Candidates for office in 2017 | Inside Politics

Three seats on the Federal Way City Council will be up for election this year, and they could be fun to watch! The majority of the current council is a very conservative group and could attract a wide range of candidates.

The prospects for reasonable debate are many, as the issues confronting the city have different points of view. The recent tax and fee increases to hire nine police officers will generate some debate as the crime statistics don’t support the need and the council hasn’t fully decided how to pay for them in the current two-year budget. The budget that follows in 2019-20 will also require additional taxes to sustain the funding. There are also differences on how to respond to the homeless problem, the Weyerhaeuser property fiasco and a moratorium on apartments. Is the community message really one that says we don’t want homeless people and we don’t want poor people who need apartments?

In a city where a majority of the school district’s students are minority and over half are on the National School Lunch Program, some residents question whether there may be an undercurrent of racial divide in some city policies.

There are also many questions about city priorities, which will be replayed as the Performing Arts and Events Center is formally opened. This mayor and City Council will be held accountable or reap the elective benefits. A question from the public continues to be: At $32 million dollars, was this really the highest priority for city taxpayers over the last four years? If your highest priority was police, then remember the new officers won’t be paid for until 2019-20, and then with new taxes. Or did you have a different set of priorities?

City Council seats currently held by Jeanne Burbidge, Martin Moore and Bob Celski, who was appointed to the seat held by Kelly Maloney after she resigned, will be up for election. Burbidge is not expected to run. Moore has already announced he is running and has contacted potential candidates to try and discourage them from running against him. Celski is expected to run and will have a busy year as he and his wife are also serving as co-chairs of Mayor Jim Ferrell’s re-election campaign.

There is always more interest by candidates in a vacant seat rather than taking on an incumbent. Sharry Edwards announced her candidacy last week for the position held by Burbidge. Edwards is a nurse and has been honored by the Mirror for her efforts in helping the homeless. Edwards had planned to run for the state legislature last year but stepped aside so Kristine Reeves could run. Reeves won the seat for the Democrats. While some in the community have thought that former-state Rep. and City Council member Linda Kochmar might be planning a run for mayor, the latest rumors have her considering a campaign to return to the council. That may be why Edwards announced early — to try and discourage Kochmar or others from running for the same seat.

Roger Flygare also announced he is running but has not identified which position. He is thought to be eyeing Burbidge’s position No. 4, as well. If so, that would put two Democrats in the same race. Flygare is also running for chair of the state Democratic party, which will be decided late this month. Flygare had withdrawn from the council appointment process likely knowing that Celski had the votes. Flygare is a local businessman and has previously run unsuccessfully for the state legislature, City Council and South King Fire and Rescue Board of Commissioners.

While everything is still in the speculative stage, several other names are being discussed as possible candidates. They include Julie Hiller, who was a late entrant two years ago and ran a good but losing race to Mark Koppang; Randall Smith, who ran unsuccessfully for the Lakehaven Water and Sewer District Board of Commissioners; along with Mark Talbert and Hope Elder, who were both candidates for appointment to the vacant council seat.

Celski, as an appointed incumbent and former council member, would appear to be a formidable candidate. He may be, but, he hasn’t run for office in several years. His conservative views might be enough to attract a more moderate candidate. The same might be true of Moore. A seasoned candidate could give either a good race.

With the conservative Republican-leaning views by the council majority, it isn’t surprising that several Democrats, in addition to Edwards and Flygare, are among those considering the race, including Smith, Talbert and Elder. Hiller and another possible candidate, Diana Noble–Gulliford, are more Republican. It would be awkward for them to run against Moore or Celski, however. Council positions are nonpartisan, but political affiliation plays a significant role in establishing a candidate’s base of support.

Another candidate from the appointment pool to watch is Greg Baruso. He has run before and would profit by that experience were he to get into one of the races.

An interesting candidate would be Sofia Mayo, who was impressive in the council appointment process, but she is new to the political scene and not well known.

The rest of the announcements should be made in the next few weeks as would-be candidates line up endorsements.

Federal Way resident Bob Roegner is a former mayor of Auburn and a retired government official. He can be contacted at

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