A very good – and important – summer read!

A very good – and important – summer read!

Executive
As most of you already know, I love reading.  A good story can take me back in time and educate me.  A great story can also broaden my understanding and change my perspective.  Bestselling author Daniel James Brown is a gifted storyteller who can bring people of the past to life – sharing their experiences, challenges, and reactions in incredible detail and complexity – yet keep you riveted throughout.  His book about the UW crew team that won the 1936 Olympic Gold Medal at the Berlin Games in Nazi Germany  was masterful. So, when Brown released “Facing the Mountain: A True Story of Japanese American Heroes in World War II,”  it became my summer vacation book to read! And it exceeded my expectations! Brown follows several young Japanese American men…
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My “why”

My “why”

Executive
I’m right back where I started. Well, kinda. When many people think of working for local government, job security and good benefits come to mind. To be honest, that’s why I initially applied to Pierce County over 22 years ago. I first joined the Pierce County Executive’s Office in March 1999. I had little-to-no knowledge about local government (I learned the staff were motivated by the fact that I had experience with Microsoft Word as they were switching over from WordPerfect) but I quickly learned with the bird’s eye view working at the front desk as an office assistant. More than 22 years, two departments and six titles later, I’m back working in the Executive’s Office as an executive assistant.  And, my “why” has changed. I’m invested in my community.…
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Are we on track?

Are we on track?

Executive
Since 2017 we’ve had a strategic plan that identified our mission, vision, values, and several key objectives designed to address the needs of our residents. Now that we’ve had the benefit of more than four years of seeing the plan in action, I’m pleased to share an updated version of that plan with you via this blog. For the last several weeks, we’ve had a team of leaders working on plan refinements that better reflect the current state of the county. The first thing you’ll notice in the updated plan is a revised vision statement: “A place people are proud to call home.” Not only is the updated vision statement quite a bit shorter, it also leaves room for people to interpret it in a way that speaks to them. …
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Harvesting our recovery

Harvesting our recovery

Executive
While the COVID-19 virus has not been fully eradicated, we are seeing exciting milestones that signal we are on a brighter path. The governor officially “opened” the state this week, ending many of the restrictions that had been put in place.  On Wednesday I rescinded the emergency proclamation that I signed on March 6 last year. And we learned that Husky Stadium will be rocking this fall – Bow Down to Washington! Now it’s time for us to help our residents and their businesses recover from the devastating economic toll the pandemic took on their livelihoods. One area of particular importance is our agriculture community.  Our local farmers sustain us year-round, but I especially appreciate them in the summer when I can enjoy fresh corn, sweet berries (with ice cream,…
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Pride

Pride

Executive
Among the descriptions listed by Webster’s, the word “pride” is defined as “a sense of one’s own worth” and “noble self-esteem.”  That makes me picture a person standing firmly with their head held high and their shoulders back - confident in who they are. If you’ve had the good fortune to meet Lucky Bradley, a Grant Compliance Analyst in Human Services, you will see that pride in action. She speaks with a quiet determination and an inner confidence as she tells her powerful, and very personal, story. I had the chance to get to know Lucky at a Human Services “Story Corps” gathering a few years ago. Her remarks made a strong impression on me then, and I’m glad she is willing to share a part of her life with…
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Not just another day off

Not just another day off

Executive
  At the “Juneteenth Lunch and Learn” last Tuesday, Delbert Richardson, the guest speaker, was asked, “how can someone who is not African American participate in Juneteenth?”  I loved his response.  He challenged us to both acknowledge it and educate ourselves.  I am working to do both! Part of my effort includes “reading” Doris Kearns Goodwin’s “Leadership for Turbulent Times” (Actually, I am listening to it on Audible, while I read another powerful book!). Kearns Goodwin looks at four U.S. presidents confronting extreme challenges and how they responded.  One is Abraham Lincoln and his decision to issue the Emancipation Proclamation, effective January 1, 1863, freeing the slaves in the states in rebellion. A few points stood out powerfully to me.  First, Lincoln believed it was right and necessary for the…
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Protecting and serving

Protecting and serving

Executive
  There is an old saying that you don’t really know another person’s life until you “walk a mile in their shoes.” I didn’t exactly walk in the shoes of our Sheriff’s department last week, but I got awfully close. Thanks to Sergeant Mike Blair, I had the opportunity to join him, Sergeant Jason Youngman and the Central Patrol Graveyard Shift deputies last week.  They are out on patrol, covering the densely populated parts of unincorporated Pierce County – Parkland, Spanaway, Midland, Frederickson, South Hill and more – while most of us are soundly sleeping. My ride-along began at 8 p.m. and lasted until 3:30 a.m. And, while I’ve had the opportunity to ride with our Sheriff’s Department before, this was my first time seeing our county in the middle…
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How do you really feel?

