Trapped

Trapped

Executive
Did you know that we live in one of the worst places in the nation for human trafficking?  Due to our proximity to an international airport, JBLM, I-5, and the Port, the state of Washington is the second worst state and Tacoma is seventh worst city on the list of where traffickers find and exploit victims. On any given day, between 300 and 500 people - some as young as 11 years old - are trafficked in the Puget Sound area for labor or sex.  I admit I was shocked and disgusted to learn the details of how trafficking is devastating people in Pierce County. January is Anti-Human Trafficking Month and we’ve created a series of social posts and ads to raise awareness for young people, provide resources for help,…
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Umoja

Umoja

Executive
    I learned a new word – from a different culture – reflecting an important value that is critically needed in our community, country and world. Everywhere I go, I talk with people who are tired, frustrated and, frankly, cranky.  Two years of COVID and the associated loss, uncertainty and stress, have many in our community on edge. So, as I was looking forward to the holiday honoring Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., I found myself looking back at the winter holiday season just concluded.  Part of the Kwanzaa tradition focuses on umoja, or unity.  Umoja is a Swahili word and represents the first of the Seven Principles that are celebrated during Kwanzaa each December. I mention this because as I look at our nation, and even our…
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Let’s chat

Let’s chat

Executive
It has been a wild two weeks for many of our County colleagues.  Getting snow off miles of our county roads and protecting our unhoused community from subfreezing temperatures took the urgent efforts of many in our Planning & Public Works, Emergency Management and Human Services Departments. And just as the snow was clearing, Omicron and other factors caused a spike in demand of COVID tests.  Our Department of Emergency Management (DEM) team pivoted, expanding and opening new testing sites to serve our community. Despite continuous rain yesterday and high winds today, our DEM staff, augmented by volunteers from other County departments, will have tested over 10,000 people at our mass testing sites this week.  And now the warming temperatures and rain have us watching our rivers carefully and responding…
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Oh, the weather outside is frightful

Oh, the weather outside is frightful

Executive
It is the season for holiday songs on the radio, Pandora, and Spotify.  I can’t imagine you haven’t heard “Let is Snow, Let it Snow, Let it Snow” at least once.  This iconic song starts out with these lyrics: “Oh, the weather outside is frightful But the fire is so delightful And since we've no place to go Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow” I hope that was the case for you and your family this week.  With few power outages, school out, and remote work possible for some, I hope the snow was a beautiful change to our normally wet winter weather routine. The snow also was a huge barrier and potentially dangerous to some of our residents that had “places to go” (like essential workers,…
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What we’ve learned

What we’ve learned

Executive
We all know that 2020 was a difficult, exhausting year.  I know I expected 2021 to be a bit easier, with us well on our way to recovery.  As I wrote in last week’s blog, I was wrong! The past 12 months have taught or reinforced important lessons - about ourselves, our community and our world. 2021 taught us the importance and power of connection.  We went months without seeing people we love, without a hug or handshake, and without meaningful human interactions. That loss is not quickly filled but it has been wonderful to safely gather, again.  Two weeks ago, our church held the Christmas Concert – with both the children and adult choirs.  Even with everyone masked, it was reinvigorating to see people I hadn’t seen in person…
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Not quite what I was expecting, but….

Not quite what I was expecting, but….

Executive
At the end of the year, I always take the time to reflect back on the challenges we faced and what we accomplished.  For 2021, I thought back to where I was a year ago, with 2020 finally wrapping up and looking forward to the new year.  Here are three things I did not see coming that we had to confront in 2021: Vaccine Boosters. I was eager for the vaccines to be widely available and COVID to fade away by early summer.  I did not expect the Delta Wave in September and the need for booster shots!  I am “boosted” and hope you are too! The Great Supply Chain Disruption. So many things we need at work or at home are being delayed! The Great Resignation. A variety of…
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Holly, jolly

Holly, jolly

Executive
One of the old classic holiday songs made memorable by Andy Williams describes this month as “the most wonderful time of the year.”  (If you have no idea who Andy Williams is, you can Google him!) And, it is a wonderful time of the year, thanks to our hard-working Parks department. With delightful activities like the beloved Fantasy Lights or the new Ice Lights at Sprinker, there’s something for everyone who wants to get out of their house and enjoy some wonderful moments with family and friends. Fantasy Lights at Spanaway Park is the largest holiday drive-through display in the Northwest, featuring nearly 300 elaborate displays and thousands of sparkling lights. The beautiful two-mile drive along Spanaway Lake has become a memorable tradition for the entire family. Be sure to…
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Investing in yourself

