Edgewood’s race for its first “strong mayor” came to its conclusion on Aug. 25 when previous mayor Daryl Eidinger defeated Federal Way business owner Wendal Kuecker by a margin of 10 votes. The Milton-Edgewood Signal spoke with Eidinger about the change in Edgewood’s government to a strong mayor system, his history and his vision for the city.
MES: Let’s start with your change in position. You are now the strong mayor of Edgewood. What does this mean for your day-to-day responsibilities?
Eidinger: With my swearing in, the city has changed from a city manager form of government to a mayor-council. The council still makes the decisions, but I’m responsible for the day-to-day operations of the city. I have a staff as we had before that takes care of most of the things but from a time aspect, it’s gone from whatever my time commitment was before to I’m here every day.
MES: What are the advantages of this system?
Eidinger: The advantages the people saw in a strong mayor is you have someone who lives in your neighborhood, who has probably lived in your neighborhood for quite a while and who also, if you don’t like what they do, you can vote them out. That’s the advantage the people see. I think that’s a challenge as well, because a term is four years, and lots can happen in a city in four years. Much will happen in Edgewood in the next four years. I think the strong mayor has some definite advantages. I get to have a vision for a city I’ve lived in for over 20 years and the things that I see and development I think we can regulate better with a strong mayor-council system of government.
MES: Can I have a little bit of your personal history?
Eidinger: I’ve been in Edgewood since 1991. Before that I lived just north of here about four or five miles. I’ve shopped in Edgewood since the mid-70’s. At one point I was in business. In the late 80’s I went back to school and changed vocations so I became a pastor. I pastored the church here in Edgewood. So that’s my experience but I’ve always been in business. I was part of the formation group that formed Federal Way when Federal Way became a city. I graduated from Federal Way High School. Most of my life has been in the area and I’ve always been involved in business and went into the ministry in my 40’s, just a change.
MES: The election was very close, which kind of puts you in the odd position of leading a divided city.
Eidinger: I don’t think that my opponent and I disagreed on some of the major issues, but we just disagreed on how to get there. I think that because it was so divided; there isn’t a clear mandate of something that needs to be done. There’s a challenge in front of us and I think my biggest challenge as a strong mayor is to see if we can become united as a city again, that we have the same focus and we don’t have the division that we currently seem to have.
MES: You mentioned having a vision. What is this vision and what are your top priorities?
Eidinger: Top priorities are stability for the city and economic growth for the city, I’d like to see the Meridian corridor develop and have small businesses and business opportunities in our city. I, like most of the residents, are challenged by the Growth Management Act that says we have to make provisions for higher density in housing. Those are mandates that are above us and we can’t do anything about them, but as a council and as a city we can plan ahead to make more provisions for businesses to survive and thrive in our city. I think that’s the challenge. Edgewood is a great mix of people. They aren’t looking to just get by, they are looking for some quality stuff to come into our city. With the development of the infrastructure, the sewer system and the widening of the road, I think we’ve set ourselves prime to be able to add some growth, so that growth needs to be modulated somehow into the kind of growth everyone wants to see.
MES: Aa former pastor and former schoolteacher, it seems like you kind of drift toward leadership positions.
Eidinger: You know it is what it is. I’m a servant at heart and if there’s a job to do and no one else wants to do it, I certainly end up being in that mode. I don’t mind that; everyone is called to serve in one capacity or another.
MES: Is there anything else you would like to add?
Eidinger: I think people need to know our goal here at city hall is to be transparent and open and invite people to come look at the website. Communication is our key and we’ll be doing some direct communication with the citizens very soon and I’m hoping that that will take away some of the disconnect that we seem to have between all the people. That disconnect is something I want to fix during my time in office.