The power of partnerships

The power of partnerships

Executive
It’s not every day that you have the opportunity to compete for one of the largest corporate headquarters in the world.  But, that’s what the partners across Pierce County did this week. You might have heard that Amazon issued an RFP for their second headquarters, called HQ2, and hundreds of North American cities are reportedly delivering their qualifications. (more…)
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Community

Community

Executive
Community means many things to many people – and it is the heart of why we choose to live where we live.  Community is what binds us together and helps us through the most difficult times.   Our County is big and while we have a common sense of identity, generally the feeling of community is more closely associated with our cities, towns and neighborhoods.  One place where I have found the sense of community to be especially strong isn’t a city, town or neighborhood – it is the Key Peninsula. I have spent some time on the Key Peninsula over the years: visiting the town of Home and Joemma State Park, eating at El Sombrero, and hunting snipe at Camp Seymour. Last week, I attended District 7’s “in-district” Council meeting…
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In the shadow of the mountain

In the shadow of the mountain

Executive
Mt. Rainier towers over the small towns at its base – literally and figuratively. Sitting in the shadow of the majestic mountain are rural communities like Elbe and Ashford. Nearly 2 million people flock to the mountain to hike the Burroughs, trek the Wonderland Trail or climb Disappointment Cleaver. The visitors switch to skis, snowshoes and sleds when snow blankets Paradise and Sunrise. You would think that those 2 million visitors would drive a thriving tourist economy for this part of the county. However, on a recent visit with Councilmember Jim McCune, it was clear that both Mt. Rainier National Park and the local communities need better support for those visitors. (more…)
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Differing perspectives

Differing perspectives

Executive
I have nine months under my belt as the Executive and I am still visiting with departments and learning about some of the important and interesting jobs we do in the County. We have many employees who are called upon to do difficult jobs.  Working to determine a cause of death in the Medical Examiner’s office or clearing winter snow in the middle of the night with the road crew are two jobs that easily come to mind. (more…)
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Déjà vu?

Déjà vu?

Executive
The ink is barely dry on the 2017 supplemental budget, but it is already budget season again! A special thanks to Gary Robinson, Jim Dickman, Julie Demuth, and the rest of the Finance team for their great work and amazing commitment to getting this budget proposal put together. (more…)
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Vox populi

Vox populi

Executive
This week’s blog is titled “Vox populi.”  For those of you who don’t know Latin, it means “the voice of the people.” Our community and our government depend on the active involvement of “the people” for support and vitality.  They are volunteers, committee members, coaches, mentors and voters. Two gatherings this week were great examples of the importance of actively engaging with the people we serve. The first meeting was held last Sunday night at the Greenwater Fire Department. About 150 local residents gathered to hear the latest information about the Sawmill Creek and Norse Peak fires that threatened their homes. The Incident Command team did a great job explaining the steps the firefighters had taken to protect the region and what they could expect in the hours and days…
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Fire and flood – what’s next?

Fire and flood – what’s next?

Executive
  Our Department of Emergency Management (DEM) could not have asked for a better setup for Emergency Preparedness Month.  Flooding in Texas, fires near Crystal Mountain with the ever-present smoke in the air, an 8.0 earthquake in Mexico and now Irma is bearing down on Florida! I was up in Greenwater and at Crystal Mountain this morning checking on the efforts of the more than 400 people fighting that fire in extremely rugged terrain. Incredibly, the Norse Peak Fire has now burned more than 70 square miles of forest. Checking out the fire with Buckley Chief Alan Predmore Getting briefed by fire officials While wildfires, hurricanes and flooding are in the news today, the odds of a serious earthquake hitting our region are high. We are perched on an active…
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Professionalism – Respect – Compassion

Professionalism – Respect – Compassion

Executive
There are some who equate being professional with dispassionate detachment. Furthermore, there are more who characterize government as uncaring and without regard for individuals. On Wednesday, I witnessed two occasions where our employees’ actions countered both of these assertions. In fact, they demonstrated this highest professionalism, with respect and compassion for our citizens – both living and dead. Have you ever met Deputy Ed Roberts? If you have, you would not soon forget him. First, he is huge (he barely fits into our Ford Explorer patrol vehicles) – and speaks with a distinct Boston accent. He served in the Marine Corps and then with the Special Forces in the Army, before joining the Sheriff’s Department 14 years ago. Ed is well respected by his fellow deputies and officers alike. Needless…
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Total eclipse – and more!

Total eclipse – and more!

Executive
Where were you when the sky turned dark?  Okay, let’s be honest.  Around here, the sky didn’t look dramatically different but the eclipse was still a cool rarity to witness. I was at the STOP facility filming a video on emergency preparedness for DEM when the eclipse occurred.  It was fun to step outside with the staff and look to the sky.  I borrowed a pair of official glasses and was amazed at the sight – also by the strange shadows from the trees. In contrast to some of the issues from last week’s blog, the eclipse seemed to transcend our differences and allow our country to share a moment of unity.   Nice! As part of the DEM video I was also over at the Spanaway/Parkland precinct this week. I…
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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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