Planes, trains and automobiles – and buses and feet, too!

Planes, trains and automobiles – and buses and feet, too!

Executive
I wrote this blog from BWI Airport (Baltimore-Washington International) waiting for my 7:20 p.m. flight back to SeaTac.  The last two days have been non-stop, including traveling on nearly every kind of transportation: bus from the airport to/from the train station; train to/from DC; cab to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers HQ; and on foot walking around the Capitol Campus. It was as hot and miserable as I remember from my days at the Naval Academy. Today’s suit, which I am also flying home in, will need to go directly to the cleaners tomorrow! However, the issues that caused Councilmember and Flood Control Zone District Chair Rick Talbert and me to make the quick trip were critically important and required face-to-face discussions. First, I learned back in April, that…
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Learning from the past

Learning from the past

Executive
I hope you had a fun and relaxing Fourth of July celebration with your family and friends this week! My celebration was colored by two people I met this past week.  In last week’s blog, I highlighted meeting an amazing 98-year-old WWII nurse who served in the South Pacific at the Betsy Ross Open House.  Sunday, I met a 99-year-old Army Air Corps colonel who flew 50 combat missions in a B-24 over Europe. These two amazing Americans reminded me of the tremendous sacrifices that have been made to keep our nation free AND that we have nearly lost the generation that served in World War II. With that as background, I wanted to pass along a book recommendation for your summer reading list.  I am a big fan of…
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Honoring service with hope and healing

Executive
Those who have served us in the military should never be without a roof over their heads. I’ve written in past blog posts about the Betsy Ross Project housed at the Washington Soldiers’ Home in Orting. A refurbished dormitory for wartime nurses has been converted into a 12-room apartment building for women veterans without homes. But, the project provides much more than a badly-needed and safe place to sleep. First, a bit of background. Thanks to Don Anderson, we learned of the proposed project last year.  The project had a strong partnership behind it, but needed a little help closing the funding gap for opening.  We included a request in our first supplemental budget which our Council approved and then followed up with a little more assistance in the 2018…
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In a fight for lives

In a fight for lives

Executive
Earlier this week I read a story in the News Tribune about a teenager who broke into a woman's home in the early hours of Saturday morning.  Her husband was gone on travel, so she was home alone when awakened by her dogs to alert her to a 16-year-old breaking into the house.  The woman grabbed her handgun and shouted a warning down the hallway.  The teen burglar ignored that warning and came down the hall toward her. That’s when she fired a warning shot. I have never had a warning shot fired in my vicinity in a darkened hallway, but it has to be terrifying.  Any remotely rational person would immediately flee to avoid getting shot. But, not this teenage burglar. I was stunned to learn that the first shot…
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A new adventure!

A new adventure!

Executive
Can you imagine traveling seventy miles on the water under your own power – no motor or sail? Me, neither! But, earlier this week about 120 teams of intrepid – and maybe a bit crazy – people took on that challenge for the first time in the South Sound. They paddled, pedaled and rowed in all kinds of vessels from the Thea Foss Waterway to the public dock in Pt. Townsend. Called Seventy48, the race was modeled on the popular annual “R2AK” race from Pt. Townsend to Alaska. That race is 750 miles! Our race is “only” 70 miles but you have to complete it in 48 hours. Back in Tacoma, individual stand-up paddlers competed with 4-person sculls and tandem kayaks.  The contestants were outfitted with lights, GPS and every…
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Community

Community

Executive
Community. You take a collection of people in a geographic area and call that a community. But being a community is a continuous endeavor. It’s that feeling of belonging, that members matter to one another, and everyone is committed to the greater group. It takes everyone, fulfilling small and large roles, to make a place where folks want to live, work, and raise their families. As the new Constituent Services Director, I’ve spent the last few weeks taking tours, meeting employees, and learning about the in-and-outs of various departments. I can say without reservation the Pierce County team is dedicated to building community in big ways! The fervor is widespread! But as we diligently strive day-to-day for a better community, we also need friends, family, and neighbors to guide us.…
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A clear view