How do you really feel?

Executive
As we approach the opportunity to “open up” and return to the office, we knew you and your colleagues would have some questions.  And, you did not disappoint! I received a record number of questions from folks in advance of the Town Hall, and you added many more “live” during the Zoom meeting. I think it would surprise no one that the most frequently asked questions were about masks.  Must I wear them? Am I allowed to wear them? Can I ask others to wear them? Here’s the deal: we expect every County employee to treat others with respect - that includes co-workers, customers and our community. While some groups led by other elected officials will have their own guidelines and expectations, for the most part fully vaccinated employees may…
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Epic

Epic

Executive
  More than two years ago we made a decision that, in retrospect, was a pretty good one. Let me give you a bit of background: those of you who remember the 2015 U.S. Open Championship probably remember it as much for the terrible putting greens as anything else.  The “broccoli” that players had to contend with upstaged our moment on the international stage.  For you non-golfers like me, having the greens compared to a vegetable is NOT good! We knew that if we were ever going to see Chambers Bay reach its full potential and host another major championship, we would have to replace the greens.  It was a big decision and required us to close the course for a few months.  But the results were worth it. You…
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Getting closer

Getting closer

Executive
I suspect many of you woke up last Tuesday morning and didn’t feel much different.  The CDC and the Governor had announced changes in masking guidance for those who are fully vaccinated, and Pierce County was moved to Phase 3.  But those of you coming into the office still wore a mask, and if you went grocery shopping you likely were still required to wear a mask. Perhaps you wondered, what’s the big deal about Phase 3? Good question! Here are some of the differences: restaurants, barbers and salons, and houses of worship can now accommodate 50% of their capacity, and indoor facilities such as theaters, aquariums, concert halls and bowling alleys can also expand the number of people they can serve.  That’s good news for our struggling businesses. The…
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The power of play

The power of play

Executive
Summer is coming and when I was a kid that always meant lots of time playing outside.  I would spend time in the woods next to my house, play “kick the can” with our neighborhood kids, and ride bikes to Point Defiance. The last school bell of the year would ring, and we’d run out the classroom with newfound freedom! But, thanks to COVID, our young people today have had closed playgrounds, empty swimming pools and socially distanced parks. Kids need to play! That’s why I’m excited our Parks department has partnered with Metro Parks, PenMet Parks, Lakewood Parks, Puyallup Parks and the Town of Steilacoom to offer deeply discounted and safe summer camps and programs for Pierce County youth. Funded by American Rescue Plan Act federal funding, Kids Need…
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Including everyone saves lives

Including everyone saves lives

Executive
Including everyone saves lives I’m glad we are finally at the point where everyone who wants a vaccine can get one – and hopefully the Pfizer vaccine will be approved for middle schoolers next week!  Between the Tacoma Dome mass vaccination site to smaller pop ups at schools, businesses, and community centers, we will have shots for every arm in the County. It seems like overnight, I went from waiting for my turn to be vaccinated and pushing for more vaccines for our community, to trying to find folks willing to roll up their sleeves and make it as easy as possible for them to get their shot. (By the way, I got my second dose last Saturday at White River High School.  Nurse Shelley Kelly ended up giving me…
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Stronger together

Stronger together

Executive
Each May, the American Public Works Association (APWA) dedicates one week to educate the public about the value that local public works departments provide to their communities. This year, National Public Works Week will be from May 16-21 and the theme is, “Stronger Together.” The theme highlights just how important it is for every community stakeholder to collaborate, educate, and work together to solve complex challenges in a way that benefits everyone. Public works is a broad term that encompasses services and infrastructure that most people have come to rely on in their daily lives but may not think about very often. Our utilities, roads, traffic signals, bridges, solid waste management, and flood protection systems keep us safe, healthy, resilient, and make everyday tasks much more convenient. As we all…
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One step backward, two steps forward

