Federal Way will have a new mayor, the second popularly elected mayor in the city’s history after a change in the form of government allowed voters to choose their top city leader.
In Friday afternoon’s ballot count, Mayor Skip Priest was trailing City Councilman Jim Ferrell by more than 10 percentage points. Tuesday’s election marked a reversal of Federal Way’s first mayor’s race three years ago, when Priest beat Ferrell by four percentage points.
Priest, 63, said he’s been fortunate to serve the community for as long as he has, and that officials ran the city with integrity during his term as mayor.
“I wish the newly elected officials best as we move the community forward,” he said.
Ferrell, 47, said the hardest part about taking over as mayor will be leaving his job at the King County Prosecutor’s Office after 15 years.
He said his experience as a deputy prosecutor will help him improve public safety in Federal Way, one of his top priorities in the South King city of nearly 90,000 people.
“I felt like I needed to step up,” he said.
Ferrell helped lead the effort to switch from a council-manager to a strong mayor form of government, approved by voters in November 2009. Mayors were previously appointed by fellow council members.
Ferrell, who currently serves as the appointed deputy mayor on the seven-member City Council, said he respects Priest after working with him many years. Ferrell said his victory Tuesday reflects what voters see as important issues in the city.
“We ran on public safety and bringing business to Federal Way,” he said. “I think those messages really resonated with the voters.”
As full-time mayor, he will collect a salary of $112,800.
Priest has served the city and surrounding area for many years. He sat on the Federal Way City Council from 1992 to 1997, including two years as appointed mayor. He was in the state House of Representatives from 2003 to 2010.
Although he has no official plans moving forward, Priest said he hopes to work in the education field; he was on the House Education Committee as a state legislator.
Priest faced some scrutiny leading up to his re-election bid.
Last month, the city asked the Washington State Patrol to review a September incident of Priest picking up confiscated campaign signs after hours.
Priest has said he paid fines for the materials before retrieving them from the city’s “sign jail,” where illegally placed campaign signs are impounded.
In addition to that investigation, The Federal Way Mirror reported this summer that the city hired an outside attorney to investigate a May complaint by Councilwoman Kelly Maloney about a meeting during which she said Priest tried to intimidate her.
The investigator eventually ruled out any wrongdoing.
“Mayor Skip Priest may have irritated or upset some of his colleagues, but he’s done nothing that would warrant pursuing this investigation any further,” according to the investigator’s report obtained by The Mirror.
Priest told The News Tribune on Friday he has no idea how those incidents affected the outcome of the election.
“The people have spoken,” he said. “It doesn’t help to speculate.”