In 2009, voters approved a change in Federal Way’s form of government during one of the most controversial campaigns in city history.
City council member Jim Ferrell led the effort to pass Proposition 1, which switched Federal Way’s government from a council/city manager system to one with a strong elected mayor. The city’s first mayoral election is slated for November 2010. So far, Ferrell is the only declared candidate.
As the rumor mill heats up over possible candidates, the Federal Way Kiwanis hosted a discussion March 10 featuring Cary Bozeman, Bob Roegner and Jack Dovey — three former mayors who offered their insight on what Federal Way should seek in a leader.
Bozeman, CEO for the Port of Bremerton, served six years as mayor under Bellevue’s council-manager system, then logged eight years as a strong mayor in Bremerton. Roegner, who writes a weekly political column for The Mirror, served 12 years as an elected mayor of Auburn. Dovey is a Federal Way City Council member who recently finished a term as mayor under the current council-manager form of government.
All three panelists stressed the need for finding the right person: A visionary mayor who can rally the city council around specific goals.
Roegner said residents should expect some governmental friction after the election — as well as animosity from voters who refuse to accept the election results. Roegner also recommended looking carefully at the projects each mayoral candidate proposes, as well as his or her financial supporters, to gauge what kind of agenda that mayor will pursue.
“The campaign for mayor is going to be much more visible, much more volatile, and it’s going to incite a lot of different viewpoints in a much more contentious fashion,” said Roegner, who estimates up to eight candidates could enter the race. “The mayor will become a clear and consistent voice on the regional and state stage.”
Bozeman said the strong mayor system is “high risk and high reward,” meaning that the payoff for Federal Way will come if voters elect a strong leader.
“Both forms of government work. It really depends on the quality of leadership,” Bozeman said. “Strong mayor systems are a little scarier because you never know what you’re going to get.”
Bozeman said it’s difficult to find strong leaders to run for public office nowadays.
“If you have a vision, people will follow you,” Bozeman said, who also warned of other council members who may want the mayor’s job, and to watch for their motivations and actions.
Dovey hopes the mayoral election remains non-partisan and steers clear of party politics. Dovey also stressed the importance of hiring a competent chief operating officer to run the city’s financial business. He said the council and city government must continue to build on improving communication.
“I’ve always felt that whoever takes this job has to be someone who is there to serve the community and is not looking at it as a stepping stone,” Dovey said. “We’re actually now voting on who the next CEO of our city is going to be. We’re a $60 million business. It’s going to be very critical for the citizens to decide who can actually run a business.”
One candidate so far
Current city council member Jim Ferrell continues to be the only publicly announced candidate for Federal Way’s elected mayor position.
As of March 11, Ferrell had reported no contributions and $400 in expenditures to the Washington State Public Disclosure Commission. However, according to Ferrell via a March 13 e-mail: “We mailed in our PDC reports by the deadline and have now uploaded them online We actually raised $6,700 for the month of February and have raised at least $9,500 so far.”
Ferrell will officially kick off his campaign at 7:30 a.m. April 20 at Twin Lakes Golf and Country Club in Federal Way.