Validating the victorious and vanquished

Validating the victorious and vanquished

Executive
Election Day has come and gone and nearly all the races are decided (Even as I write this, two contests are still too close too call!).  As a community, we just finished one of the most important things we do as citizens of the U.S. – we selected individuals to lead our communities.  Disappointingly, only about 28% of Pierce County registered voters did cast ballots. While the yard signs are coming down and concession speeches have been given, the election isn’t quite finished for Auditor Julie Anderson and her team.  That will happen after the election results are certified on November 28. In the meantime, I want to offer my congratulations to the crew for successfully administering the November 7 election! This year was a period of great change for…
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The past, present and future of Pierce County

The past, present and future of Pierce County

Executive
During the time I served on the Puyallup School Board we celebrated the District's 150th anniversary.  I was struck by the fact that I was a steward of Puyallup's community schools – I had been preceded by hundreds of board member before me and likely hundreds will follow in the future.  I felt that same sense of stewardship and responsibility while sitting at my desk on the Floor of the State Senate, and I feel it today as the County Executive.  This week, I had three experiences that reinforced my appreciation for those who have served Pierce County before me. The Boeing plant in Frederickson celebrated its 25th anniversary this year.  A lot of exceptional work by our neighbors has been flying around in planes throughout the world!  For example,…
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Flush with Success

Flush with Success

Executive
Wednesday we celebrated the completion of the 11-year $300 million upgrade to Pierce County's wastewater treatment plant (WWTP). This incredibly complex project has positioned Pierce County to meet both our technical standards and growth demands out to 2030 and beyond. Although few citizens even know where the wastewater treatment plant is, let alone what happens there, it still performs an incredibly vital function to protect our environment. As I reflected upon this milestone, some key lessons came to mind. Vision & Planning - Both the siting of the WWTP and its more recent upgrade required a tremendous vision by leaders in Pierce County. They had to anticipate the needs of our citizens decades in the future.  Then, that vision had to be translated into a detailed funding plan and project design to…
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Undercover Boss

Undercover Boss

Executive
I can’t count the times I have approached an intersection and averted my eyes from panhandlers and their signs stating “will work” or “I’ll take any job.”  Waiting for the light to change, conflicting thoughts pass through my mind, “He looks like he could work. I wonder if he would take a job if he was offered a chance.  It certainly won’t help him if I gave him money to feed his habits.” Those same type of thoughts occurred to Mayor Richard Berry of Albuquerque, NM, as he created his city’s successful day labor program “There’s a Better Way!” in 2015.   Albuquerque’s nationally recognized program offers panhandlers jobs picking up litter and clearing vegetation.  You can read about it online, but I wanted to see for myself how it really…
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Learning about family

Learning about family

Executive
As you probably know by now, I love getting out to meet and talk with our employees.  So, naturally I jumped at the chance to visit with the Road Operations division at their All Hands meeting last Thursday morning.  They were gathering for their annual meeting, including updates, training, food and even some games. In true Road Ops fashion – they “raced” putting up traffic warning signs! This was my third visit to the Central Maintenance Facility.  As a former Seabee, I have always had a thing for big trucks and equipment, and the skill it takes to operate and maintain them.  At the All Hands, I shared how much I appreciated the great work they have been doing - our roads are in outstanding shape, they have a strong…
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And justice for all

And justice for all

Executive
People often ask me what the Director of Justice Services and Special Projects actually does all day – besides go to meetings, that is.  After I chuckle, I tell them I provide oversight to five County departments (Court Clerk, Assigned Counsel, Medical Examiner, Human Services and Human Resources), and I am the liaison to the judiciary and courts, the Sheriff, the Law Library Board, and the Crystal Judson Family Justice Center Board.  In addition, I am leading a number of countywide special projects.  It’s a complex job, but it has tremendous rewards – we are doing transformational work that matters.  This week I had my special projects hat on when Peter Ansara, director of Human Services, and I met with Julian Bray from the Washington Attorney General’s Office, Curtis Huff…
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Service

