Who is the best community leader in Federal Way? It’s time for our own “Best of” sponsored by the Mirror. Unlike a real election, I’ve heard rumors of passion overwhelming our tradition of one person, one vote when it came to certain categories, such as best teacher or was it bartender, and stuffing the ballot box!
We are a community of talent and integrity, but in a town known for its historical dominance by conservative white males, the last few years have seen the emergence of women and people of color into prominent leadership roles as we grow and mature.
But who is our best community leader? Who do you look at with admiration and trust?
Natural contenders are Mayor Jim Ferrell, Deputy Mayor Susan Honda, school Superintendent Tammy Campbell, Chamber of Commerce CEO Becca Martin, and County Council member Pete von Reichbauer. They are leaders by virtue of the jobs they hold and may have people who view their performance through the prism of election or perception.
Ferrell built the Performing Arts and Events Center, and crime is down, though the Burien Homeless misstep was unfortunate. Honda has won this honor several times and certainly has a following who appreciate her commitment to social service. Campbell supervises the biggest employer in town and while keeping everyone happy isn’t always possible, compare the progress she has made with what she inherited and the accomplishments are clear. She has established a vision of where we are going, is transparent about her goals, and has earned voters’ trust as they passed a levy and a bond. We can watch as she builds new schools.
Martin’s chamber is not your father’s chamber, as she has restored an emphasis on small business, and brought women and minority-owned business to the table as partners. An articulate spokeswomen for business, she never misses an opportunity to remind City Hall that it is the business community that is the financial life’s blood of the community.
When City Hall missed an opportunity to fund a homeless shelter, it was von Reichbauer who teamed with FUSION and state House Speaker Frank Chopp to provide the money to get us closer to a roof over the heads of our most vulnerable.
Those are the obvious leaders. But there are others you may not always see or think about. Without state Rep. Kristine Reeve’s leadership, City Hall might have redirected $100,000 of state tax money intended to help our homeless, to Burien rather than keep it here as our legislators intended. She also worked for veterans, and brought money home for city government, the school district, and the Chamber of Commerce, flashing the passion to match the substance we anticipated when she was first elected. Her seat mate Rep. Mike Pelliccotti is another leader looking out for our interests by watching Sound Transit, taxes, third party money and lobbyists.
And von Reichbauer didn’t solve the problem by himself, he needed an ally in Peggy LaPorte at FUSION, another leader who lives her commitment to the poor and needy. As she departs FUSION, we will be poorer that her leadership is gone, but richer for what she has left us. Or how about Shari Song, Sarah Oh and former Mayor Mike Park whose leadership in the Korean community retains and shares their rich history, and tradition that makes the community special. Or Al Church, who as chief of South King Fire and Rescue has pulled us into a new age, although we haven’t always gone willingly. And while I am still uncomfortable with the “family business” attitude that permeates through the department, you have to tip your hat to where he has brought us.
Maybe Lori Sechrist and her band of “Weyerhaeuser Saviors,” who have fought a lonely battle for several years, because they believe passionately that the very heart of northwest environmental commitment is contained in the spirit of the vacant ghost-like Weyerhaeuser campus. They have helped focus attention on history, land use standards and saving land for public use. You don’t have to agree with them, though many do, to admire their leadership, commitment to core beliefs and appreciate their community goals. In an earlier life they might have tossed tea in Boston Harbor.
Another leader whose style is so understated that you could easily take her for granted, but whose issues are current front page news, is Robin Corak at the Multi-Service Center. We go home to a warm bed, food and television. She takes the worries of the poor and homeless with her when she leaves each day.
The last few years have seen women and people of color emerge as major contributors to making this a better community in which to live. And though they can’t win, add Editorial Director Andy Hobbs and Mirror Editor Carrie Rodriguez, along with her band of feisty young reporters, to that list as they help serve as the conscience that every community needs to fulfill the promise of our better angels.
Who is your favorite leader? Who inspires you, and who makes the biggest difference in our community? Find out March 6.
Correction: My apologies to state Treasurer Duane Davidson who, in addition to Secretary of State Kim Wyman, is also a Republican.
Federal Way resident Bob Roegner is a former mayor of Auburn. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org.