One step backward, two steps forward

Executive
One step backward, two steps forward Well, Monday was a tough day for Pierce County.  As you undoubtably know by now, we’ve been moved back to Phase 2.  The more restrictive rules go into effect today. Like many of our residents, I was frustrated by the rollback after all the work we have done and are doing. First, I am very thankful that our residents who are vulnerable to the most serious outcomes (those over 65 years of age) are mostly vaccinated – over 66%! Secondly, I talked with our hospital system leaders, and they assure me that they are ready and have capacity to provide care for any COVID patient in our community.  My frustration stems from the fact that we’ve been watching the county-to-county vaccination data on the…
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Valor

Valor

Executive
One week ago, I had the honor of attending and speaking at the ceremony for the first group of graduates of the Veterans Treatment Court program. Like everything else, COVID had delayed the celebration for a year until we could safely gather in a small group to congratulate two of the individuals that had successfully worked through their challenges and emerged healthy and happy. As part of the recognition, the graduates were presented with beautiful Quilts of Valor.  If you’ve not heard of this program, the quilts are handmade by amazing volunteers and given to people who have been impacted by war.  The quilts are meant to wrap the recipient up in comfort and security. I suspect there was not a dry eye at the event as two veterans were…
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How are you doing?

How are you doing?

Executive
This week, several hundred of you joined me for a virtual Employee Town Hall.  I always appreciate being able to update you on County priorities and hearing your thoughts and questions - unvarnished and direct! I can always count on a few of you asking a pointed question - and I’m glad you feel comfortable doing so. If you couldn’t join us this week, you can grab your favorite snack and beverage and watch it here: I regret that during the Town Hall I accidentally missed one of the questions we received in advance.  I want to assure the person who submitted it that it wasn’t intentional, and I’d like to answer it now. Here’s the question: How is morale with county staff? Has there been any formal or informal…
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Shining a spotlight

Shining a spotlight

Executive
As promised in last week’s blog, I want to give you a glimpse into some amazing people who serve our residents. Last weekend we held a virtual celebration for the people who graciously volunteer their time and talent to support County programs. In pre-pandemic times this was one of my favorite celebrations and allowed me to personally thank folks who give many hours of service to our community out of the goodness of their hearts. This year, because we couldn’t gather in person, we created a compilation video that highlights a few of the groups and individuals who were recognized for their outstanding volunteer work.  Check out the video below: [embedyt] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q93XNvFqOLM[/embedyt] My thanks to Chair Young for taking the time to lend his support and congratulations to our volunteers.…
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Hope and healing

Hope and healing

Executive
  Last Friday was a great day in Pierce County!  Not only did we continue getting vaccines into the arms of our residents, but we held a ribbon cutting ceremony for the new Crisis Recovery Center (CRC) in the Parkland/Spanaway area. For those of you who’ve been with the County awhile, you know that we’ve been working on this for about the last four years or so as part of our focus on bolstering access to behavioral health care. As with other initiatives, COVID took its toll on this project and slowed us down significantly.  Perhaps that’s why everyone associated with making the new CRC possible was nearly giddy at Friday’s ceremony. A small, social distanced group gathered at the CRC in beautiful weather and we livestreamed the event.  If…
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Restart, recover and reform

Restart, recover and reform

Executive
When I look back on the last year, COVID had a lot of control over our lives.  It controlled where we worked, how we interacted with family members and friends, where our kids went to school, how we shopped, and more.  We had to react and respond to the virus. As I mentioned at this year’s State of the County address, COVID may have been in charge during 2020 but it’s time for us to take back control and begin to safely restart, recover, and reform our county. If you didn’t have the opportunity to watch the State of the County on Wednesday, you can watch the replay here: [embedyt] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Gl2me9dgpIs[/embedyt] Also, Governor Inslee announced yesterday that our state is moving to Phase 3 on March 22.  With that move,…
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Home is my __________

Home is my __________

Executive
    On Tuesday, I attended Tacoma-Pierce County Habitat for Humanity’s “Changing Lives Lunch-IN” virtual fundraiser.  One of their engagement activities displayed an image of a house with the words “Home is my _______.”  COVID has certainly expanded the answers to that question. For most of us, our homes became a refuge, a remote office, a classroom, a gym, and a safe place to isolate. At the same time, COVID-induced job losses have put incredible stresses on household budgets.  Far too many residents are seeing their rent or mortgage payments piling up.  The prospect of losing their home is looming, and terrifying. That is why I am so proud of Heather Moss and our Human Services team.  In 2020, they used federal CARES Act funding to provide rental and mortgage…
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