Closer look at the mayoral candidates, part 3: Priest | Bob Roegner

Skip Priest was the last of the four candidates to announce his run for mayor of Federal Way.

According to most observers, he is the front-runner and most likely to advance to the November general election. His entrance into the race was actually a bit of a surprise to some, although his name was one of the first to be raised after the change in government format was approved by the voters.

Priest side-stepped most inquiries and stated he was focused on fulfilling his duties as a member of the state House of Representatives. Priest also had the luxury of being able to wait to make his decision.

He is already the most well known of the candidates, having served in the Legislature for eight years, and also having served on the Federal Way City Council from 1991 to 1997 in the council-manager form of government. In between, he had two unsuccessful runs for the Legislature.

With political involvement and campaign skills dating back almost 20 years, he could afford to think it through while others had to make their intentions known earlier.

In addition to a more deliberative time table, he also did something that seasoned office holders do: He commissioned a poll to check his name identification and his ability to “match up” with the other three candidates.

While Priest won’t give out numbers, the fact that he’s in the race suggests his numbers were very strong, or he wouldn’t have given up his legislative seat.

Priest will split Republican votes with Linda Kochmar and Jim Ferrell, but he has also found success in the Legislature by working with Democrats on common issues. Due to his usual moderate positions, he has also received Democratic and independent support here in Federal Way.

He notes his ability to work with the other party in passing auto theft legislation and strengthening sex predator laws. But he is most thought of as a consistent supporter of education. Some had thought he might run for state superintendent of public instruction.

Historically, Priest has been involved in many community organizations such as Friends of the Hylebos, Advancing Leadership and Kiwanis.

He conveys an easy understanding of what government can and can’t do. He exhibits an almost professional manner with a warm smile that makes voters respect his knowledge, even when they don’t agree with him on a policy.

Priest advocates for public safety, a “business friendly” City Hall and keeping up the city’s infrastructure. He points to transportation improvements, establishment of the police department, and elimination of surface water flooding as accomplishments while he was on the city council.

Like the other candidates, he is vague about how to solve the $5 million shortfall projected in the city’s budget. Other candidates and their supporters question whether Priest is current on city issues or has the management background to lead a government of more than 300 employees. Priest counters that he has been a business owner, worked in a major corporation and has a broad resume of political leadership. He also states that he knows all the “players” from Federal Way, King County and Olympia.

Priest would hire a professional city administrator, as would most of the other candidates, to manage the daily operations of the city. Priest has raised more than $24,000 and has approximately $14,000 left for the pre-primary push.

Like the other candidates, he is concerned about how the South King Fire and Rescue service benefit charge will impact economic development and future city needs. He plans to look into the issue.

Priest is hesitant to make any predictions, but most see Priest emerging from the Aug. 17 primary with a comfortable margin. The bigger question is, who will he face in November?

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