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 the Citizen Tacoma Episode 25 on “Tacoma #Me Too”).
My desire to reach out, listen and understand better also shows up in my work as County Executive.
Case in point, last week I met with the leadership from ten of our local unions. These meetings were definitely not contract bargaining. They were all about building and strengthening relationships, sharing priorities, and listening.
It was very helpful for me to hear how they felt our employees were perceiving and reacting to some of my efforts – the blog was mentioned positively in most meetings! The meetings also gave me the chance to receive feedback on our upcoming total compensation and classification study, and better understand employee perspectives – both hopes and concerns. Some topics came up in multiple meetings – and some were very specific to a single bargaining group. You may remember, I did this last year, as well – and these meetings will continue next year and beyond.
Another opportunity to grow occurred yesterday when I joined many other County employees at the “The People’s Gathering Conference” hosted by PLU. Among the over 300 participants were people from government, education, business and non-profits; Pierce County had folks from Juvenile Court, Planning & Public Works, the Auditor, the Sheriff and the Exec’s Office.
The program was focused on addressing and increasing our understanding of racial, ethnic and gender differences. I found the speakers engaging and, in many cases, challenging. It was a great opportunity for me to learn and grow. Based on a conversation I had this morning with someone else who was there, it was very valuable in helping change perspectives.
One very inspirational speaker was Alana Simmons. Alana’s grandfather (Rev. Daniel Simmons) was the pastor who was killed along with 8 others in the horrific attack on Mother Emmanuel, a historically black Charleston church, while they prayed. Alana’s response to the shooter in court was amazing, “It is my understanding that the purpose of this shooting was to initiate a race war. And, although my grandfather and the other victims died at the hands of hate, they lived in love and they preached love, and their legacies will be love. This display of forgiveness by the families and their plea for mercy on your soul is a true testament to how they lived and so hate won’t win.” Alana later advanced her message of forgiveness and healing to a national audience through the “Hate Won’t Win” movement (www.hatewontwinmovement.com)!
Another opportunity for all of us to learn and grow is about to start through the annual “Pierce County Reads” – the biggest reading event in the state! The Pierce County Library once again chose a book that shares a different perspective for many, with a goal of challenging everyone. And, it’s in a very unique format! “March” is a national award-winning graphic memoir trilogy on the Civil Rights Movement by John Lewis, Andrew Aydin and Nate Powell. They are using the medium (graphic memoir = high-quality “comic book” style), to tell the story in a fresh way, to reach people differently, including those of a new generation. I have already bought my copy and am eager to start! (http://piercecountyreads.org/)
Lastly, I want to remind you I will be presenting my 2018 State of the County speech at noon on Wednesday the 21st in Courtroom 100. Here’s a video preview of what I intend to speak about. I hope you will join me!
Thanks for reading,