Blog

Shining stars

Shining stars

Executive
                        The evening when we honor our outstanding employees is one of my favorite nights of the year.  The Employee Incentive and Recognition (EI&R) reception gives us a fun way to hold up and appreciate some amazing examples of public service innovation, creativity and dedication in action. Along with my trusty co-host, Council Chair Doug Richardson, and the “hostess with the mostest”  Maura Maye, we spent Wednesday evening celebrating this year’s recipients of Standing Ovation Awards and thanking our long-time employees with Years of Service recognition. I’ve included the links to the great videos we showed throughout the evening so you can learn more about the fantastic projects. Entrepreneurial Climate We announced the winners in the Entrepreneurial Climate category,…
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Whole lot of saving going on

Whole lot of saving going on

Executive
Amazon Prime Day shoppers weren’t the only ones saving money recently.  Thanks to some hard work, smart timing and favorable markets, we have saved our sewer ratepayers nearly $25 million! Gary Robinson and Wolf Opitz of the Finance department saw that the current low interest rate environment provided an opportunity to refinance an existing long-term debt that paid for the wastewater treatment plant, and a small amount of road project debt. The refinancing got a great response from investors who saw the County’s excellent credit rating and reputation for sound financial management and flocked to buy the County’s bonds. Changes in interest rates help show the value of refinancing the debt, the interest rate on the larger sewer bond dropped from 4.91% down to 2.37%, and the road bond rates…
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Getting in SSHAP

Getting in SSHAP

Executive
        For more than a year, a group of mayors and other elected officials have been meeting to create regional solutions to the challenge of affordable housing.  The group, co-chaired by Tacoma Mayor Victoria Woodards, Councilmember Connie Ladenburg and myself, is known as SSHAP - or the South Sound Housing Affordability Partners. I’ve been pleased that we’ve had great attendance with a very engaged group of mayors from throughout the County. The SSHAP group has been meeting monthly - that is, until COVID-19 hit, and we had to quickly switch our attention and work to dealing with the pandemic. Although we aren’t out of Phase 2, yet, I’m thankful that SSHAP has recently begun meeting, again. In fact, our latest gathering was this week. Of course, the…
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Looking forward to NEO

Looking forward to NEO

Executive
If you are a fan of the science fiction thriller The Matrix, you might think when I mention NEO I am referring to the protagonist played in the movie by Keanu Reeves. While I enjoyed the film, both the cinematography and plot, NEO on my calendar does not refer to the One who will bring peace to the Matrix. But, it is one event that brightens my week! NEO is the Human Resources abbreviation for New Employee Orientation. I make it a priority to participate in all of our NEOs. Pre-COVID, I would try and arrive at the HR Conference room early and talk with our new employees individually where they were sitting.  But with our Zoom NEO, I have incorporated these individual discussions into my welcome with them.  The…
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And justice for all

And justice for all

Executive
…with liberty and justice for all.  As a kid I repeated the Pledge of Allegiance every morning in school.  Whether during my service on the Puyallup School Board or in the Legislature, I recited the Pledge with sincerity at the start of each session.  And today, our Council begins every meeting on Tuesday with the Pledge, as well as a moment of silence for the men and women serving in the military. What does it mean for everyone to have justice?  And, what will it take for everyone to experience that justice?  Our community and our nation have been wrestling with this in our streets and in our courtrooms over the last several months. Opinions will vary, of course, but I think it’s clear that our society is not and…
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Now they’ve done it

Now they’ve done it

Executive
The year 2020 has thrown a lot at us.  We started out with mudslides, shifted into a pandemic and we’re still recovering from last week’s wildfires. You may be asking, what could possibly happen, next? Well, sadly, this seemingly doomed calendar year also brought us an environmental mess of disastrous proportions. If you have lived in Pierce County for very long you are very familiar with the name “Puyallup.”  Most of you will know it originates with the tribe of Indians who have always inhabited much of Pierce County. And, they are a key partner with us today. The Puyallup Tribe of Indians works closely with us on environmental stewardship, transportation, economic development, human services and much more. Many of you, like me, may call the city of Puyallup your…
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Days to remember

