The power of differences

I have been fortunate to have had many different “careers.” Serving in the Navy in a variety of locations; as a quality leader and operations executive for a manufacturing company; on the Puyallup School Board; in both the Washington State House and Senate (and they are shockingly different cultures); and now in Pierce County.  Each of these jobs has given me the opportunity to work in different organizations with different missions and cultures, with wide a variety of people, addressing important challenges.  These experiences have strengthened my own belief in the power of differences.

Each of these experiences also taught me two critically important principles.

First, strong teams are made up of a diverse set up people with different skills, backgrounds and talents. Second, to best serve our community, we need to reflect that community in all of its richness, variety and mixture of perspectives.

As a Seabee, I served as part of a diverse leadership team—and we were much more effective for it. On the school board, I saw clearly how having a workforce that reflected our student body was key to serving all our students. And in the legislature, I learned that nobody has a monopoly on good ideas.

My own Executive Team reflects my belief in the power of differences. I intentionally selected people who provide a range of backgrounds and ideas.  We don’t always agree or see things the same way.  I expect us to push and challenge each other. And, I believe that debate makes our work and policy decisions stronger. And that belief is supported by some interesting research that shows decisions made and executed by diverse teams deliver 60% better results!

This is some background into why we recently launched an important countywide Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) initiative. The mission: To promote and foster a workplace culture in Pierce County that embraces, demonstrates, and celebrates the principles of diversity, equity and inclusion, reflecting the community in which we serve and live.

As you can see on Open Pierce County, we only have an 8.6% employee turnover rate, but about 28% of our workforce is eligible for retirement in 2020. That means we tend to get employees who stay for a long time (as we’ve seen in our recent retirements of folks who have served for 25 – 40+ years!), but we could see a lot of turnover soon. That is both a tremendous challenge and opportunity to shape our workforce for the decades to come.

So, what’s ahead for DEI?  We are still in the planning stages, but I firmly believe that this work will enable us to better reflect, represent and serve our community.

At the same time, it’s important to keep in mind what this is not.

This is not about quotas.

We will not be checking boxes.

And, we are focused internally on Pierce County – where we have plenty of work to do.  At some point, we may be positioned to broaden our involvement, but not until we have addressed our critical internal work.

You may have questions about what we’re doing and why we’re doing it.  I hope you’ll email me.  Or you can send questions and comments to

Pierce County employees can view this website that’s been created to keep you posted on the team’s work.

I look forward to giving you updates as the DEI initiative moves forward!

As I close, I want to share an amazing story with you. Yesterday, I proudly accepted a heartfelt “thank you” on behalf of Pierce County Sheriff deputies, Roads crews, mechanics, Orting Fire and Rescue, and others who helped rescue people during the snow storm in East King County.  King County Councilmember Kathy Lambert (who represents much of this area) sadly shared that two people died trapped by the deep snow.  Then she looked me straight in the eye and said, “Many others would have died without the assistance of Pierce County.”

Thanks for a job well done, and thanks for reading,