Valor

Valor

Executive
One week ago, I had the honor of attending and speaking at the ceremony for the first group of graduates of the Veterans Treatment Court program. Like everything else, COVID had delayed the celebration for a year until we could safely gather in a small group to congratulate two of the individuals that had successfully worked through their challenges and emerged healthy and happy. As part of the recognition, the graduates were presented with beautiful Quilts of Valor.  If you’ve not heard of this program, the quilts are handmade by amazing volunteers and given to people who have been impacted by war.  The quilts are meant to wrap the recipient up in comfort and security. I suspect there was not a dry eye at the event as two veterans were…
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How are you doing?

How are you doing?

Executive
This week, several hundred of you joined me for a virtual Employee Town Hall.  I always appreciate being able to update you on County priorities and hearing your thoughts and questions - unvarnished and direct! I can always count on a few of you asking a pointed question - and I’m glad you feel comfortable doing so. If you couldn’t join us this week, you can grab your favorite snack and beverage and watch it here: I regret that during the Town Hall I accidentally missed one of the questions we received in advance.  I want to assure the person who submitted it that it wasn’t intentional, and I’d like to answer it now. Here’s the question: How is morale with county staff? Has there been any formal or informal…
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Shining a spotlight

Shining a spotlight

Executive
As promised in last week’s blog, I want to give you a glimpse into some amazing people who serve our residents. Last weekend we held a virtual celebration for the people who graciously volunteer their time and talent to support County programs. In pre-pandemic times this was one of my favorite celebrations and allowed me to personally thank folks who give many hours of service to our community out of the goodness of their hearts. This year, because we couldn’t gather in person, we created a compilation video that highlights a few of the groups and individuals who were recognized for their outstanding volunteer work.  Check out the video below: [embedyt] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q93XNvFqOLM[/embedyt] My thanks to Chair Young for taking the time to lend his support and congratulations to our volunteers.…
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Hope and healing

Hope and healing

Executive
  Last Friday was a great day in Pierce County!  Not only did we continue getting vaccines into the arms of our residents, but we held a ribbon cutting ceremony for the new Crisis Recovery Center (CRC) in the Parkland/Spanaway area. For those of you who’ve been with the County awhile, you know that we’ve been working on this for about the last four years or so as part of our focus on bolstering access to behavioral health care. As with other initiatives, COVID took its toll on this project and slowed us down significantly.  Perhaps that’s why everyone associated with making the new CRC possible was nearly giddy at Friday’s ceremony. A small, social distanced group gathered at the CRC in beautiful weather and we livestreamed the event.  If…
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Restart, recover and reform

Restart, recover and reform

Executive
When I look back on the last year, COVID had a lot of control over our lives.  It controlled where we worked, how we interacted with family members and friends, where our kids went to school, how we shopped, and more.  We had to react and respond to the virus. As I mentioned at this year’s State of the County address, COVID may have been in charge during 2020 but it’s time for us to take back control and begin to safely restart, recover, and reform our county. If you didn’t have the opportunity to watch the State of the County on Wednesday, you can watch the replay here: [embedyt] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Gl2me9dgpIs[/embedyt] Also, Governor Inslee announced yesterday that our state is moving to Phase 3 on March 22.  With that move,…
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Home is my __________

Home is my __________

Executive
    On Tuesday, I attended Tacoma-Pierce County Habitat for Humanity’s “Changing Lives Lunch-IN” virtual fundraiser.  One of their engagement activities displayed an image of a house with the words “Home is my _______.”  COVID has certainly expanded the answers to that question. For most of us, our homes became a refuge, a remote office, a classroom, a gym, and a safe place to isolate. At the same time, COVID-induced job losses have put incredible stresses on household budgets.  Far too many residents are seeing their rent or mortgage payments piling up.  The prospect of losing their home is looming, and terrifying. That is why I am so proud of Heather Moss and our Human Services team.  In 2020, they used federal CARES Act funding to provide rental and mortgage…
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Change is going to come

Change is going to come

Executive
  Have you seen the recently released movie, “One Night in Miami”?  It was directed by Regina King and tells the (mostly) true story of an evening in the 1960’s when Muhammed Ali (then Cassius Clay), Sam Cooke, Jim Brown and Malcolm X were together. You can check out a preview here: [embedyt] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZprXMxKg--w[/embedyt] For those too young to recognize these names, Ali was one of the best heavyweight boxers in history.  Sam Cooke was an amazing R & B singer best known for the ballad, “You Send Me.”  Jim Brown was a fierce running back for the Cleveland Browns and held the NFL rushing yards record for many years until it was broken by Walter Payton.  And, Malcolm X was a human rights leader, a minister, and a spokesperson…
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Let it snow

