The next generation

The next generation

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This week I delivered my annual State of the County (SOTC) Address, both to people attending in person and virtually online, for the 7th and final time. I always enjoy talking about the work we do to serve our residents, but this one hit a little differently.  I focused on what we’re doing through the lens of our children and grandchildren - ensuring they have the best possible start to their lives AND the best possible future.  So much of our work deals with today, this week, this month or even this year. But, as I explained during my remarks, since I became a grandfather while in office as the Executive, my perspective changed. The here and now are very important, of course, but taking the long view so that…
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Laissez les bons temps rouler

Laissez les bons temps rouler

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Next week I’ll be delivering my annual State of the County Address.  I’m excited to talk about the work all of you do to serve the people of Pierce County – especially our youngest residents.  As a reminder, you can join us virtually next Wednesday at noon at this link. At the State of the County in 2022, I introduced folks to Brenda Miller, an entrepreneur and food truck operator. She owns Velvet’s Big Easy, which specializes in Creole and Cajun cuisines. Those who attended in person were treated to her delicious handheld fruit pies.  They were fantastic! Brenda’s story is a testament to the power of a dream and the success one can reach with some support and encouragement. Brenda was a manager at The Boeing Company when she…
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An unseen world

An unseen world

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I recently had the chance to go behind the scenes in a place I hope you will never see – behind the bars of our jail! The Pierce County Jail is made up of both the “old jail” and the “new jail” - and operates like a self-contained city. The jail has a medical facility, a dentist, laundry, kitchen, mental healthcare, and training facilities for Corrections Deputies. Minus the inmates, it reminded me a little of shipboard life in the Navy. A little bit of background on the “County Jail."  Our jail is responsible for detaining adult inmates who are awaiting trial and before sentencing.  If the inmate is charged with a misdemeanor, the city or county bringing the charges pays for the confinement.  For the more serious felony charges,…
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Hold on, tomorrow needs you!

Hold on, tomorrow needs you!

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Last week, I went to Open Pierce County to find an answer I needed to know - but was concerned by what I would find.  Last year when I had checked the Medical Examiner’s data on fatal accidental drug overdoses in Pierce County, it showed nearly one resident dying per day in 2022 (363 total deaths).  As I feared, 2023 was even worse with a total of 439 deaths.  These horrific increases are driven primarily by the scourge of fentanyl - with nearly 8 in 10.  Fentanyl is so deadly and hard to detect, many are dying without ever knowing they took fentanyl.  It kills across all demographics. So, when Clover Park School District Ron Banner invited me to a private screening of his students’ Fentanyl Awareness videos, I was…
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A celebratory week

A celebratory week

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How many lawyers does it take to ensure our community has adequate access to legal representation?  (No, that is not the lead into a joke!) The short answer is, more than we have in Pierce County today. Those of you who have lived in Pierce County for many years will remember the 1970’s when the University of Puget Sound was home to a well-regarded law school. UPS sold it to Seattle University in 1994 who subsequently moved it up north in 1999.  That was a dark day for our community.  Having a local law school, where residents from our region can be educated and trained to serve our community is very important - and this comes from an engineer.  But, data shows Tacoma is the largest city in the U.S.…
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Good vibes only

Good vibes only

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I stopped by yesterday’s Career Fair, and I left in such an upbeat, positive mood! The Pioneer Park Pavilion in Puyallup was the perfect setting for this year’s hiring event – it was buzzing with eager job seekers and enthusiastic County employees. The Career Fairs held in previous years have been great events, but this year’s Fair took it to a whole new level!  Nearly 200 people came to the Fair. They were joined by a photographer taking pictures for updated resumes, staff members holding on-the-spot interviews and several key coworkers available to provide attendees even more ways to find their new job. In addition, nine community partners hosted tables, including the Puyallup and Nisqually tribes, WorkSource, Goodwill, Tacoma Community House and MultiCare.  An impressive 19 Pierce County divisions and departments…
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A fresh perspective

A fresh perspective

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Time and time again in my life I have seen the power of a fresh perspective in confronting a problem or opportunity.  Asking “Why do we do it this way?” or “Have we ever considered this approach?” can be powerful catalysts for innovation.  “Out of the box” (or “out of the County?”) thinking can really help those of us “in the box” improve our service, results, and productivity.  That is why at New Employee Orientation I tell our newest employees that I especially value their perspective on a new situation or task. Fresh eyes and experiences from outside our “box” can help us innovate! Her dynamic, proven leadership AND fresh perspective were key reasons why Mayor Victoria Woodards and I appointed Chantell Harmon Reed as the new Director of Public…
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Transformation

