Christmas could have ended far differently

Christmas could have ended far differently

Executive
I have had way too many close calls with drunk drivers and have experienced the havoc they inflict on our community.  I have been hit twice previously by drunk/drugged drivers.  Both occurred in the morning, neither had a valid license, and both were driving borrowed cars.  Most shockingly, one had been driving under the influence the night before and decided to use PCP while on the way to get the car out of the impound lot.  However, in both cases, I was not seriously hurt.  I have also spent time with local families who have been devastated by the loss of a loved one to the scourge of DUI.  On Christmas night, my family nearly joined their ranks. (more…)
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Bring on 2018!

Bring on 2018!

Executive
Like at my home, in households across the county the holidays are coming to a close. Decorations are coming down, trees are being recycled, candles have been extinguished and strings of lights are being packed away. Endings and beginnings give us an opportunity to reflect and assess. As we bid 2017 farewell, I am reflecting on my first year as your county’s executive. While I am very proud of what we have accomplished in the last 12 months, there have been some frustrating challenges that are still unresolved for many in our community – making meaningful progress on homelessness and the opioid crisis come to mind. At the same time, we’ve seen some great successes. One such accomplishment is the Mobile Community Intervention Response Team (or MCIRT).  The work of…
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Performing under pressure

Performing under pressure

Executive
Little did we realize our region would change so dramatically last Monday morning.  As most of the whole world knows by now, Amtrak train #501 derailed dramatically at about 7:30 a.m. – killing three, injuring dozens, and cutting off one of the most critical highways on the West Coast. As the bright lights of the community, the nation and even the world were upon us, Pierce County citizens and employees stepped up and made huge contributions to the response, rescue, recovery and repair work.  The preparation, planning, and practice that our Department of Emergency Management (DEM) led in the years that preceded Monday yielded results when we needed them most. The Pierce County Incident Management Team (IMT), led by Captain Jerry Lawrence from our Sheriff’s Department and assisted by Captain…
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Coming Soon: The Pierce County Pizza Tracker

Coming Soon: The Pierce County Pizza Tracker

Executive
In 2008, Domino’s Pizza unveiled a new feature that enabled customers to order pizza and track the status of their order online. It was revolutionary for its time. Eventually, Pizza Hut and Papa John’s got in on the game and began offering their customers the ability to track their orders. Well, now Pierce County is going to do the same! Except instead of allowing customers to track their pizza orders, we’re going to enable our citizens to track their public records requests online. Both are equally life changing. In Executive Dammeier’s 2017 State of the County Address, he said “We are committed to increasing the transparency of county government and making it more accessible and accountable to our citizens…It’s their government, and they should know what we’re doing.” Since that…
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Making progress in behavioral health

Making progress in behavioral health

Executive
As winter sets in and the generous spirit of Christmas seems to transform us, perhaps you are like me and want to do something more than just buy a cup of hot cocoa for that mentally ill woman who hovers near your favorite coffee shop, or sleeps in an alcove near your workplace, isolated and hard to reach because of her disorienting condition. As you hand her a warm cup and a sandwich, and try to say something to connect on a human level, you feel powerless.  Can anything be done to ease her burden and address the cruel mental illness or substance addiction that creates tough barriers to getting needed help? While we have a long way to go, Pierce County has invested in a variety of programs to…
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Is it biennial or biannual?

Is it biennial or biannual?

Executive
While many of you were picking up turkeys and baking pies for Thanksgiving, late into last Tuesday night our Council was approving the 2018 budget that will provide our spending plan for next year. I’m excited for the new year and new initiatives to begin! The final unanimous vote was months in the making and the process actually began only days after the supplemental budget was finalized in June.  While the process was very long, the final product is good for the County and good for our residents. We are making significant investments in key areas such as public safety and behavioral health. In addition, we’ve directed funds to an important compensation study and greater resources for employee training. I want to acknowledge the many County employees and elected officials who…
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Thanks & giving!

Thanks & giving!

Executive
Lauren and I are hosting our extended family for Thanksgiving.  When 33 of my relatives get together in one home, it will be fun and a little crazy.  I am very excited to have my sister and her family in from Vermont for the first time in a few years. Like many of you, while I will be settling in to enjoy a wonderful meal and getting caught up with my relatives, it’s important to keep in mind that many County employees will be hard at work on Thursday – like every other day of the year. Our road crews will be ensuring county roads are open and safe as we travel.  Sadly, the extended holiday weekend will likely be busy for our jail staff and the Medical Examiner’s team.…
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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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Creativity

Creativity

Executive
How would you go about trying to raise awareness around the importance of conserving resources and encourage people to change their driving habits?  And, do it without making people feel guilty or annoyed? That’s the challenge Ryan Dicks, our sustainability manager, has every year with the annual Sustainability Survey. This year was my first time taking the survey and I was especially motivated to answer the questions correctly. Ryan capitalized on our competitive spirit and our local football allegiances to pit departments against each other in tournament brackets. I like to rise to a challenge and learn new things so I jumped in with both feet! I pored over the online sustainability report to prep for the survey and must admit I picked up some new tips.  I am now…
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Celebrating excellence

