Meet Leandra Craft, the newest member of the Federal Way City Council. Craft was selected out of 22 applicants and appointed on Oct. 15 after three split council votes. She chatted with the Mirror about the moment she decided to run for council, her vision for Federal Way, and how she’ll take on future tie-breaker votes.
As a Federal Way native, what brought you back to this city and how does this contribute to your role as a council member?
“I don’t feel like I ever really left Federal Way. My family moved to Federal Way in 1993, and I’ve been living here on and off since then. We lived on Steel Lake when my parents were still together and when my parents got divorced, my mom got an apartment in South Seattle and my dad stayed on Steel Lake. Growing up, I was sort of in between Federal Way and South Seattle. When my mom remarried in 2013, we moved to the Twin Lakes neighborhood and my parents still live there. Although I attended college out of state, I always came back for holidays and summer break. In 2019, my husband and I had the opportunity to purchase our first home and Federal Way was one of our top choices because of the community, and because it’s diverse and we love the natural beauty that the parks provide here. To me, this contributes to my role as a council member because I can understand how Federal Way, just as a resident, has changed significantly in the past 20 years, really, and that the community is constantly changing. I also think having lived in different neighborhoods of Federal Way gives me a good understanding that there are different needs depending on where you’re living in Federal Way. Each neighborhood is unique, so everybody’s voice needs to be heard.”
There were 22 applicants for the Federal Way City Council position. How did you feel upon learning you were selected for the position? What was your reaction?
“I really wish that my camera could have been on at that time, but I was so…I was shocked. When I saw it was going to be a direct tie down the middle, I wanted there to be a decision that night, but I didn’t know if we were going to have to move forward [to the next week]. The fact that the mayor broke the tie and it was for me, I was really shocked. I was excited. I had friends who were watching the deliberations and texting me during the deliberations and through the vote. I’m honored to be able to serve the people of Federal Way. I’m so grateful that I was selected. I never thought of going into local politics, so the fact that I’m holding a council member position now — I’m really honored.”
The city council was strongly divided on the split votes for the appointee of Position 5 and it came down to Mayor Jim Ferrell to make the final decision. Now that you have joined the council, you could possibly be the tiebreaker vote in future council decisions. How do you respond to this possibility?
“I take that as a great responsibility. I do see myself as being somebody more progressive, but I can understand the need for being conservative at times. I do think it’s really important for each council member to be thoughtful and listen to everyone and make a consideration. Seeing how council meetings have been run, I could probably agree with each council member on something, but I could probably disagree with each council member on other things. It’s really on me to take the time to make sure that I listen to each position before making a vote. Obviously, I’m going to take in consideration my personal background and experience that I have as a deputy prosecutor. I know that crime rates and homelessness and drug addiction are hot topics in Federal Way, and with my experience as a prosecutor, I will probably look at these issues a little bit differently.”
In what capacity do you serve on the executive board of the Filipino Lawyers of Washington and what are your duties?
“The Filipino Lawyers of Washington (FLOW) is one of many minority bar associations in Washington state. I serve as the Secretary for the Board of Directors and this entails taking meeting minutes, sending out announcements, helping plan events, and making sure the organization maintains its credentials.”
Why did you decide to pursue a career as a prosecuting attorney?
“The short answer is that I really wanted to help people. I’ve wanted to be a lawyer since I was three years old. During that time, the OJ Simpson trial was televised everywhere and I thought what my grandma was having us watch was acting so I was like, ‘I want to be like those people,’ and she had to explain to me that those were lawyers. I realized early on in law school that prosecutors make important decisions, some of the most significant decisions. It’s really important that people of all backgrounds with different perspectives are making those charging decisions, are choosing to negotiate those cases or are choosing to take those cases to trial. I work in a program that is an alternative to traditional criminal prosecution, but I also hold the role of being one of the negotiators for hate crimes cases in my office.”
What was the defining moment that made you decide to run for Federal Way City Council?
“I’ve had people tell me in the past that I would be a unique voice for my community and have encouraged me in the past to do something in local politics. When my husband initially told me there was a vacant seat for city council I initially thought ‘no, I could never do that.’ The time that we’re in right now, our country is very divided and I don’t think local politics need to be that way. When I looked at the makeup of Federal Way City Council, I saw that there was a need for representation in the younger generation.”
In a perfect world, what three things would you like to see happen or develop in Federal Way in the next 10 years?
“More services for people with behavioral health issues, that includes mental health and substance use disorders. I’d like to see a family oriented, walkable downtown Federal Way that includes a nightlife and more businesses for more jobs for Federal Way residents.”
When you’re not in the courtroom or on the (virtual) council dais, what do you do in your free time?
“I love spending time with my family. My husband and I are high school sweethearts actually, and we have one daughter. She just turned one in September. She really likes the outdoors, even when it’s cold. We will to bundle her up and go on walks at the parks in and around Federal Way.”
This interview has been edited for clarity and length.