A clear view

Executive
We owe the residents of Pierce County as much insight into how their government operates as possible.  That’s why a team of County employees have spent the better part of the last few months designing and developing a suite of online platforms for reporting about Pierce County operations and performance. Under an initiative called “Open Pierce County,” we have made important strides in “opening up” the County to our residents. For example, earlier this year we launched the new portals for requesting public records and reporting nuisance properties. These sites have made interacting with the County and fulfilling requests much easier. Today, we are launching the next phase of Open Pierce County. There are three main components: Open Performance provides employees and the public with data-driven dashboards on strategic measures…
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Unprecedented

Unprecedented

Executive
Messages matter.  And, the message we were sending last Tuesday during a press conference was that we want more family-wage jobs for our residents and good businesses are an important part of a vibrant Pierce County! Standing shoulder-to-shoulder with nine mayors from some of our largest cities in the county -- as well as representatives from labor and business -- we declared we want Pierce County to be a place where people can work near where they live.  We want them to have the option to be home in time to coach Little League, attend a school recital, plant a garden, or ride the expanded Foothills Trail. Every day, tens of thousands of our neighbors commute out of the county for their work, spending countless hours on congested roads. What…
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Oh, baby!

Oh, baby!

Executive
Did you know that in 2016, Pierce County had the highest number of children entering foster care in Washington State? Of the 1,700 children currently in foster care in the county, nearly half of them are under the age of 5. While we have many wonderful foster parents, the prospects for some children in the foster care system are bleak.  They are far less likely to graduate high school and far more likely to becoming victims of crime.  Tragically, they have dramatically higher rates of drug use, with many ending up on the streets and being trafficked for sex. I think about this frequently, and ask myself and others how we can ensure our children are raised in stable, healthy families? That’s why I love “Baby Court!” (more…)
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Now, that’s ironic!

Now, that’s ironic!

Executive
As you might suspect, I am frequently asked to give greetings/welcome/opening comments to groups that meet throughout our County. They can range from the Pierce County Prayer Breakfast, to the South Sound Military Community Partnership Elected Officials Council, to the upcoming Agriculture Transportation Coalition (the first time the Coalition has met outside California!).   Yesterday, my remarks were part of our Economic Development Office’s Education Forum. The Economic Development Department focuses on the “work” part of our vision for “a vibrant Pierce County where people choose to live, work, and raise a family.”  Part of our strategy for keeping (and hopefully growing) good employers in Pierce County is to provide opportunities to learn about important issues that might affect their operations. Hans Kueck heads this effort up and yesterday he brought…
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The voice of the customer

The voice of the customer

Executive
Hearing our customers – that is, the residents of Pierce County – gives us the opportunity every day to adapt and improve our work. Their feedback helps us see were we can improve, what investments we need to make, and how we can work together more effectively.  How we respond to that feedback is one of the ways we demonstrate our commitment to accountability and transparency. When I first arrived, I created the Director of Constituent Services position in my Executive Team with nearly 1 million people in mind. Sarah Thomas filled that role until she chose to be home full-time with her infant son. I couldn’t compete with Jackson but I still think he’s a more demanding boss than I am! The director role has several responsibilities, including managing…
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At a crossroads

At a crossroads

Executive
Pierce County has come to a crossroads, with two potential routes ahead of us. One path leads us to being a bedroom community for King County. In fact, that is already a reality for about 33% of our citizens who live in Pierce County but work up north. The other path leads to more local jobs right here in the County. It would be better for the many new families moving to our area if they could spend more time together and less time stuck in traffic. The long commute, in a car or on transit, steals time from dinner together, softball games, helping with homework or planting a garden. On one hand, I am thrilled with all the new folks making our neighborhoods more lively and diverse. On the…
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Hello, goodbye

Hello, goodbye

Executive
It’s never easy saying good-bye to someone you care about, even in the workplace.  It’s even harder when it’s someone you spend much of your day with and who is key to your own success. After 30 years serving the residents of Pierce County – and three County Executives - Connie Perry, Executive Assistant Extraordinaire, is leaving us to enjoy a much-deserved retirement. I think it’s not an exaggeration to state that anyone who has met Connie has been captivated by her warmth and kindness, and amazed at the unabashed joy of her frequent laughter! She is organized, professional, articulate and gracious. But, above these attributes, Connie is genuine and compassionate. Despite the stresses of her work – and, trust me, working in our office is no picnic – Connie…
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Changing perspectives