Transformation

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Every time I watch the news, we are confronted by stories about crime in our region.  And often those crimes are fueled by addiction - which is ravaging peoples’ lives.  Sadly, we rarely hear the stories of those who have taken back their lives and embarked on a new and better path, for both them and our community. Rarely does this transformation happen without significant help from others. I got to see some of this amazing work firsthand a few days ago.  And, it was right across Tacoma Avenue from the County-City Building! Our District Court Resource Center is in a small office building, but it accomplishes big changes in the lives of some of their clients.  I love Dom Hardeman’s passion for the Resource Center’s work.  And Judge Kevin McCann…
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Making progress

Making progress

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Today, we are releasing our fourth Annual DEI Report.  It reflects the work many of you are doing to provide opportunities for everyone to reach their full potential. I’m proud of the progress we have made.  For example, since 2017 we’ve significantly broadened opportunities in management, hired more women and veterans, and our workforce better reflects the community we serve.  These accomplishments are due, in part, to important and smart updates we’ve made in our hiring practices. Measuring our success is important but numbers don’t tell the whole story.  That’s why the report includes some written and video profiles of people and groups serving our community in all facets of diversity, equity, and inclusion. The full report, including videos, may be viewed by clicking on the front cover image below:…
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History in the making

History in the making

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When we talk about various commemorative “months” or “days” we raise awareness of those who came before us. We do this to remember those who overcame great challenges and to celebrate their achievements - and sometimes - their cultural heritage.  These stories inspire us and help us think beyond ourselves. The month of February is celebrated as Black History Month, and much deserved attention will be focused on Black and African American achievers in our past. Some will talk about the courageous leadership and powerful voice of Frederick Douglass and his role in ending slavery.  Others will remember the courage and skill of the pilots of the 332nd Fighter Group (Tuskegee Airmen), who despite a racially segregated US Army Air Force in World War II, fought bravely over the skies…
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Put your heart into it

Put your heart into it

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I’ve always said that we work with amazing people, and I recently learned about another extraordinary County employee. During the day, Kyra (O'Keefe) Smithlin is an Accounting Assistant II with the Finance Department.  But the rest of her time is devoted to the American Heart Association.  Once you hear her story you’ll understand why. https://vimeo.com/906482669/b388f73aec Today is Go Red for Women Day and as the new national ambassador Kyra appeared on the TODAY Show live in the NYC studio earlier today.  Kyra was selected from thousands of applicants, and she almost didn’t even submit her name for consideration! You can see a clip of her time on the TODAY Show with Al Roker and team here. Kyra has been busy over the last decade speaking with local groups at places…
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Heroes

Heroes

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The first major cold snap is behind us and for the most part we escaped significant snowfall in the lowlands.  But the sustained cold did wreak some havoc - did you hear about the frozen then broken fire sprinkler in Woodland Elementary?  The flooding did significant damage.  How did you fare?  I have a minor broken pipe to deal with, but our power stayed on, and we were warm when the temperatures took a nosedive. But we have remarkable people working alongside us at Pierce County, doing critically important work to help our community weather the freezing temperatures. Our Human Services Energy Team helps keep lights on and heat flowing for some of the most vulnerable people in our community. Their work is important year-round, but especially significant in the…
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Happy birthday!

Happy birthday!

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Did you know our own Pierce County’s Medical Examiner (ME) Office turns 40 years old in a couple of days? The office was established back on January 21, 1984, when Pierce County converted from the elected coroner model to a professional medical examiner. You did not need any specific experience to be elected as the coroner, but today our Medical Examiner is a licensed medical doctor with a specialty in forensic pathology. A lot has changed since the ME’s office began its operations four decades ago.  Luckily, there are still “historical artifacts” that have been retained, including old logbooks from the coroner days of 70’s (in cursive!), case information typed on index cards, and statistics reports printed with dot-matrix printer graphics!  Today, the team of highly skilled professionals (including two…
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Nooooooo!

