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  Many people believe Sound Transit unfairly and potentially deceptively used an outdated MVET schedule instead of the current…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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A balancing act

A balancing act

Executive
It’s easy to get caught up in our professional lives and lose sight of our lives outside of our work at the County – especially if you are working “12 on, 12 off” de-icing our roads for days at a time! However, ultimately, I encourage you to maintain a healthy balance in your life – making time with friends, family, fitness and other things that are important to you like faith and hobbies. [caption id="attachment_255" align="alignright" width="211"] A bicyclist (not me) on the trail.[/caption]We all have different ideas of what it means to be fit.  For me, it’s being able to go on my favorite 65-mile bike ride from my house to the Carbon River entrance to Mount Rainier and back again, including the Foothills Trail.  When I met with the Parks…
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Key partners

Key partners

Executive
Some of the most critical challenges facing our County and our citizens can't be addressed by our staff alone.  Mental health, homelessness, growing family wage jobs and preserving our natural environment - while we play a key role, it takes the collaboration of other strong partners to successfully confront these and other important issues. One series of critical partners that may not have been top of mind for you is our many labor unions. However, as we work to be innovative in the delivery of services, to increase effectiveness and have a professional workforce now and into the future, strong collaboration with our 21 bargaining units is crucial. That's why I have been hosting the leaders of our many labor unions in my office. Our conversations have been candid and…
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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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The power of relationships – building and maintaining them!

The power of relationships – building and maintaining them!

Executive
I continue to spend a lot of my time getting out around the County and visiting with our employees.  I enjoy learning about the work people are doing and understanding the breadth of service for our citizens. Since my last post, I have been to the STOP facility, the Wastewater Treatment Plant, Information Technology, the Deputy Sheriff’s Independent Guild, and will spend this afternoon at Remann Hall. As an engineer, I readily admit that I am a bit of a wonk when it comes to machines and technology so it wouldn’t surprise you to know that visiting the Wastewater Treatment Plant was particularly interesting. I'm grateful to Sharon Surra and Amanda Summers from Public Works for the fascinating tour. The recent upgrade to the plant is remarkable, both the treatment processes and the…
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Establishing our leadership team

Executive, Weekly Post
Having completed a thorough review of the County's management structure and personnel, I am pleased to announce our management team and a refined structure that will be more efficient, productive and accountable. Brian Ziegler has chosen to retire after many years of service to Pierce County. In light of this, Planning and Land Services will be combined with Public Works to form Planning and Public Works. Dennis Hanberg will be the director.  Information Technology will merge into Budget and Finance. Gary Robinson will be the director of that group, now known as the Finance department. The group also includes Risk Management. As a result, Linda Gerull is leaving the County and a search for a risk manager is underway following the retirement of Mark Maenhout.  Tony Tipton will be a…
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Honoring the Legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Executive
My week started out powerfully with the celebration of MLK Day. I had the honor of speaking to those attending the annual celebration of Dr. Martin Luther King’s birthday in Tacoma on Monday. The County was well-represented at the celebration as our own Carol Mitchell served as the emcee. I had prepared some remarks for the celebration that were tied to the event’s theme, Beloved Community, but after watching a powerful movie the day before I decided to change my comments. Last weekend I watched “Hidden Figures.”  The movie is a true story and based on a little-known group of brilliant African American women who supported the NASA space flights in the 1960s. Their math and science skills directly led to the successful rocket launches and landings during the heyday…
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Learning and listening at Pierce County

Weekly Post
Welcome to my new blog!  With a new year and a new role in public service comes a new way to stay in touch. I am heading into my third week as County Executive and I’m more excited than ever to lead a fantastic group of employees as we serve our residents. My focus the last two weeks has been on learning as much as possible about County operations.  The breadth of the services we provide to our communities – not to mention the sheer size of the County in miles – is impressive.  I’m getting out to work groups and trying to meet as many County employees as possible.  It may take a while but I’m committed to hearing what’s working and learning ways to more efficiently and effectively…
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New Executive Team Appointments

Executive
Pierce County Executive Bruce Dammeier has built his executive team with a focus on ensuring a wide variety of perspectives are heard and constituencies are represented. To that end, earlier today he announced the following appointments to his executive team: Dan Grimm, Chief Operating Officer.  Grimm has extensive management experience in both the private and public sectors. He represented the Puyallup, Wash. area in the state House of Representatives for twelve years from 1977 – 1989.  As chairman of the Ways & Means Committee, Grimm was the driving force behind state funding of the Union Station restoration, construction of the Washington State History Museum, the University of Washington Tacoma campus, the Puyallup campus of Pierce College and the state's role in the Puyallup tribal land claims settlement.  Grimm was elected…
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