Changing perspectives

Executive
I strongly believe that you can learn a lot – and some of the most important things - by asking questions and listening to others’ perspectives.  This principle is even more critical as the County Executive.  Whether it is touring local businesses, talking with citizens and employees, or riding along with our first responders, seeing and hearing things first-hand is vitally important.  While I am very pleased with all we have accomplished in the last 16 months, it is time for me to get a perspective check. So, for the next couple of months, I am going to be out meeting one-to-one and in small groups with our County leaders and employees. These meetings will be a huge focus for the next two months and the importance of this effort was…
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This week’s blog brought to you by the letter “P”

This week’s blog brought to you by the letter “P”

Executive
  Pinwheels always make me smile.  The bright blue pinwheels spinning in the breeze look festive on the lawn outside of Juvenile Court this time of year. But, the reason for their annual appearance is far from happy. Juvenile Court is recognizing National Child Abuse Prevention Month and the “Pinwheels for Prevention” campaign. The pinwheels symbolize the fun and carefree childhood every child deserves. In addition to raising awareness of child abuse prevention, in the month of April we are recognizing our Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASAs) and Guardians ad litem (GAL) for the work they do for our communities’ most vulnerable youth. Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASAs) are trained volunteers who ensure that children in the foster care system are heard and their best interests are served.  We currently…
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Standing in the gap

Standing in the gap

Executive
Thankfully, I’ve never been in a real active shooter situation.  But yesterday, we had an intense training exercise in a courtroom on the 5th floor of the CCB to help prepare our court personnel, our Court Security Office, and our SWAT team if the unthinkable happens – and I got to participate.  As a result, I know much better what to do and how to respond. Here are four things (among many) that stood out to me: First, in one scenario, there was a gunshot by the freight elevator. The sound from inside the courtroom was very muffled and therefore not very “alarming.”  It reminded me we must be alert for sounds and actions that are out of the ordinary, even if they are not loud. Second, I was in…
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Biochar and cavy!

Biochar and cavy!

Executive
Last weekend I had the honor of co-hosting the Volunteer Recognition Brunch with Council Chair Doug Richardson. It’s amazing and inspiring to meet the hundreds of people who volunteer on behalf of programs they are passionate about. I told those in attendance that they would be asking themselves four questions by the end of our celebration: What do “biochar” and “cavy” mean? (biochar= a soil amendment made of charcoal; cavy = a South American rodent) I didn’t know we had a club that did that! (Meat Goat) I wonder how many lives that person has impacted? (Rev. Ogburn, our Volunteer of the Year, has donated 7,000 hours helping a countless number of elderly residents) What would happen to Pierce County if our community didn’t have these people as volunteers? (We…
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Albert Einstein and my Week

Albert Einstein and my Week

Executive
One of my favorite quotes is from the renowned physicist, Albert Einstein: “Once you stop learning, you start dying.”  I could not agree more and work hard to reflect this in my life.  I am naturally curious, which is why my visits with County employees often take much longer than scheduled.  I like to learn what our people do and how they do it! However, I am always intentionally trying to learn new things and challenge my current perspectives – basically to grow personally.  It shows up in the books I read (currently “The Fleet at Flood Tide: America at Total War in the Pacific, 1944-1945”), the classes I take (completed the Coast Guard Captain’s Course last December), and podcasts I listen to daily (“The Bible in One Year” and yesterday…
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Watch out, Chip and Joanna!

Watch out, Chip and Joanna!

Executive
Have you ever watched one of those “house flipping” shows on TV?  You know, the ones where over the course of 30 minutes stars like Chip and Joanna Gaines renovate an old decrepit house and a disaster of a yard and turn it into a beautiful country home with gazebo and garden swing! Well, it takes them more than 30 minutes but our Code Enforcement team has some pretty impressive “before” and “after” successes of its own. (more…)
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Life after death

Life after death

Executive
For thousands of years, quilting has brought people together.  Spanning centuries and cultures, groups of people have gathered to make quilts to stay warm, to preserve their history and to decorate their homes.  It is an important part of our American heritage.  My grandmother saved empty, brightly colored feed sacks, as did her friends, and they gathered together on a regular basis to turn those used feed sacks into quilts.  But what, you might wonder, does quilting have to do with the Pierce County Medical Examiner’s Office? Jan is a long-time resident of Puyallup and a quilter.  She has had poor eyesight since childhood, but, as an adult, she was facing progressive vision loss that would eventually lead to blindness.  She found herself unable to drive or read, and was…
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