Thankful for the holidays, but…

We’ve begun a new year and Thanksgiving is a distant memory. But I still have an overwhelming sense of gratitude and a strong need to offer some special thanks.

I wrote about Cooper Dyson, the deputy we tragically lost, in last week’s blog. Those of us who attended or watched his memorial service owe a debt of gratitude to those who made the powerful ceremony possible.

Our Sheriff’s department stepped up strongly to ensure Deputy Dyson was honored in an appropriate and loving manner.  I’m grateful to Sheriff Pastor, Chief Blair and the many others who gave our community the honor of sharing their grief.

You may not realize it but behind the department were hundreds of people working around the clock, giving up their holidays, vacations, and family gatherings to plan and implement an incredibly complex series of events.

From the processional to the memorial, and from the candlelight vigil to the gravesite service, every detail was thoughtfully and intentionally planned so that Cooper’s life was celebrated, his family was supported, and the community was welcomed.

Support organizations like Behind the Badge and The Soup Ladies tended to those volunteers who worked tirelessly to create memorial events that reflected Cooper’s life. Their mission, while terribly sad, is inspiring and humbling to see in action.

My thanks, also, to the Department of Emergency Management for providing the space at the Emergency Operations Center, and the technical planning expertise in managing an event of this magnitude. Jody Ferguson and her team have my gratitude for being gracious and generous hosts.

I’d like to thank Lauren Wallin in the Sheriff’s department and Kyle Schmidtke with the Communications team for their work to introduce Cooper to a community that likely had never met him. We got to know Cooper as a father, husband, Coast Guard veteran, and beloved friend. The video montage created for the memorial was touching, poignant, funny and heartbreaking. What a gift for his family to keep for years to come.

There are many more people I could thank but I want to wrap up by thanking the regional community of law enforcement and first responders who not only paid their respects in the processional and memorial service, but also took on patrol shifts so that our deputies could attend. I was impressed that the Sheriff gave our deputies a choice as to how they would honor Cooper.  Some opted to attend the memorial, while others chose to drive in the processional. And, some chose to honor Cooper’s sacrifice by working their shift.  It was a personal decision that each person was given the freedom and encouragement to make.

And, while I’m sending out digital thank you notes, I’d like to acknowledge and thank the folks in Risk Management who have had a very challenging few weeks.  First, they had the huge task of corralling and submitting the forms for the conversion to the Public Employees Benefits Board (PEBB) system for about half of our employees before the end of the year. But just when they thought it was “safe” to return to work after the holidays, we learned that the Healthcare Authority (HCA) in Olympia hit some bumps in the road and didn’t deliver an accurate conversion. I feel badly our team must work long hours and weekends to ensure the errors made by the HCA are properly fixed. Thank you for your dedication and commitment!

Please be sure to pay attention to weather reports over the weekend and check the Employee Hotline next week as we prepare for the possibility of lowland snow!  Take a moment to put the Hotline number (253-798-3100) in your phone so you have the latest information about any limits on our operations.

Stay warm this weekend and Go Hawks!