Days to remember

Executive
Sometimes history focuses on the losses, like the number of buildings destroyed, the financial toll of a tragedy, and, most importantly, the lives lost. And while it is important to take in the gravity of these situations, it’s equally important to celebrate what was saved. An estimated 17,400 people had been at the World Trade Center on the day of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, and some 87% of them were safely evacuated, thanks in large part to the first responders’ heroic efforts. [caption id="attachment_2559" align="aligncenter" width="3024"] The First Responders' Memorial at the County-City Building honors those we've lost in the line of duty[/caption] When passengers of United Flight 93 knew the country was under attack and their aircraft was hijacked, Todd Beamer and others took action saying, “Let’s Roll.” Flight…
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The power and importance of education

The power and importance of education

Executive
[caption id="attachment_2555" align="aligncenter" width="4976"] Closeup of a key and paper note with Education text[/caption] I don’t think I could believe more strongly in education.  My life has been shaped by my education, from Mr. Dempsey’s 7th Grade class at Curtis Junior High to the Leadership Class at the U.S. Naval Academy, and from Construction Law classes at the University of Washington to Tribal Relations training at Pierce County. These classes have expanded my knowledge, broadened my understanding, and better prepared me for my future. I recently read an article about our own Jeremy Carnahan, wastewater operations supervisor, in “Treatment Plant Operator” Magazine. I have included a link and encourage you to read it, too https://www.tpomag.com/editorial/2020/08/jeremy-carnahan-took-to-wastewater-work-with-a-natural-fascination-for-its-mechanics-and-importance). What stood out to me is Jeremy’s hunger to learn more and become better.  Starting…
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Are you hungry?

Are you hungry?

Executive
COVID-19 has created terrible new problems and worsened some that we’ve already had in our community. One of the areas hardest hit over the last few months is the network of food support for those who are struggling to feed themselves and their families. Organizations like the Emergency Food Network and Nourish Pierce County depend on an army of volunteers to pack and prepare food for distribution. However, most of their volunteers are over the age of 60 and more vulnerable to the ravages of COVID-19. At the same time, due to layoffs and furloughs while businesses have been shut down, there’s an even greater need for food from newly unemployed residents. In other words, it’s a perfect storm. With support from the Council, we have allocated millions in CARES…
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Answer your phone!

Answer your phone!

Executive
Like many of you, I usually let unfamiliar phone numbers go straight to voice mail.  But, these days we should all be a little more lenient on that – or at least check your voicemail frequently!  That’s because you never know when that phone call may be from the Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department contact tracers calling with COVID-19 information critical to your health. For several months, a growing team of individuals armed with phones and phone numbers has been working with COVID-positive individuals to retrace their steps and compile a list of potentially infected friends, family members and co-workers. You can imagine the sensitivity involved in reaching out to unsuspecting people to let them know they may have been exposed to the virus. However, these people are critical to slowing…
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Technology, stock tips and COVID

Technology, stock tips and COVID

Executive
I was really looking forward to my Tuesday morning.  I have been office-bound by COVID, so the prospect of getting out with our Roads Crew doing chip sealing got me rev’d up! First, I was reminded just how big our county is.  It took me nearly 45 minutes to drive from my house in Puyallup to the site.  I was born and raised in Pierce County, but I had never driven on Hinkleman Road in my 59 years. We have over 3,200 lane miles of County-maintained roads, with 1,400 lane miles of arterials.  Keeping these roads well-maintained and open to serve our community and first responders, in the face of fall windstorms, winter snows, and spring floods, is the definition of “essential.” Pavement Manager Brett Sonntag and Field Supervisor Josh…
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Give them a standing ovation!

Give them a standing ovation!

Executive
Let’s face it.  It’s been a rough few months. It’s been difficult to get and keep our bearings during the pandemic. But there are a few people and groups that not only held their own but found opportunity and creativity in this unprecedented time.  They not only rose to the challenge but found new and creative ways to excel in their work to serve our colleagues and residents.  That’s why they are being recognized with a Standing Ovation Award! Of course, not all of the work of our award winners is COVID-related but finding solutions to challenging circumstances was a trait common to all of the teams and individuals receiving this year’s awards. So many of you went above and beyond that I’m certain that the selection committee had a very…
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In the center of the storm

In the center of the storm

Executive
In the center of the storm So, we’ve all seen the memes that end with the blank stare on the person’s face because they just can’t process what they’ve seen or heard? You can almost hear the crickets … I’ve seen that look for years when I explained my work in emergency management. It is a profession people struggle to understand. I get it. Folks like me tell you things you don’t want to hear and ask you to spend time and money you don’t have on something you may not believe will ever happen. Emergency Management is just those two words. We take emergencies – the chaos, colliding information and competing priorities – and put management practices to them. Often, it’s like wrestling a giant, wet noodle. Just when…
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In it for the long-term

