Blog

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…
Read More
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…
Read More
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…
Read More
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,…
Read More
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…
Read More
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…
Read More
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…
Read More
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…
Read More
No justice, no peace

No justice, no peace

Executive
We have all seen the protest signs this week – and some of you may have even carried them.  The one that hit closest to home for me was “No Justice, No Peace.”  It was on the back seat of a local business owner’s car.  I asked if she had been to a protest or was going to a protest?  Her response – both. The core of what we do as county government is focused on delivering justice and preserving peace.  From our judges to our Clerk’s Office, from the Prosecutor’s office to the Department of Assigned Counsel, from our patrol deputies to our Corrections staff – and all the departments that directly support them – we are all about justice and peace. That is why the horrific murder of George Floyd at the hands of those called to…
Read More
Breaking News!

Breaking News!

Executive
This is not the blog I had planned for today.  Normally, I work on these Thursday night - and many times Friday morning.  Well, today I called an audible because I wanted you to know what has gone on to prepare Pierce County to move to Phase 2 of the Governor’s newly announced Safe Start plan. First, I am very proud of how Pierce County has responded to the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic – and by that, I mean our County-family, TPCHD, first responders, healthcare workers, and our residents – every one of them.  Together, we acted quickly, with smart policies, and our people took it seriously and acted responsibly. And it has made a big difference.  In the last three weeks, the rolling 7-day average of new cases…
Read More
Remembering

Remembering

Executive
However, this year it seems especially appropriate to broaden the rolls we remember on Memorial Day – to add in a few other heroes to the list of those we’ve lost this year. I had planned to be in Washington, D.C. earlier this month to memorialize Deputy Cooper Dyson’s service and sacrifice at the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial.  The pandemic changed all that.  While it delayed, it did not diminish the importance of honoring Deputy Dyson's sacrifice for our community.  So please remember him, and his family, this weekend.  #NeverForget. We also saw the emergence of another “battlefield” this year and should appropriately remember the service of those fighting on our behalf – and the heroes who have sacrificed their lives in that service. During the pandemic, frontline nurses, doctors…
Read More
I’m listening

I’m listening

Executive
I have enjoyed writing and sharing my blog with you over the last three years.  But, aside from the handful of replies or emails I receive in response to a post, this blog is a one-way dialogue.  That’s why I was excited to host our first-ever Employee Town Hall this week. I’m a big fan of town halls (in-person, tele, and virtual!) and hosted them quite a bit when I was in the Legislature.  I welcome the chance to share updates, hear concerns and respond to questions. But I was a little reluctant to hold one at Pierce County since so many of you work out in the field and may not have access to listen in and participate.  Well, the pandemic solved that issue with so many of you…
Read More
Appreciation

Appreciation

Executive
Although Cinco de Mayo didn’t have quite the same flair this year, there are plenty of other things to celebrate this month.  I looked up day and week commemorative events and learned Lumpy Rug Day was earlier this week and Water a Flower Day comes up later this month.  And, don’t forget you can observe National Salad Month in May, too! But, of all the commemorations this month, I’m glad that this week includes National Nurses’ Appreciation Day. Our healthcare providers are worthy of appreciation every day, of course, but the last few months have shown us over and over the devotion nurses have for their patients. Despite the risk to their lives, those healthcare providers don’t hesitate to suit up, don PPE and place themselves in harms’ way for…
Read More
Pierce County CARES

Pierce County CARES

Executive
Pierce County received $158 million in federal funds via the CARES Act (Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act).  The law allocated the funds to local governments over 500,000 population, so we were one of only five in Washington State (others were King, Snohomish, Spokane counties and Seattle).   This funding came with three significant restrictions: Must be spent on COVID-related expenses. Must not be spent on currently budgeted items – can’t replace projected decreases in sales tax. Must be spent by December 31, 2020. Beyond that we have significant flexibility. The challenge is how best to use those funds, very quickly, to respond to the current emergency, prepare for a potential “second wave,” and help our community recover.  This presents a critical opportunity and challenge for us – in a…
Read More
Generous people

