Standing in the gap

Standing in the gap

Executive
Thankfully, I’ve never been in a real active shooter situation.  But yesterday, we had an intense training exercise in a courtroom on the 5th floor of the CCB to help prepare our court personnel, our Court Security Office, and our SWAT team if the unthinkable happens – and I got to participate.  As a result, I know much better what to do and how to respond. Here are four things (among many) that stood out to me: First, in one scenario, there was a gunshot by the freight elevator. The sound from inside the courtroom was very muffled and therefore not very “alarming.”  It reminded me we must be alert for sounds and actions that are out of the ordinary, even if they are not loud. Second, I was in…
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Biochar and cavy!

Biochar and cavy!

Executive
Last weekend I had the honor of co-hosting the Volunteer Recognition Brunch with Council Chair Doug Richardson. It’s amazing and inspiring to meet the hundreds of people who volunteer on behalf of programs they are passionate about. I told those in attendance that they would be asking themselves four questions by the end of our celebration: What do “biochar” and “cavy” mean? (biochar= a soil amendment made of charcoal; cavy = a South American rodent) I didn’t know we had a club that did that! (Meat Goat) I wonder how many lives that person has impacted? (Rev. Ogburn, our Volunteer of the Year, has donated 7,000 hours helping a countless number of elderly residents) What would happen to Pierce County if our community didn’t have these people as volunteers? (We…
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Albert Einstein and my Week

Albert Einstein and my Week

Executive
One of my favorite quotes is from the renowned physicist, Albert Einstein: “Once you stop learning, you start dying.”  I could not agree more and work hard to reflect this in my life.  I am naturally curious, which is why my visits with County employees often take much longer than scheduled.  I like to learn what our people do and how they do it! However, I am always intentionally trying to learn new things and challenge my current perspectives – basically to grow personally.  It shows up in the books I read (currently “The Fleet at Flood Tide: America at Total War in the Pacific, 1944-1945”), the classes I take (completed the Coast Guard Captain’s Course last December), and podcasts I listen to daily (“The Bible in One Year” and yesterday…
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Watch out, Chip and Joanna!

Watch out, Chip and Joanna!

Executive
Have you ever watched one of those “house flipping” shows on TV?  You know, the ones where over the course of 30 minutes stars like Chip and Joanna Gaines renovate an old decrepit house and a disaster of a yard and turn it into a beautiful country home with gazebo and garden swing! Well, it takes them more than 30 minutes but our Code Enforcement team has some pretty impressive “before” and “after” successes of its own. (more…)
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Life after death

Life after death

Executive
For thousands of years, quilting has brought people together.  Spanning centuries and cultures, groups of people have gathered to make quilts to stay warm, to preserve their history and to decorate their homes.  It is an important part of our American heritage.  My grandmother saved empty, brightly colored feed sacks, as did her friends, and they gathered together on a regular basis to turn those used feed sacks into quilts.  But what, you might wonder, does quilting have to do with the Pierce County Medical Examiner’s Office? Jan is a long-time resident of Puyallup and a quilter.  She has had poor eyesight since childhood, but, as an adult, she was facing progressive vision loss that would eventually lead to blindness.  She found herself unable to drive or read, and was…
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Aloha and farewell

Aloha and farewell

Executive
Executive Dammeier asked me to reminisce over my last 30 years at Pierce County as I’m preparing to retire.  I’ve been doing a lot of that as I clean out files and turn projects over to various folks.  I’ll start at the beginning . . . One of the reasons I was hired was because Daisy Stallworth, then Director of the Department of Community and Economic Development, was impressed by my “apparent computer prowess.”  I prepared my resume using Lotus 123 on a dot matrix printer and she was impressed with my use of technology.  Daisy thought I would bring some process improvements to the loan program (which, by the way, was operated from a hand-written checkbook register). Back then, Frederickson was a big field at the end of 2-lane…
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Celebrating together

Celebrating together

Executive
I recently helped facilitate a new agreement between the City of Ruston, City of Tacoma and the Point Ruston developers. My goal was to find a solution that would get the huge waterfront project moving forward for the benefit of our residents. If you’ve had a chance to visit the restaurants, movie theater, shops or play spaces, you can appreciate the fantastic jewel that has emerged from the former Asarco Superfund site. When Point Ruston and the transformational work at Point Defiance are both done, it will be an amazing spot for locals and visitors alike! However, disputes over permitting had slowed the largest development in Pierce County history down to a halt. Fortunately, after some marathon negotiations, we were all able to come together and find a path to…
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Full disclosure

Full disclosure

Executive
My core values as a leader include being transparent and open.  That’s why it’s important to me that you are aware of an important new study that will begin later this spring. When I joined the County last year, I was surprised to learn we have not looked at how we classify and pay most of our employees since 2002. (To put that in historical perspective, in 2002 we were still reeling from the 9-11 attack on the World Trade Center and the second movie in the Lord of the Rings Trilogy was released.  Both the iPhone and the Great Recession were still 5 years in our future.) Given how much has changed since 2002, it is time to evaluate how we place people in job classifications and compare our…
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Daunting challenges

Daunting challenges

Executive
Have you ever faced an obstacle that seemed impossible to overcome?  Maybe it’s those last 10 stubborn pounds to lose (I am working on that!). Or quitting smoking. Perhaps your garage needs a complete cleaning so you can get your car back inside. The experts say that the key to tackling a big, seemingly overwhelming goal is breaking it down into smaller, more manageable tasks.  The small victories give you encouragement and hope as you take on the next step.  Furthermore, every task is easier if you are working alongside someone – many hands make light work! At this point you may be asking what this has to do with Pierce County.  Fair enough. Right now we are facing one of the largest and most challenging issues I’ve ever seen…
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Great ideas

Great ideas

Executive
I’ve spent a good part of this week going over the responses many of you provided to last week’s blog survey. I was surprised and pleased at how seriously you took the invitation to comment! There were several common themes.  You shared your concerns about homelessness, opioids and public safety.  You also talked about the lack of resources for behavioral health support – both mental health care and substance abuse treatment. “I believe that there are two interconnected problems: homelessness and the opioid epidemic. Together these things are causing blight, overtaxing our mental health and law enforcement systems and diminishing the quality of life for all they touch.” Well said! To that end, you had suggestions for how to address the devastating opioid crisis. To get a personal look at…
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Your turn!

Your turn!

Executive
In the picture below you can see some of the members of our Executive team in a discussion about our plans for 2018. (more…)
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Lost

Lost

Executive
This week, Pierce County lost an amazing father, husband, friend and protector, Deputy Daniel A. McCartney. To his family, friends, and co-workers, I am deeply saddened by your loss. You are in my prayers. This loss reaches out and impacts everyone in our community – and beyond. Deputy Daniel A. McCartney lost his life responding to a home invasion call. We now know that the call was to a well-known drug house often visited by sheriff’s deputies. We have also learned that two young children were living in the home in deplorable conditions. I would be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge that in the past month our county has been faced with two significant tragedies; the Amtrak Train #501 derailment and now the horrible death of Deputy McCartney, both events…
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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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