Let it snow

Executive
  The song “Let It Snow” starts out, “Oh, the weather outside is frightful…” and we did see some amazing snow totals across Pierce County a few days ago.  While most of us stayed safely at home building epic snowmen or videoing puppies in the snow, our Planning and Public Works Team was on the job – and the roads - 24 hours a day! My thanks to Bruce Wagner, Maintenance Manager with Planning and Public Works, for the fantastic work his team did over the long snowy weekend.  Between the Road/River Operations Center command teams, the road supervisors who constantly monitor the road conditions, our snowplow drivers, the mechanics who keep everything running, and the logistics folks who make sure we have plenty of salt, it takes many people…
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Tomorrow’s icons today

Tomorrow’s icons today

Executive
I’ve had the privilege of writing in this blog about important African American Pierce County residents that have made powerful contributions to our lives close to home and beyond. I have shared the fascinating story of Dr. Nettie Asberry who founded the local chapter of the NAACP in 1913, the beginning of a long and illustrious civil rights legacy. She was also an accomplished musician and earned her doctorate in an era when advanced degrees were unusual for women, especially women of color. Another icon in Pierce County is Harold Moss. I’ve written about him a couple of times, including last fall when we sadly lost him at the age of 93. He made his mark in so many ways, but he was especially relevant to us as the Pierce…
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Together

Together

Executive
  An African proverb says, “If you want to go fast, go alone.  If you want to go far, go together.”  Over the last four years we’ve seen how effective we can be when we join with our local partners to tackle regional challenges. For example, you may recall that a couple of years ago the City of Seattle announced plans to impose a $275 per employee head tax on large employers. Here in the South Sound, we wanted to send a different message - that Pierce County welcomed new and expanding businesses that brought family-wage jobs to our residents. We gathered mayors from across the County to create a $275 tax credit for businesses that created new family-wage jobs.  We announced it at a joint news conference with many…
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Jabs and jabbering

Jabs and jabbering

Executive
So, I recently learned that while those of us in the U.S. say we are eager to get our vaccination “shot,” our friends across the Pond in Great Britain say they can’t wait to get a “jab.”  Either way, I’m excited that we are getting more vaccines into arms! Thanks to some terrific work by our Department of Emergency Management (DEM), the Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department, and their community partners, lots of County residents got their “jab” this week.  We opened two mass vaccination events last Tuesday and Thursday and have another planned for Saturday in Gig Harbor. These events take a huge amount of organization and coordination.  Each one includes a multi-step process to confirm eligibility, accept appointments, identify a host site, arrange for security and traffic control, as…
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Finding a way

Finding a way

Executive
There’s an old saying, “Where there’s a will, there’s a way.”  And, there is some truth to that.  Despite any number of obstacles, it seems that some people can find a way to break through and get things done. That’s especially true here in Pierce County. For example, I had a chance to join Economic Development in a socially distanced lunch last week.  I wanted to thank them for the myriad of ways they’ve supported our struggling businesses through the pandemic. Over sandwiches, each one answered three questions from their work in the last year: What’s the funniest thing that has happened? What is the most meaningful thing? And, what lessons have you learned? I found their answers to all three questions to be fascinating. As the team faced roadblock…
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Let’s go!

Let’s go!

Executive
  Four years ago, I had the privilege of being sworn in as Executive for the first time. Hundreds of guests joined me in a large conference center.  It was festive, loud and lively. Fast forward four years and this week’s swearing-in was small, socially distanced, masked and brief. Despite the difference in the two events, I was honored and humbled to be chosen by our voters to serve our residents for four more years, and grateful for the opportunity to share the ceremony with a few guests. You can watch the entire ceremony below, but I will give you a brief summary of my remarks. [embedyt] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zFKzo8SSJdM[/embedyt] After a welcome from City of Sumner Mayor Bill Pugh and a blessing from Pastor Aaron Stewart, retired Judge Frank Cuthbertson administered…
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“Of the people, by the people, for the people”

“Of the people, by the people, for the people”

