Seeing a brighter future

Seeing a brighter future

Executive
I’ve been offended and disgusted by the racist language and horrible imagery on display in Virginia.  When you add to it North Korea developing nuclear missile capability and another horrific vehicle attack in Europe, it’s no wonder that folks on social media are asking to see cat videos and photos of babies.  It is easy to get depressed and discouraged. As I struggled with the ugliness, violence and hatred experienced in Charlottesville, two gatherings this week have given me cause for hope for our future here in Pierce County. On Wednesday I attended a celebration to recognize the 100-Day Challenge to End Youth Homelessness.  If you haven’t heard of it, some of our colleagues in Human Services partnered with a number of service agencies, nonprofits and the City of Tacoma…
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Thinking about the unthinkable

Thinking about the unthinkable

Executive
I have just returned from vacation, rested from a peaceful few days on the waters of Puget Sound and parts north. Despite the smoke from the B.C. fires, I can assure you that a terrorist attack was not in the forefront of my mind as we anchored at some pristine inlets.  That is, until I walked into a counterterrorism exercise last Tuesday morning. I had been asked to welcome the Joint Counterterrorism Awareness Workshop this week.  As I prepared for the remarks and reviewed the agenda, exercise pre-reads and attendance list, the importance of the gathering was magnified. Thanks to the leadership and foresight of Lowell Porter and Scott Heinze in DEM, we hosted, along with Tacoma, Puyallup and Lakewood, an amazing assembly of first responders, law enforcement, medical professionals,…
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Making a difference

Making a difference

Executive
While the Executive is out on vacation, it gives me a chance to step in and share my perspective on Pierce County. When Bruce returns next Monday, he will be devoting much of his time to putting together a budget proposal for 2018. It will be a lot of numbers but behind those numbers are real people. Two personal experiences I’ve had over the last few days illustrate the problems real people face every day and the very real difference people like you make to improve their quality of life. Last week I went grocery shopping at the Safeway store on South Hill. When I got out of the car, I heard a woman screaming. I turned to see an enraged man beating her with his fists. A second man…
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Gone fishin’

Gone fishin’

Executive
To be clear, I am not a fisherman.  My grandfather was a legend out of Horsehead Bay in the late 60’s and early 70’s.  Many folks would see his boat heading out and see it as a sign that fish were running.  I chose this week’s blog title because of the image it conveys to me – time out on the water, away from the cares and pressures of work. While I won’t be fishing while I'm on vacation, I will be joining friends on their boat and cruising the San Juan Islands.  If you have never been there in the summer, I would encourage you to add it to your bucket list.  The San Juan Islands are a very special place of natural beauty, great for boating, biking and…
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Happy new year!

Happy new year!

Executive
  Although we’re only seven months through the year with a recently approved Supplemental Budget for 2017, we are already keenly focused on the 2018 budget. For 6 to 8 hours each week, members of our Executive and Finance teams are meeting with department directors to review their budgets, discuss proposed new initiatives and evaluate process improvements.  We’re asking lots of questions and having great conversations about ways to enhance the services we provide our residents.  At the same time, we are looking hard at the resources – prioritizing expenditures so that we can make new investments in key priority areas for our citizens and our employees. These reviews are in the window-less conference room on the 7th Floor, so it keeps us focused on the budget and not distracted…
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Oh, baby!

Oh, baby!

Executive
This week’s blog is warm and sunny – just like the amazing weather we’ve been enjoying recently. It was inspired by the recent baby bonanza we’ve been experiencing on the 7th floor of the County City Building.  I’d swear there is something in the water around here.  We’ve had six babies born in recent months – three in the last week, alone! Baby Blair Although she was born in March, I wouldn’t want to miss an opportunity to talk about my first grandchild, Blair.  She is pictured here (in the stroller) with her new BFF, Evie (in the front pack), as well as our dog, Bosco.  Lauren and I were fortunate enough to draw babysitting duty while all the parents took a break.  We happily took them for a walk…
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Lessons learned from Deputy Wiggins

Lessons learned from Deputy Wiggins

Executive
You can learn a lot from a person, when you spend 7 hours on a Friday night riding in a patrol Tahoe. The lessons I learned from Deputy Fred Wiggins will linger -- long past the time we recently spent together on the swing shift. For those of you who have not met him, Deputy Wiggins is a 4-year veteran of our Pierce County Sheriff’s Department (PCSD).  Previously, he spent 10 years with the Department of Corrections and is a proud WSU grad – are there any other kind of WSU grads? Teamwork The importance of teamwork was made crystal clear when Deputy Wiggins received a call to do a welfare check on a 1-year-old in a home known to have multiple felons connected to it.  Deputy Wiggins knew the…
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Cutting red tape!

