Closer look at the mayoral candidates, part 4: Park | Bob Roegner

Mike Park believes he is living the American Dream. America has given him the chance to be a successful business owner, be active in the community and hold public office.

He believes now is the right time for him to put all he has learned back to work as Federal Way’s first directly elected mayor.

Park is the city council’s longest serving member, having been appointed in 1995, then elected and re-elected every time since. He has been appointed mayor twice by the council.

Like the other candidates for mayor, Park’s vision of Federal Way is one of a safe city, good schools and a strong economy. It is in building a strong economy where Park sees his strength and believes his contacts and skills separate him from the other candidates.

He is a strong supporter of Asian Sister City relationships and believes it will lead to increased investment opportunities here in Federal Way. He supports the Twin Development high-rise project because it will help stimulate downtown and provide jobs. But he also believes the future may be in green and health sector jobs.

Park is a small business owner who points with pride to many city accomplishments over the past 15 years, including the start of the police department and obtaining accreditation. He would like to expand police services in the future and supports a possible performing arts center as well as the Triangle Project.

Park’s style is low-key and that of a consensus builder. Although a little reserved, he is known for his humor and warm smile.

Park acknowledges that language is still at times difficult for him and will be a challenge in the many public debate formats associated with his campaign for mayor. He seems more comfortable in one-on-one or small group discussions where personal connection is easier.

He also acknowledges that his biggest challenge to winning this election is expanding his base beyond the Asian community and convincing voters he can represent all the different voting groups in Federal Way’s diverse population.

He took a significant step in that direction when he obtained the endorsement of the 30th District Democrats. Competing candidates Linda Kochmar, Skip Priest and Jim Ferrell are all Republicans who will split the Republican vote. Park has long maintained he is an independent, but with no Democrats in the race, he needed to make inroads with likely voters in the Democratic circles to have a chance at off-setting what could be a high Republican turnout.

As a small business owner, he has received support from other business interests and has raised by far the most money at more than $80,000. That amount of money will help him get his message out in the weeks leading up to the primary.

All the candidates, including Park, have faced questions about their experience and skill to actually manage a workforce of more than 300 employees, a budget of more than $40 million and a significant number of complex problems.

Park believes he is up to that challenge.

Columnist’s note

Last week, there seemed to be some confusion over mayor candidate Skip Priest’s position on retaining the city administrator position or managing city operations himself if he were elected mayor. Priest has clarified that because the existing city managers have been given contracts by the city council for 2011, he would maintain the existing structure for the first year, including the city administrator, then consider “streamlining” the operation.

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