Investing in yourself

Executive
On Tuesday, I joined a group of our County colleagues who are investing in themselves and our ability to better serve our community - at the latest “graduation” from our Leadership Certification program.  This talented group of employees included veteran leaders, new leaders, and aspiring leaders.  It ranged from people in formal leadership positions, like department directors, to informal leaders.  The class included people from 15 departments throughout our County team.  What they had in common was their belief in themselves and the importance of leadership as a skill to be developed.  And they knew becoming a better leader would help them in both their professional and their personal lives. More than 160 people have earned the Bronze, Silver, or Instructor leadership certifications in this year alone.  I can’t thank Mary Ransier…
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An attitude of gratitude

An attitude of gratitude

Executive
It’s easy to focus on everything we have lost over the last two years or so.  There’s no question COVID has robbed us of many things - most terribly, people we love.  None of us will emerge from this time unscathed or unchanged. We’ve all learned the importance of being in the moment and having a greater appreciation for experiences we may have previously taken a little for granted. However, it’s useful and healthy to remember the many things we still have. Thankfully, that list is long for me this year, and I hope it is for you, too. First, we have amazing and heroic healthcare professionals. While many of us could work from home and socially distance, most of our healthcare team had to step into the teeth of…
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A window into law enforcement and our community

A window into law enforcement and our community

Executive
  The people of Pierce County need our criminal justice system to ensure all our communities are safe and that the system is fair, just and equitable for every resident. A milestone in this effort, the County’s first-ever Use of Force report was presented to the Council’s Public Safety Committee this week.  The report is the second major research effort by our Criminal Justice Work Group (CJWG) – comprised of key leaders from the Executive’s Office, the Prosecutor’s Office, the Department of Assigned Council, and the Sheriff’s Department.  The CJWG’s first report was presented last year and, among other important findings, it documented that Black/African Americans were arrested at a rate disproportionate to their population, in every jurisdiction in Pierce County.  That finding was a key catalyst for this Use…
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Way to go!

Way to go!

Executive
I have two favorite work events each year.  One is when we celebrate our incredible volunteers!  The second occurred this week – our annual Employee Incentive & Recognition event where we recognize outstanding employee accomplishments and thank long-time employees for their years of service. Because of COVID we were not able to gather in person, but we did host a fun live event from the PCTV studios.  With Chair Young and the indomitable Maura Maye, I had a great time highlighting many of our talented County colleagues. The links below will take you to the individual videos PCTV created to honor each Standing Ovation Award winner and several dedicated long-time employees. While COVID kept us apart, it did not stop us from holding an amazing gift basket drawing to support…
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Dead men do tell tales

Dead men do tell tales

Executive
I recently spent a few hours with Dr. Karen Cline-Parhamovich and the Medical Examiner Team.  I learned that there is quite a bit you can learn from a decedent.  She considers herself a “family practice doctor to the dead,” and with her team of professionals, they diagnose the manner and cause of death.  Unlike most medical professionals, they can’t ask their patients questions to help in the diagnosis.  They must examine the decedent to solve the mystery of why and how they died.  And these answers are critical to bringing closure to families and sometimes helping solve crimes. It seems fitting to take you on a tour of the Medical Examiner’s Office during “spooky season,” so take a look at this latest installment of “Inside Pierce County!” [embedyt] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BI9syvdtgTM[/embedyt] My…
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Learning from the past

Learning from the past

Executive
Back in February I decided to dive into a well-regarded series on the U.S. Navy in World War II - Ian W. Toll’s “The Pacific War Trilogy.” Toll goes beyond the traditional look at the people, strategy and tactics of the battles.  He gives important context by delving into what was happening on the home front, including the politics, war production, and the stresses on a wartime society.  I am nearly halfway through the final book (“Twilight of the Gods: War in the Western Pacific, 1944-1945) and the combined 2,200+ pages have been well worth it. In the Fall of 1944, with nearly a year of brutal war still ahead, the end result was not really in doubt.  The U.S. industrial output, by every measure, was dominating our enemies -…
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Harvest time