Generous people

Executive
[caption id="attachment_2369" align="aligncenter" width="5000"] Caregiver, carer hand holding elder hand in hospice care. Philanthropy kindness to disabled concept.[/caption] The name Puyallup can mean “generous people” and the phrase definitely reflects the history and character of the Puyallup Tribe of Indians.  It is also a quality I see in many of my neighbors in my hometown of Puyallup. But that quality of generosity extends throughout Pierce County, as I was reminded poignantly this week. This letter showed up on my desk recently with a check for $200. I appreciated Mr. Foster’s act of generosity, so I decided to call and thank him personally. I learned that Pierce County was not the only recipient of his kindness. He decided to give away the entire $1200 he received from his federal relief check.…
Read More
A bigger donor

A bigger donor

Executive
I am a pretty healthy guy – something I take less for granted in our current coronavirus outbreak.  And I have some very good veins and am O+, which means my blood can help a lot of different people.   So, I take nearly every chance I can to donate blood. The coronavirus outbreak caused a shortage of donors, so I donated a pint back on March 14th. Additionally, I talked my wife, Lauren, into donating and she stepped up on March 27th. I felt pretty good about our efforts. Little did I know that one of our Pierce County co-worker’s donations was bigger – and by a lot. Some of you may know Scott Roth, a program manager in Planning & Public Works.  Scott served proudly in the U.S. Marine Corps,…
Read More
Not enough words

Not enough words

Executive
The words “thank you” are inadequate to express my appreciation and gratitude to those of you working long days and nights and through the weekends to make sure our residents are taken care of and that the work of the County continues on as best as possible. The demands of the last few weeks have taken you away from your families and added a tremendous amount of stress to an already challenging time. Day after day you have been creative, innovative and dedicated in your efforts to provide care, concern and support to our residents.  And, they are grateful! Here’s a note I couldn’t wait to share with you: Well done, PPW!  I’m grateful for the hard work you are doing, exceeding the expectations of our residents! This next note…
Read More
The best part of my week

The best part of my week

Executive
I am very proud of how our community has responded to the Coronavirus outbreak.  It brings us challenge after challenge, yet our teams work to find solutions time and time again.  Our Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department and Emergency Management unified command team has been exceptional - and the leadership coming out of the Emergency Operations Center has been rock solid. One of the biggest challenges facing our community is feeding the children who normally have been fed up to two meals a day at school.  When the schools were closed, children lost their access to those healthy meals - and the connection to the caring adults at their local schools.  Many of these children come from families on the margin to begin with – with parents or caregivers most likely…
Read More
Uncharted waters

Uncharted waters

Executive
I love nautical charts.  They give me a sense of confidence, imply adventure, and are packed with information describing the environment both above and below the water.  Wrecks, rocks, currents, tides, harbors, channels – even magnetic deviation – it is all there to help a sailor get safely from one port to another.   I even have some as artwork! As I boat on the Sound (with both charts AND GPS), I often think about what it would be like to sail in uncharted waters.  To have been with the first native people or early explorers venturing into and around the Salish Sea for the first time. How do you proceed into waters that are unknown and uncertain? I think all of us can relate much more closely these days with…
Read More
By the numbers until…

By the numbers until…

Executive
As we all try to process the COVID-19 outbreak, we are being inundated with numbers. One of the most impressive websites is the interactive map made provided by Johns Hopkins University (https://coronavirus.jhu.edu/map.html). I watch the number of our residents who have tested positive for COVID-19 very closely (as of today, 83 positive cases out of 1,695 tested).  Less than 5% of those tested in Pierce County are currently returning positive results.  Yet the number of residents being tested is increasing – including a new drive-up testing site at the Tacoma Dome opening this weekend – so the number of positives will continue to move up. These numbers are important for us to understand the outbreak and help give our Pierce County team and our community perspective.  But, we must remember…
Read More