The Pierce County Council likely will get a new leader when it reconvenes in January.
Councilman Roger Bush, R-Graham, will be elected chairman of the seven-member council next month, several council members say.
Bush would replace current Chairman Terry Lee, R-Gig Harbor.
Bush wouldn’t say he will be the new chairman. But he confirmed his interest in the job.
"I would look forward to any position in leadership that could bring some higher visibility to some issues dear to my constituents," Bush said in an interview Monday.
Last month Bush won re-election to the District 3 council seat. The district covers much of southeast Pierce County, stretching from Mount Rainier to South Hill, Frederickson and Graham.
Lee served as council chairman for two years. Lee said it’s very unusual for someone to serve three terms as chairman, and he’s content to step aside.
The chairman runs the council’s regular meetings and also chairs the powerful Rules Committee, which serves as a gatekeeper for council legislation. As chairman, Bush also would work closely with new County Executive Pat McCarthy, a Democrat.
Their toughest challenge this year may be balancing the county budget. Last month the council approved an $854 million 2009 spending plan. But there are already signs that its revenue projections are too optimistic, and the council likely will revisit the budget early next year.
As a councilman, Bush has advocated spending cuts to balance the budget. He expects the council will have to make tough choices next year. His own priorities include public safety, corrections, courts and transportation.
But Bush said previous cuts have put Pierce County in a better position than the state or other local governments.
"We’re not in nearly the dire situation the state is," Bush said.
Aside from balancing the budget, Bush said another priority is securing funding for the Cross Base Highway. Business leaders say the highway connecting Interstate 5 to Highway 7 is needed to develop the Frederickson industrial area.
Bush, 59, was first elected to serve the district in 2004. Previously, he spent four terms in the state House of Representatives and was a teacher in the Bethel School District.
Bush will lead a council with a five-member Republican majority. With every member running for office, the 2008 council sometimes erupted in partisan spats. But Bush said he expects a positive tone in 2009.
"Tough times call for tough decisions. We all know that," he said. "But in tough times, we also pull together."