In it for the long-term

Executive
In it for the long-term Have you tried to buy a bike, lately?  What about adopting a shelter pet for quarantine company?  These and other popular items are in short supply, thanks to the ripple effect of the pandemic.  In the case of abandoned puppies, that’s a great thing they are getting new forever homes.  However, we are likely to see shortages in goods that are part of a now broken global supply chain. Another popular item are RVs.  I can only assume that since people are not flying, they must be hitting the relative safety of the road and seeing parts of Washington in a different way. When the virus first hit, perhaps you were optimistic like me and thought we’d just need to “gut it out” for a…
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A roller coaster ride

A roller coaster ride

Executive
A roller coaster ride I like, but don’t love, roller coasters.  I ride them mostly with my son, Colin, who loves them.  The roller coaster rides that I hate are where you can’t see what is coming and have no ability to anticipate and prepare. Well, that is exactly what the coronavirus feels like to me.  We have ups and downs – corresponding to both the epidemiological curve and some other key measures – but not knowing what lies ahead is very challenging.  We all yearn for some sense of certainty. I assume you’ve seen the concerning rise in new positive cases – with a new record set yesterday.  It is very important that we get this to plateau and stabilize – and then start coming down. I am frequently…
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How are you?

How are you?

Executive
Many people are facing incredible difficulties in the face of COVID.  Some have lost loved ones, and even worse, have not been able to be in the room when they passed.  In comparison, my loss was not as great, but it still hurt my heart – a lot. My dog, Bosco was quite a character and lived up to his particular breed’s nickname – “Kanga-doodle.”  He bounded after everything and loved to play.  He was an amazing companion on a walk, hike, boat ride, or car trip.  He loved and was loved by my granddaughters.  He had a fetish for hiding socks and destroying toilet paper roll cores. Last week, we noticed he was feeling punky, but were having trouble getting him into our regular veterinarian.  Finally, on Thursday morning,…
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On second thought

On second thought

Executive
On second thought In last week’s blog I mentioned our intention to file an application with the state Department of Health to enter Phase 2.5 of the Governor’s Safe Start Order. That was then, and this is now. Since that blog was posted, we’ve seen a concerning number of new cases with a steady increase.  We now exceed the stated target of 25 or fewer cases per 100,000 residents - our total as of June 30 was 46.0.  This trend is similar to what we are seeing in Snohomish and King counties. The good news is we are testing more widely, we have teams out investigating and notifying folks when they test positive or are close to someone who has tested positive, and so far, our COVID hospitalizations are not…
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Lots of questions

Lots of questions

Executive
Lots of questions This week I gathered with hundreds of you at our second Town Hall.  Many thanks to those of you who took the time to submit questions and participate. There were many questions about the practices and protocols we’re putting in place as we begin to reopen some portions of the County.  You can hear about that and more in the replay below. Given the timing of the Town Hall, one thing I couldn’t address at that point is that we plan to apply with the state Department of Health for a variance to Phase 2.5.  The Board of Health is scheduled to meet on July 1, our Council will take a vote, and I plan to submit the official application as soon as possible after that. Our…
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Some Good News

Some Good News

Executive
Some Good News From the pandemic to the daily protests rightly demanding equality and justice, we’ve been surrounded by a lot of unhappiness, grief and fear, lately.  While it’s important to be mindful of the events around us, I thought I’d catch my breath in this week’s blog. How about some good news? You may have watched an episode of John Krasinski’s Some Good News series online.  While I can’t reunite the actors from The Office or assemble the original cast of Hamilton, I can share a few things that have warmed my heart. Have you heard we’ve been handing out PPE (personal protection equipment) to local businesses, nonprofits and houses of worship?  I’ve had the opportunity to see the gratitude and joy on the faces of the thousands of…
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Keep up the good work!

Keep up the good work!

Executive
In case we haven’t met yet, I’m the new director of the Office of Disaster Recovery and I’m honored to draw on my background as an Army general, business leader and physician to help the County recover from the impact of the pandemic. I could almost hear the collective sighs of relief and shouts of joy last Friday as Pierce County received the State’s approval to move into Phase 2 of the COVID-19 phased reopening.  Our residents were understandably tired of being confined and restricted and felt that they were being “set free.” But that “freedom” comes with some conditions and responsibilities.  The responsible actions of Pierce County residents during Phase 1 led to dramatic reductions in the number of COVID-19 cases – in large part due to reduced person-to-person…
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