Service

Executive
On Thursday I attended two events that prompted me to reflect on the service our employees deliver to our citizens.  I thought about how important that service is, and the potentially unseen costs to some. At the Assessor-Treasurer’s quarterly staff meeting, I watched Don Pettie and James Parris take their oath of office as new assessors.  Did you know that assessors have an oath of office?  I didn't.  But as I thought about it, I am very glad they do.  The recent controversy over Sound Transit 3’s motor vehicle excise tax (MVET) valuation schedule reminded me how important trust is in government, especially for those who influence how much tax we pay.  Many people believe Sound Transit unfairly and potentially deceptively used an outdated MVET schedule instead of the current…
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Moving forward

Moving forward

Executive
As you might recall, as part of the State of the County address on March 15, I introduced a supplemental budget to take advantage of some year-end surplus money and an improving economy.  We want to make meaningful progress on several key initiatives.  Among those priorities are behavioral health, homeless veterans and youth, public safety, and economic development. Executive team members during last week's 2018 budget retreat   Last week the Council’s Committee of the Whole (COW) met to consider our budget proposal, only to introduce a different budget that cut our proposal nearly in half. I will be working hard to convince Councilmembers to restore much of this important funding when they next meet on June 6. I want to provide you with some insight as to what happened…
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Leave it better than you found it!

Leave it better than you found it!

Executive
I’ve mentioned before how having a baby in your life changes everything.  That includes the choices we make in our daily lives.  I want to leave my granddaughter with a beautiful place to grow up, raise a family, have meaningful work – AND be able to enjoy our spectacular natural environment, drink clean water and breathe fresh air. One strategy to deliver that vision is Pierce County Sustainability 2020. The initiative, approved by the Council last year, is an ambitious plan with specific targets for energy use, waste reduction, commuting and other measurable goals.  We need to be the best possible stewards of Pierce County and the resources our citizens entrust to us.  It is about being smart and sustainable – not just “green for the sake of being green.”  Our citizens…
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A Matter of Life and Death

A Matter of Life and Death

Executive
How was your Monday morning?  Mine started with breakfast and a tour of the Medical Examiner’s office while their team reviewed the previous weekend’s deaths. I entered a world that few citizens see – at least while alive - and, let’s be honest, most of us never want to be a part of. I was impressed by the professionalism and care with which Dr. Tom Clark and his team do a very challenging job. Case in point: on the morning I visited, the group was discussing the death of an infant and two suicides that had recently occurred. I’m thankful that we have investigators with the skill, persistence, and, in some cases personal courage, to go to death scenes and do what needs to be done.  Can you imagine having to…
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Let it RAIN

Let it RAIN

Executive
After this incredibly wet winter and spring, I wonder whether a local group is re-thinking naming their new organization RAIN?  In this case, RAIN stands for the Readiness Acceleration & Innovation Network. RAIN is a non-profit organization near the UW Tacoma that serves as an “incubator” for medical and biotech startups. It is the result of a partnership between the UWT, Madigan Army Medical Center and MultiCare Hospital.  I had the chance to meet with the RAIN team this week and I came away excited about our ability to grow new businesses and employ the thousands of new people moving to Pierce County. [embedyt] http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=evt_85HJLD4[/embedyt] RAIN’s mission is to spur and “incubate” the development of innovative med/biotech companies that generate sustainable, high-paying jobs in our area. It’s location near UWT is…
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Spring Cleaning

Spring Cleaning

Executive
It’s been said you only get one chance to make a good first impression. With more than 5 million visitors each year, our websites serve as the “front doors” and first impression of Pierce County for many residents.  The sites are critically important to our ability to serve our citizens, provide transparency and make it easy for people to take care of their business quickly and conveniently. The number of people using their mobile devices to access the internet has been exploding in recent years.  At the same time, our main website was not providing an optimal experience for mobile users. In 2016, 37% of Pierce County site users arrived via their phone or tablet.  But the old website only displayed a “computer-style” layout and didn’t adapt to various screen…
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Way Above and Beyond

Way Above and Beyond

Executive
Recently a young man hanged himself in one of the barns at Frontier Park. Tragically, depression overcame his will to live. Two members of my extended family have committed suicide, so I am familiar with the tremendous sadness, frustration, and sometimes anger associated with losing a loved one by their own hand. This may be why the compassionate actions of Erin Benedict and Jeff Donovan resonated so strongly with me. Erin and Jeff work at Frontier Park, and they discovered the young man shortly after he hanged himself. Acting quickly, they cut him down, contacted emergency responders, and started CPR. Remarkably, they were able to get his heart restarted. EMTs arrived shortly after and transported the man to the hospital. I thought this was the end of the story, but…
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Heroes in our midst, Part 2

