Filling a vacancy on the Federal Way City Council | Roegner

Right now, there is no front-runner.

Former Federal Way City Council member Mark Koppang resigned to take a job in California, creating an opportunity for the council to appoint a resident to serve next year and run for election.

The council will interview applicants in September. Today is the last day to get your application in to be considered for appointment.

This past March, the council appointed Greg Baruso to replace Jesse Johnson, who was appointed to the state Legislature to fill the position vacated by Kristine Reeves, who decided to run for congress. It is the council’s responsibility to appoint a replacement for Koppang.

However, with six remaining council members, the possibility of a tie exists, and this is one of the few places the mayor can vote to break a tie. Usually a mayor avoids intruding on the council’s prerogatives and stays out of the discussion until it is clear a stalemate exists among the finalists, which usually requires several rounds of balloting. But that is not Mayor Jim Ferrell’s style, as he frequently participates in council debates as if he were an eighth council member.

Last time it only took two rounds to cut the list from 18 to two finalists. Three council members supported Baruso and three supported former council member Jack Dovey, and it appeared the third round would yield a decision. It was at that point Ferrell cast his vote for Baruso — and then everything pretty much turned to chaos. Koppang called Ferrell’s action a breach of trust for not allowing the council to finish the process.

Most council members want to avoid a repeat of that ending, and there are still some strong feelings toward Ferrell on the issue.

Much like filling any job, council members will look for the skills and experience the council needs and a history of community involvement that can stand the test of an election.

But this will be a political process. There have been three visible Republicans on the council: Koppang, Martin Moore and Linda Kochmar. Council President Susan Honda sometimes leans conservative, particularly on police issues, but would also like to see more done to help the homeless. Both Lydia Assefa-Dawson and Hoang Tran bring real life knowledge of the challenges poor people of color face on a daily basis, although Tran does lean Republican. Baruso ran for the state Legislature as a Democrat, has public safety experience and has chaired the Diversity Commission before serving on the council.

The biggest issues facing the city council are responding to COVID-19, the economy and its impact on our many small businesses, and developing a plan to end homelessness — because just wanting them to leave isn’t working and far more thought needs to be given to positive solutions.

Race relations is a major topic in South King County, and so is ensuring that people of color feel welcome in the city. While defunding the police department has not gained traction, the community is clearly split on how to approach the challenge of determining what the future of public safety should look like in Federal Way. The only answer we have seen so far is to add more police.

With the council split 3-3 or 4-2 toward being Republican, and Ferrell also acting like a conservative, a progressive person of color with a human service background might help balance the debates and build consensus. But again, this will be a political process. Each side would like to add someone who agrees with them. There is also the thought among some that because Koppang was a Republican, he should be replaced by a Republican.

Right now there is no front-runner. Last time, Tony Pagliocco appeared to be the front-runner with two votes, but could not close the deal.

Who is likely to apply? I would expect that people who have run for office before or interviewed last time would be very likely to apply. That could include former council members such as Dovey, Hope Elder or recent candidates such as Katherine Festa, Pagliocco and Roger Flygare. Janis Clark ran for the Legislature this year, but was eliminated in the primary. Others to watch who gave good interviews during the last vacancy: Karen Brugato, Joe Bowman, Ron Walker and Sai Samineni.

If you like public policy and going to Zoom meetings, this might be the job for you!

Federal Way resident Bob Roegner is a former mayor of Auburn. Contact