Harvest time

Executive
I have always loved Fall – the change in the weather, fall leaves, and visits to Spooner Farms with my granddaughters! Seeing pumpkins reminds me of all the work that farmers put into them before they end up decorating our porches.  Planting the seeds in the field, weeding, and watering them for months before they are ready for harvest.  Then we take over – carving, painting, stickering, or making them into pie! Another important effort in our community that has been planted and tended for a long time is ready for harvest. Next week we will see a very significant milestone for a critically important effort for our community. Three years ago, Tacoma Mayor Victoria Woodards, former Councilmember Connie Ladenburg and I invited all the cities and towns in Pierce…
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A place to remember

A place to remember

Executive
Sadly, there are too many news stories that remind us of the dangerous jobs our first responders have.  Earlier this month, a Fircrest police officer was sprayed in the face with bear mace during a traffic stop.  Last month, Central Pierce Fire & Rescue led the response to a dramatic fire at a Puyallup cold storage facility that required a one-mile radius shelter in place order – while our firefighters were onsite. And tragically, sometimes our heroes lose their lives in the service of our community.  Our responsibility is to never forget their loss…their stories…their families… their colleagues.  Now we have a appropriate place to honor and remember them. Our new First Responders Memorial is positioned just off the Nollmeyer Lane entrance to the County-City Building (named for Tacoma Police Officer…
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Dollars and sense

Dollars and sense

Executive
It’s been said that how you spend your money reflects your values.  That’s certainly true of the proposed biennial budget I presented to the Council earlier this week. I’m very proud of how all of you have responded to and cared for our residents over the last 18 tumultuous months, and that important work will continue. At the same time, we have significant needs in our community, made even more critical due to the devastating effects of the pandemic.   We are building on the innovation and partnerships that were key to our success in supporting our community. As I mentioned to the Council, we have focused on three important priorities: public safety, housing and homelessness, and behavioral health. The proposed $3 billion budget makes unprecedented investments in creating new…
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It’s a sign

It’s a sign

Executive
I really enjoy sharing some of the amazing things our colleagues do through the Inside Pierce County video series. We paused some of those videos during the pandemic while we shifted to helping our community get though COVID. While the pandemic isn’t behind us yet, I did just dust off a video we created right before  COVID changed our world. In early 2020 I visited the Sewer & Traffic Operations (STOP) facility to see how we make the myriad of signs that help our residents stay safe on our streets and trails. That’s why you won’t see any masks in the video - what a marker in time! Anyway, my thanks to Steve Martin, a maintenance supervisor in PPW. He gave me a great tour and even let me help…
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Never forget

Never forget

Executive
Tomorrow we will mark the 20th anniversary of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. Looking back, it’s almost impossible to imagine the devastation of that day, and the effects that reverberate to this day. I remember the shocking images of planes colliding into the World Trade Center and stunned survivors emerging from the buildings.  At the same time, I recall the concern and pride I felt seeing brave first responders rush into the burning towers to save anyone they could. The courage they displayed was humbling and inspiring.  And then the towers collapsed. The stories of bravery of the airline passengers on Flight 93 became legends.  We all tragically learned some of their last words were “Let’s roll!” as they gamely attempted to take control of the doomed plane. …
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The power of a name

The power of a name

Executive
I was blessed to have a third granddaughter born last month.  Her parents considered many potential names – and her sisters had their own favorites too.  I was in the hospital room holding her for the first time when they made it official – Maggie Joy Dammeier.  As I looked down at Maggie, I was struck by the miracle of her birth – and wondered about the life she had before her. That memory came rolling back, as I sat and heard the names of nearly 170 people read aloud as they were buried in a communal plot in Gig Harbor.  I could not help but think about the miracle of each of their births and how their parents came up with their names.  Hearing their names spoken aloud acknowledged…
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Engineering success

Engineering success

Executive
Women’s Equality Day commemorates the 1920 passage of the 19th Amendment that gave women the right to vote.  Additionally, it is a day to recognize women’s achievements, specifically in the efforts to gain equality with men. At Pierce County, we have many women leaders who are serving our residents extremely well in some of our most demanding roles! Without question, COVID has been one of the most significant challenges we have ever faced, and the three leaders at the forefront of our response are Heather Moss, Jody Ferguson and Betty Capestany (Directors of Human Services, DEM and Economic Development, respectively). Their teams’ pandemic responses and recovery work have been recognized at the state and national level! But our group of strong women department leaders doesn’t stop there! Dr. Karen Cline-Parhamovich…
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