Heroes in our midst, Part 2

Executive
The philosopher Joseph Campbell once wrote that a hero is “someone who has given his or her life to something bigger than oneself.”  With that in mind, I’d like to introduce you to some of the amazing heroes among us who are selflessly giving of their lives to make ours better.   Last weekend I had the privilege of celebrating the graduation of the latest class of Pierce County volunteer firefighters. The graduates completed a 10-week 300 hour mix of grueling physical training and technical learning.  The 25 graduates started as a class of 46 – that is how tough it was!  Although many of them will likely continue their training in an effort to become professional firefighters, I’m amazed at the remarkable dedication these heroes have already demonstrated to…
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Gratitude – Updated with New Video

Gratitude – Updated with New Video

Executive
Last Saturday I was awed and inspired.  Having been born and raised in our County and having had parents that set a tremendous example of giving back to the community through volunteering, I thought I was aware of most of the organizations and volunteers that support others.  At our Annual Volunteer Appreciation Brunch, I was surrounded by hundreds of local residents who choose to donate their time to our community – many of whom I met for the very first time.  They are an incredible group of coaches, master gardeners, CASAs (Court Appointed Special Advocates for children in the legal system), playground builders, orienteers, radio operators, quilters and tailors, and many other kinds of volunteers.  Council Chair Doug Richardson and I were able to honor these amazing people – alongside several…
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It takes a team-a big team

It takes a team-a big team

Executive
On Wednesday I delivered the State of the County Address to our Council colleagues, elected officials, employees, the media and the citizens of Pierce County. Standing before a packed courtroom I was filled with a mix of humility and pride. I felt humbled to be the one entrusted to deliver a vision of the County – one that takes care of our citizens and provides the vital services they need and expect.   At the same time, I felt great pride and confidence in our collective ability to accomplish the goals we set out: dealing with nuisance properties, providing for those with behavioral health and homelessness challenges, and creating a safer and more prosperous community for our families, friends and neighbors. As you might imagine, there are many people who contribute…
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Improving our County, one resident at a time

Improving our County, one resident at a time

Executive
Much of our work affects 820,000 people who reside in our County but some of the most powerful impacts we make can happen when we make something better for just one person. For example, Terry Milstid in SWM recently received an email from a resident who requested an updated flood map. This note goes to show the powerful impact of great service delivered in a timely manner: Dear Mr. Milstid, Thank you very much for providing this flood information! Your prompt response exceeds my highest expectations and deserves my highest appreciation. The quality of your service reflects highly upon the Pierce County staff. Thank you again! Keep up the great work, Terry! In a similar manner, when Lauren Behm and Jay Simons in the Airport and Ferry Division found out that…
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Catching excellence

Catching excellence

Executive
The legendary football coach Vince Lombardi once said, “Perfection is not attainable, but if we chase perfection we can catch excellence.” [caption id="attachment_177" align="alignnone" width="623"]Iconic Seahawks Wide Receiver Steve Largent[/caption] Like Coach Lombardi, I don’t expect perfection but I do think that how we recover from a mistake says a lot about who we are.  In fact, if an organization responds quickly and demonstrates strong accountability, you can actually strengthen customer trust and confidence. Let’s look at one recent issue:  the ferry ticketing website.  As you may know, we recently told about 2,000 ferry customers that the online ticketing system they use to buy ferry tickets was less secure than we had been led to believe. Did our vendor drop the ball in allowing a potential security risk to our…
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A baby changes everything

A baby changes everything

Executive
I vividly remember when my three sons were born.  Each experience was as unique as they are.  But I’m not sure there is a way to adequately describe the instant transformation that happens when you hold your grandchild for the first time! Our newest addition and her family reside here in Pierce County. As I think about the work we’re doing to make our County a great place to live, work and play, I now have an additional powerful motivation.  That is, to ensure Blair and her generation have everything they need: great schools, good family-wage jobs, affordable housing, strong healthcare, beautiful spaces to play and exercise, and most of all, safe neighborhoods to call home. I’m grateful to be doing that work with you. Our amazing road crews have done…
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