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That was my reaction when the notification showed up on my phone that Pete Carroll was no longer coaching the Seahawks.  Like many of you, I have enjoyed watching Coach Carroll’s 14-year run as head coach.  I am so thankful for all the memorable games, especially the Seahawks winning Super Bowl XVLIII.  I appreciate his boundless enthusiasm and ability to create a culture where elite athletes and their dynamic personalities could succeed as a team. So where do the Seahawks go from here?  I am not sure, but I will still be cheering for the Seahawks next season. I feel the same way when I see some of our long-time County leaders retiring.  How can we ever go on without Melanie Halsan in Planning & Public Works?  Her leadership and…
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Happy new year!

Happy new year!

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Welcome to 2024!  We have a lot of work to do this year and I’m eager to start! Beginning a new year can often feel like a fresh start. It can be a time of reflection and recalibration – both in our work lives and our personal lives.  I set my goals and major plans for the year.  And judging by the packed parking lots at local gyms (at least for a few weeks), I am not alone! (I also always read humorist Dave Barry’s review of the previous year.  If you do too, here’s to Dottie in 2024!) For example, I enjoy the new energy that I see and experience each time I participate in New Employee Orientation. Our newest colleagues are happy to be with us and filled…
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Legacy

Legacy

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I have seen many amazing community leaders in Pierce County over the years.  However, one stood out earlier this month when she was honored with the naming of a new 77-unit affordable housing project in the Lincoln District. I first met Patsy Surh O’Connell about 20 years ago when we were both in the local American Leadership Forum’s (ALF) Class IX.  The purpose of ALF is to bring local leaders together in a one-year curriculum to both develop their leadership skills and establish a strong network of community leaders.  The class curriculum included “buddying up” classmates, so you could get to know others and be known.  Patsy was my “buddy” for the class - and remains so to this day. As I got to know Patsy, I learned of her…
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Verdict

Verdict

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Today our community learned the verdict in the trial of three Tacoma Police officers accused in the death of Manny Ellis.  It has been more than three years since that fateful night when Mr. Ellis died in police custody.  Today’s verdict will elicit a wide variety of emotions from our community and co-workers.  I trust we will be there for each other as all of us process the trial’s result. While our system of justice may be imperfect, it is foundational to our democracy and who we are as Americans.  The presumption of innocence and a trial by a jury of your peers are critical safeguards in our society. I would like to express my deep appreciation to the jurors.  These “ordinary citizens” accepted the responsibility of hearing the evidence,…
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2023 Year in Review

2023 Year in Review

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December brings many celebrations and remembrances for all or us.  One that I look forward to but is also the most challenging is our annual Year in Review video.  It is intended to share the key highlights of our work in the last year with our residents - so they can be reminded of our work on their behalf. Despite the outstanding support of Libby Catalinich, our Director of Communications, and the Emmy-winning PCTV Team (Megan Hutton, David Kellman, Jeremy Acree, Peter Gudmunson and Bryant Hankins), it is a difficult endeavor! Knowing the time limitations of our audience, the trick is choosing what content to highlight from a year’s worth of efforts.  How do you decide what makes the final cut and what ends up on the cutting room floor?…
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Regular, direct and face-to-face

Regular, direct and face-to-face

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We have over 3,000 employees with a wide range of critically important responsibilities serving our community.  So, effective two-way communication with our colleagues is crucial!  I work hard to share our values, priorities, and success stories of our work.  Equally important, I appreciate listening to your concerns, perspectives, and ideas about how to make things better.  There are several ways I regularly share with you and your Pierce County colleagues - including this weekly blog.  But the best way to really communicate is through regular, direct and face-to-face meetings - and I had three of those meetings this past week! Monday mornings nearly always start with New Employee Orientation (NEO) at 9 a.m., and this week was no exception!  Getting to know our newest colleagues is a great way to…
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Fantastic

Fantastic

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In the classic holiday movie, Christmas Vacation, Clark Griswold goes through one calamity after another to create an over-the-top holiday light display at this home. All of us who go through this holiday ritual can relate a bit to Clark and his frustrations. And the movie is also a holiday tradition with our family! If you like slapstick humor, it’s a must watch! Thankfully, our team from Parks doesn’t go through quite as much pain and suffering to put up the beloved annual display, Fantasy Lights!  Fantasy Lights has been delighting residents for 29 years, becoming part of many family traditions!  To learn more about what it takes to create the show, I went behind the scenes in this latest episode of “Inside Pierce County.” As you’ll see, they didn’t…
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