I took advantage of a lighter work calendar on Christmas Eve and Dec. 26, to get around the County to thank employees and wish them Happy Holidays. I found departments celebrating the holidays with festive decorations or people taking deserved time off to be with family. I also noted some folks out of the area for sun and Bowl Games – Cougar fans traveling to San Antonio and Huskies to Southern California.
However, three stops stood out to me in particular.
On Christmas Eve, Commissioner Meagan Foley had a full docket of arraignments. Unfortunately, crime does not take a holiday – and our deputies are out serving 24/7 365 days/year. Beyond Commissioner Foley’s court staff, there were deputy prosecutors and assigned counsel also working – and their administrative support back in their offices. I then stopped by Room 117 to see family court. Sadly, I saw Pro Tempore Commissioner Kevin Rundle trying to resolve with whom, when, and where the children of a broken family would spend the holidays. Of course, whenever any courts are doing business, the Clerk’s Office is up and staffed getting about twice the traffic they anticipated!
Down the street, Michelle Bullinger and her Aging & Disability Resources West Team were in the office debriefing on their recent client visits. I enjoyed hearing the heart-warming Adopt-a-Family stories and all about the clients we were able to serve. In some situations, our Case Managers are like family to many of our seniors. While it is not always easy, I am thankful our team is there for them, especially during the holiday season.
My greatest surprise was at the Annex on Dec. 26. The Assessor-Treasurer’s staff was gearing up for an anticipated mini-rush to pay taxes on the 31st. However, Julie Anderson and her team were seeing a surge in customers in the Auditor’s office (View the data). I pay my car tabs online, so I was a little taken aback by the crowds – at one point both the Auditor and her deputy, Cindy Hartman, were on deck assisting people as they arrived. Talking with Julie and watching the various interactions with her staff, I learned that most of the simple transactions – like car tab renewals – are now done online. However, about 20 percent of transactions are still done at the counter and will likely be for the foreseeable future. The face-to-face direct support by the Auditor’s staff is critical for the complex transactions, as well as those where people are not comfortable paying online. This direct support is particularly important for many of our seniors and immigrants. Finally, I saw a number of families applying for passports, driven by the federal Real ID Act (initial applications can’t be done online, but renewals can). To travel internationally, including Canada and Mexico, now requires passports (in some cases an Enhanced Driver’s License) for every member of the family. Clearly, families were taking advantage of their children being out of school to come and apply!
My walk around pre and post Christmas reinforced my feelings of pride and gratefulness to be working with County employees who are always doing their best for the residents of Pierce County. As this is my last blog post for 2018, I want to wish everyone a Happy New Year! Come back rested and ready – we have more challenges ahead in 2019!