Celebrating excellence

Executive
I had the privilege of attending my first Employee Recognition event with many of you last night.  Along with Chair Doug Richardson, many elected officials, and members of our executive management team, we cheered, smiled and saluted some inspiring colleagues. Can you imagine working at the same place for 20, 25, 30 or even 40 years?  Neither can I!  But, we are fortunate to have that kind of commitment and dedication from quite a few long-term employees. Clearly, there is something powerful happening that speaks to our culture and the quality of the service we strive to maintain.  We were curious to see what keeps our “veteran” colleagues coming back to the County, day after day, so we turned on a video camera and gave them the microphone.  We also…
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The power of partnerships

The power of partnerships

Executive
It’s not every day that you have the opportunity to compete for one of the largest corporate headquarters in the world.  But, that’s what the partners across Pierce County did this week. You might have heard that Amazon issued an RFP for their second headquarters, called HQ2, and hundreds of North American cities are reportedly delivering their qualifications. (more…)
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Community

Community

Executive
Community means many things to many people – and it is the heart of why we choose to live where we live.  Community is what binds us together and helps us through the most difficult times.   Our County is big and while we have a common sense of identity, generally the feeling of community is more closely associated with our cities, towns and neighborhoods.  One place where I have found the sense of community to be especially strong isn’t a city, town or neighborhood – it is the Key Peninsula. I have spent some time on the Key Peninsula over the years: visiting the town of Home and Joemma State Park, eating at El Sombrero, and hunting snipe at Camp Seymour. Last week, I attended District 7’s “in-district” Council meeting…
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In the shadow of the mountain

In the shadow of the mountain

Executive
Mt. Rainier towers over the small towns at its base – literally and figuratively. Sitting in the shadow of the majestic mountain are rural communities like Elbe and Ashford. Nearly 2 million people flock to the mountain to hike the Burroughs, trek the Wonderland Trail or climb Disappointment Cleaver. The visitors switch to skis, snowshoes and sleds when snow blankets Paradise and Sunrise. You would think that those 2 million visitors would drive a thriving tourist economy for this part of the county. However, on a recent visit with Councilmember Jim McCune, it was clear that both Mt. Rainier National Park and the local communities need better support for those visitors. (more…)
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Differing perspectives

Differing perspectives

Executive
I have nine months under my belt as the Executive and I am still visiting with departments and learning about some of the important and interesting jobs we do in the County. We have many employees who are called upon to do difficult jobs.  Working to determine a cause of death in the Medical Examiner’s office or clearing winter snow in the middle of the night with the road crew are two jobs that easily come to mind. (more…)
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Déjà vu?

Déjà vu?

Executive
The ink is barely dry on the 2017 supplemental budget, but it is already budget season again! A special thanks to Gary Robinson, Jim Dickman, Julie Demuth, and the rest of the Finance team for their great work and amazing commitment to getting this budget proposal put together. (more…)
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Vox populi

Vox populi

Executive
This week’s blog is titled “Vox populi.”  For those of you who don’t know Latin, it means “the voice of the people.” Our community and our government depend on the active involvement of “the people” for support and vitality.  They are volunteers, committee members, coaches, mentors and voters. Two gatherings this week were great examples of the importance of actively engaging with the people we serve. The first meeting was held last Sunday night at the Greenwater Fire Department. About 150 local residents gathered to hear the latest information about the Sawmill Creek and Norse Peak fires that threatened their homes. The Incident Command team did a great job explaining the steps the firefighters had taken to protect the region and what they could expect in the hours and days…
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Fire and flood – what’s next?

Fire and flood – what’s next?

Executive
  Our Department of Emergency Management (DEM) could not have asked for a better setup for Emergency Preparedness Month.  Flooding in Texas, fires near Crystal Mountain with the ever-present smoke in the air, an 8.0 earthquake in Mexico and now Irma is bearing down on Florida! I was up in Greenwater and at Crystal Mountain this morning checking on the efforts of the more than 400 people fighting that fire in extremely rugged terrain. Incredibly, the Norse Peak Fire has now burned more than 70 square miles of forest. Checking out the fire with Buckley Chief Alan Predmore Getting briefed by fire officials While wildfires, hurricanes and flooding are in the news today, the odds of a serious earthquake hitting our region are high. We are perched on an active…
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Professionalism – Respect – Compassion

Professionalism – Respect – Compassion

Executive
There are some who equate being professional with dispassionate detachment. Furthermore, there are more who characterize government as uncaring and without regard for individuals. On Wednesday, I witnessed two occasions where our employees’ actions countered both of these assertions. In fact, they demonstrated this highest professionalism, with respect and compassion for our citizens – both living and dead. Have you ever met Deputy Ed Roberts? If you have, you would not soon forget him. First, he is huge (he barely fits into our Ford Explorer patrol vehicles) – and speaks with a distinct Boston accent. He served in the Marine Corps and then with the Special Forces in the Army, before joining the Sheriff’s Department 14 years ago. Ed is well respected by his fellow deputies and officers alike. Needless…
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Total eclipse – and more!

Total eclipse – and more!

Executive
Where were you when the sky turned dark?  Okay, let’s be honest.  Around here, the sky didn’t look dramatically different but the eclipse was still a cool rarity to witness. I was at the STOP facility filming a video on emergency preparedness for DEM when the eclipse occurred.  It was fun to step outside with the staff and look to the sky.  I borrowed a pair of official glasses and was amazed at the sight – also by the strange shadows from the trees. In contrast to some of the issues from last week’s blog, the eclipse seemed to transcend our differences and allow our country to share a moment of unity.   Nice! As part of the DEM video I was also over at the Spanaway/Parkland precinct this week. I…
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