Cutting red tape!

Executive
One of the priorities I set out in the State of the County address is fueling economic development and creating family-wage jobs for those who live in Pierce County.  The Council also identified this as one of its four focus areas this year. Driving more economic investment in Pierce County depends on many things, including a predictable permitting process.  Like you, I’ve seen promising projects stall or even get cancelled due to permitting delays and confusing processes. Some time ago Dennis Hanberg and his team in the former PALS set out an ambitious goal: to be the Best Permitting Agency in the state.  They have made tremendous strides and I applaud their commitment to continuous improvement without lowering standards. The Red Tape Reduction Taskforce was convened in January to assist…
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The past, present and future of Pierce County

The past, present and future of Pierce County

Executive
During the time I served on the Puyallup School Board we celebrated the District's 150th anniversary.  I was struck by the fact that I was a steward of Puyallup's community schools – I had been preceded by hundreds of board member before me and likely hundreds will follow in the future.  I felt that same sense of stewardship and responsibility while sitting at my desk on the Floor of the State Senate, and I feel it today as the County Executive.  This week, I had three experiences that reinforced my appreciation for those who have served Pierce County before me. The Boeing plant in Frederickson celebrated its 25th anniversary this year.  A lot of exceptional work by our neighbors has been flying around in planes throughout the world!  For example,…
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Flush with Success

Flush with Success

Executive
Wednesday we celebrated the completion of the 11-year $300 million upgrade to Pierce County's wastewater treatment plant (WWTP). This incredibly complex project has positioned Pierce County to meet both our technical standards and growth demands out to 2030 and beyond. Although few citizens even know where the wastewater treatment plant is, let alone what happens there, it still performs an incredibly vital function to protect our environment. As I reflected upon this milestone, some key lessons came to mind. Vision & Planning - Both the siting of the WWTP and its more recent upgrade required a tremendous vision by leaders in Pierce County. They had to anticipate the needs of our citizens decades in the future.  Then, that vision had to be translated into a detailed funding plan and project design to…
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Undercover Boss

Undercover Boss

Executive
I can’t count the times I have approached an intersection and averted my eyes from panhandlers and their signs stating “will work” or “I’ll take any job.”  Waiting for the light to change, conflicting thoughts pass through my mind, “He looks like he could work. I wonder if he would take a job if he was offered a chance.  It certainly won’t help him if I gave him money to feed his habits.” Those same type of thoughts occurred to Mayor Richard Berry of Albuquerque, NM, as he created his city’s successful day labor program “There’s a Better Way!” in 2015.   Albuquerque’s nationally recognized program offers panhandlers jobs picking up litter and clearing vegetation.  You can read about it online, but I wanted to see for myself how it really…
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Learning about family

Learning about family

Executive
As you probably know by now, I love getting out to meet and talk with our employees.  So, naturally I jumped at the chance to visit with the Road Operations division at their All Hands meeting last Thursday morning.  They were gathering for their annual meeting, including updates, training, food and even some games. In true Road Ops fashion – they “raced” putting up traffic warning signs! This was my third visit to the Central Maintenance Facility.  As a former Seabee, I have always had a thing for big trucks and equipment, and the skill it takes to operate and maintain them.  At the All Hands, I shared how much I appreciated the great work they have been doing - our roads are in outstanding shape, they have a strong…
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And justice for all

And justice for all

Executive
People often ask me what the Director of Justice Services and Special Projects actually does all day – besides go to meetings, that is.  After I chuckle, I tell them I provide oversight to five County departments (Court Clerk, Assigned Counsel, Medical Examiner, Human Services and Human Resources), and I am the liaison to the judiciary and courts, the Sheriff, the Law Library Board, and the Crystal Judson Family Justice Center Board.  In addition, I am leading a number of countywide special projects.  It’s a complex job, but it has tremendous rewards – we are doing transformational work that matters.  This week I had my special projects hat on when Peter Ansara, director of Human Services, and I met with Julian Bray from the Washington Attorney General’s Office, Curtis Huff…
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Service

