I think the opportunity presented itself … they came looking for me,” Johnson told the Mirror.
Johnson is a 4th generation born-and-raised Oregonian. Logging thousands of miles on the I-5 corridor, he also cares for his 98-year-old mother who lives in Portland.
His return to Oregon is for personal and professional reasons, he said.
Hired in 2014, Johnson brought over 30 years of economic development experience in the public sector with the cities of Sacramento and San Diego, and in municipal and regional development with a private consultancy and a northern California development authority, the Mirror previously reported.
“When you look at economic development, for the most part, it was just me,” he said. “So, I had to rely on people and their support, their enthusiasm, their consciousness. And, much to my amazement and surprise, they went above and beyond the call of duty.”
The economic development director is responsible for leading the city’s efforts to recruit new businesses and retain existing ones while catalyzing downtown development.
For Johnson, it is also about supreme customer service.
“The greater degree of customer service you can provide, the greater degree the economy grows,” he said.
During his time in Federal Way, Johnson played key roles in recruiting businesses such as DaVita, Ellenos Yogurt, Sea Mar Federal Way Medical Clinic, Trapper’s Sushi, Legendary Doughnuts and Amazon Fresh, among dozens of others.
His efforts are tangible in the recent development and opening of The Hub: Federal Way Higher Education Center collaboration campus. He upheld the oldest and most prestigious economic development internship program in the state in cooperation with the University of Washington.
Then, there were the 12 major special events throughout his years, financing the Performing Arts and Event Center, and forming the more recent COVID-19 task forces.
Johnson also kept a head-spinning amount of data, ready to report on the city’s Tech Hub Action Plan, downtown development, improving visitor experiences, business development, tourism and much more.
Mayor Jim Ferrell said the city is “incredibly fortunate” to have had Johnson serve in this role. Ferrell wished Johnson success in his new professional role, but said he will be missed in Federal Way.
“I have frequently called Tim the hardest working person in government and his efforts certainly bear that out,” he said. “Many nights and weekends, Tim Johnson could be found in his office working for the people of our community. His invaluable experience brought New Market Tax Credits to the Performing Arts and Event Center, countless new businesses, and jobs to Federal Way.”
Much of the last two years amid the pandemic — 102 weeks to be exact — have been documented through Johnson’s weekly memos. Updates on Federal Way’s economic development, businesses, labor, financial issues, successes and frustrations are written by Johnson and sent to about 400 people in the city.
On April 1, Johnson was presented with a key to the city by Ferrell at his goodbye luncheon where he told stories, laughed, reminisced, and praised his colleagues.
Praise is something that flows readily from Johnson. He recalls the efforts of city staff and volunteers in 2018, when they “elegantly” worked to prepare the Celebration Park complex for the National Special Olympic Games, then turned the entire complex around to host the city’s July 4 Red, White and Blues Festival. The very next day, those same hands worked to revert the complex back into a Special Olympics site.
“It was just amazing … it’s heartwarming, I’ve never seen anything quite like it before. They’re champions in my mind,” he said.
After working in several California cities with populations in the millions, Johnson said the City of Federal Way employees “outshine a city that’s ten times the size.”
The City of Federal Way is working to fill the economic development manager vacancy as a result of Johnson’s resignation. The vacancy is open until filled, with the first review of applicants occurring Friday, April 15.
To view the job announcement and apply, visit www.cityoffederalway.com/jobs.
Recruitment and selection processes includes panel interviews involving city staff, Federal Way City Council, and representatives from the Greater Federal Way Chamber of Commerce and potentially business owners in the city.