Executive
In the midst of the most divisive time in our history, the Civil War, after the bloodiest battle in our history, with over 50,000 combined casualties, President Abraham Lincoln delivered a 271-word address at the dedication of the National Cemetery in Gettysburg.  His speech was exceptionally powerful and memorable, including one phrase that made an indelible mark on our collective consciousness, that our government is “of the people, by the people, for the people.” Governing of, by and for the people is true at the national and county levels.  The people of Pierce County choose our elected leaders, and our entire county team - both elected and not - exists to deliver key services for the people of our county.  And we must carry out those responsibilities with the utmost…
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Good riddance

Good riddance

Executive
I can’t imagine there is a person who isn’t relieved that 2020 is almost over. While there have been many wonderful events - babies were born, partners were wed, birthdays were celebrated, and puppies were adopted - the losses were much more difficult. Families lost loved ones, left to mourn without communal memorials or funerals. Many in our community lost their jobs and favorite restaurants closed. Too many of our neighbors are barely hanging on to their homes. The mental health impacts of the pandemic are just starting to emerge. While we can’t know fully what lies ahead, 2021 holds promise.   As the COVID vaccine rolls out – even though it may take several months to get to everyone – we can see a brighter future on the horizon. So,…
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Hopeful holidays

Hopeful holidays

Executive
Hopeful holidays So many of our traditional holiday activities have been cancelled. Whether it is a large family dinner, a neighborhood gathering, baking cookies with a grandparent or a large church service, these and many other things that mean the holidays to you won’t be happening in this strangest of years.  (However, Fantasy Lights is setting records for attendance!) I get it. We won’t be enjoying our “Cousins’ Christmas” or Candle-lit Christmas Eve Service either.  But that doesn’t mean that we can’t adapt or switch up how we celebrate. I asked a couple of employees to share how they are changing up their holiday traditions this year. Dawn Thomas of Finance is Jewish and just finished celebrating the seven nights of Hanukkah: Typically, Hanukkah would be spent getting together with friends and…
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Appreciative or proud?

Appreciative or proud?

Executive
I learned a lot last Wednesday afternoon at the Human Services’ “Years of Service Celebration.”  For instance, Sarah Lacombe is a big fan of the musical Hamilton, as am I.  And, if I had to pick a song from Hamilton that best described my reaction to listening to the recognition of these dedicated employees, it would be “Blow Us All Away,” because I was blown away by their service - and as examples of all that you have done in 2020 for our community. Heather Moss and her leadership team highlighted and thanked the teammates who were celebrating 5-year increments of service.  I have attached a copy of their PowerPoint presentation so you can see what I saw. Combined, these 24 employees had more than 250 years at Pierce County,…
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For a healthy community

For a healthy community

Executive
It has never been more important for Pierce County to have strong, effective public health services. Our community’s health and wellbeing have been taken to the brink by the pandemic. There is not one aspect of our lives that hasn’t been touched and diminished, if not destroyed, by COVID. Even with vaccinations starting in our county, the impacts of the pandemic are far from over - especially those that stem not from the disease directly, but from the consequences of battling it.  As we enter the holiday season, the mental health impacts for our community are only now starting to become fully apparent. Earlier this week, the County Council voted on a proposal designed to ensure our community has robust health services in Pierce County for the long-term, after the…
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Lifetime learners

Lifetime learners

Executive
I love to learn.  I want to grow intellectually, to keep my brain healthy, to challenge my preconceptions, and to be better prepared to do my job.  Learning helps me be ready for the challenges that lie ahead and makes me a better person.  Beyond work, I am currently reading How to Behave so Your Dog Behaves to get ready for our new puppy who arrives at the end of month! So, to increase awareness about the strategic value of learning in organizations, I happily declared December 7-11, 2020 as Employee Learning Week in conjunction with the Association of Talent Development (ATD). Employee Learning Week is an opportunity for us to demonstrate a commitment to talent development and showcase the important link between developing your skills and achieving organizational results. Developing…
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Like a scene from a science fiction movie

Like a scene from a science fiction movie

Executive
  Imagine yourself in a hostile “alien” environment, where gravity is different, and your survival depends on the limited air supply you carry on your back.  Now, further imagine you can’t see anything and have to navigate through pipes filled with obstacles, that require you to remove your air supply, just to get through! It sounds like a scene from a horror movie or the latest new video game, but it actually was part of the “confidence course” for our Pierce County Metro Dive Team.  Acting Dive team Commander Detective Brent Van Dyke explained that those are realistic situations his team may face in the Puget Sound, lakes and rivers of Pierce County.  He wanted his divers to have experienced those challenges in training, so they are prepared for what…
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