University Place Mayor Javier Figueroa’s days often start early and run late for a daily agenda that is more often than not bookended by a breakfast briefing at dawn and a committee meeting well after nightfall.
“I’m lucky to be retired so I can spend the time doing this job,” Figueroa said. “It’s a lot of hours.”
His schedule includes two to three meetings a day three to four days a week that range from official duties of City Council regular meetings, study sessions and leadership agenda meetings, to regional committees like the Rainier Communications Commission and the Governor’s State Council on Aging – with community events, fundraisers and new business ribbon cuttings thrown in for good measure. And then there are his volunteer efforts such as the Tahoma Audubon Society, where he serves on the Board of Directors and is currently in his 21st year as an arbitrator for the Better Business Bureau. All these activities require countless hours of prep time for success.
“Am I required to do this? No, but if you want to be a strong, effective leader, you bet.” he said. “As mayor, my job is to serve and be seen.”
The “being seen” duties mean long days, he said, but it also strengthens connections between the city and its neighbors around the region as well as staying up to date on ever-changing issues to provide information and suggestions. As mayor, his theme for University Place for 2017 is “Creating A Movement: Rallying The Community Behind Council Goals.”
Joint Base Lewis-McChord’s recent update for Pierce County mayors and lawmakers last month was one such meetings, where state representatives, mayors from area cities and Executive-elect Bruce Dammeier learned about changes, developments and concerns involving the base and its operations. One take away for Figueroa was the change in training and deployment schedules that translates into a constant calendar of training and then mission-specific deployments for many local military personnel. With University Place’s proximity to the base, it is home to an increasing number of soldiers and airmen. That means their families are in U.P. schools and might benefit from programs like those already in place in other districts like nearby Clover Park and Puyallup, so the area builds its already strong reputation as a supportive community for its military families.
During his off hours, the Army veteran can often be seen on a racquetball court or whacking dimpled balls on a local golf course; he is an avid reader and enjoys cooking for his family. Figueroa also holds a footnote in state history for being the first naturalized citizen from Mexico to be elected to a City Council and tapped to serve as mayor of any city in the state.