Service

Executive
On Thursday I attended two events that prompted me to reflect on the service our employees deliver to our citizens.  I thought about how important that service is, and the potentially unseen costs to some. At the Assessor-Treasurer’s quarterly staff meeting, I watched Don Pettie and James Parris take their oath of office as new assessors.  Did you know that assessors have an oath of office?  I didn't.  But as I thought about it, I am very glad they do.  The recent controversy over Sound Transit 3’s motor vehicle excise tax (MVET) valuation schedule reminded me how important trust is in government, especially for those who influence how much tax we pay.  Many people believe Sound Transit unfairly and potentially deceptively used an outdated MVET schedule instead of the current…
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Moving forward

Moving forward

Executive
As you might recall, as part of the State of the County address on March 15, I introduced a supplemental budget to take advantage of some year-end surplus money and an improving economy.  We want to make meaningful progress on several key initiatives.  Among those priorities are behavioral health, homeless veterans and youth, public safety, and economic development. Executive team members during last week's 2018 budget retreat   Last week the Council’s Committee of the Whole (COW) met to consider our budget proposal, only to introduce a different budget that cut our proposal nearly in half. I will be working hard to convince Councilmembers to restore much of this important funding when they next meet on June 6. I want to provide you with some insight as to what happened…
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Leave it better than you found it!

Leave it better than you found it!

Executive
I’ve mentioned before how having a baby in your life changes everything.  That includes the choices we make in our daily lives.  I want to leave my granddaughter with a beautiful place to grow up, raise a family, have meaningful work – AND be able to enjoy our spectacular natural environment, drink clean water and breathe fresh air. One strategy to deliver that vision is Pierce County Sustainability 2020. The initiative, approved by the Council last year, is an ambitious plan with specific targets for energy use, waste reduction, commuting and other measurable goals.  We need to be the best possible stewards of Pierce County and the resources our citizens entrust to us.  It is about being smart and sustainable – not just “green for the sake of being green.”  Our citizens…
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A Matter of Life and Death

A Matter of Life and Death

Executive
How was your Monday morning?  Mine started with breakfast and a tour of the Medical Examiner’s office while their team reviewed the previous weekend’s deaths. I entered a world that few citizens see – at least while alive - and, let’s be honest, most of us never want to be a part of. I was impressed by the professionalism and care with which Dr. Tom Clark and his team do a very challenging job. Case in point: on the morning I visited, the group was discussing the death of an infant and two suicides that had recently occurred. I’m thankful that we have investigators with the skill, persistence, and, in some cases personal courage, to go to death scenes and do what needs to be done.  Can you imagine having to…
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Let it RAIN

Let it RAIN

Executive
After this incredibly wet winter and spring, I wonder whether a local group is re-thinking naming their new organization RAIN?  In this case, RAIN stands for the Readiness Acceleration & Innovation Network. RAIN is a non-profit organization near the UW Tacoma that serves as an “incubator” for medical and biotech startups. It is the result of a partnership between the UWT, Madigan Army Medical Center and MultiCare Hospital.  I had the chance to meet with the RAIN team this week and I came away excited about our ability to grow new businesses and employ the thousands of new people moving to Pierce County. [embedyt] http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=evt_85HJLD4[/embedyt] RAIN’s mission is to spur and “incubate” the development of innovative med/biotech companies that generate sustainable, high-paying jobs in our area. It’s location near UWT is…
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Spring Cleaning

Spring Cleaning

Executive
It’s been said you only get one chance to make a good first impression. With more than 5 million visitors each year, our websites serve as the “front doors” and first impression of Pierce County for many residents.  The sites are critically important to our ability to serve our citizens, provide transparency and make it easy for people to take care of their business quickly and conveniently. The number of people using their mobile devices to access the internet has been exploding in recent years.  At the same time, our main website was not providing an optimal experience for mobile users. In 2016, 37% of Pierce County site users arrived via their phone or tablet.  But the old website only displayed a “computer-style” layout and didn’t adapt to various screen…
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Way Above and Beyond

Way Above and Beyond

Executive
Recently a young man hanged himself in one of the barns at Frontier Park. Tragically, depression overcame his will to live. Two members of my extended family have committed suicide, so I am familiar with the tremendous sadness, frustration, and sometimes anger associated with losing a loved one by their own hand. This may be why the compassionate actions of Erin Benedict and Jeff Donovan resonated so strongly with me. Erin and Jeff work at Frontier Park, and they discovered the young man shortly after he hanged himself. Acting quickly, they cut him down, contacted emergency responders, and started CPR. Remarkably, they were able to get his heart restarted. EMTs arrived shortly after and transported the man to the hospital. I thought this was the end of the story, but…
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