Uncharted waters

I love nautical charts.  They give me a sense of confidence, imply adventure, and are packed with information describing the environment both above and below the water.  Wrecks, rocks, currents, tides, harbors, channels – even magnetic deviation – it is all there to help a sailor get safely from one port to another.   I even have some as artwork!

As I boat on the Sound (with both charts AND GPS), I often think about what it would be like to sail in uncharted waters.  To have been with the first native people or early explorers venturing into and around the Salish Sea for the first time. How do you proceed into waters that are unknown and uncertain?

I think all of us can relate much more closely these days with those early mariners.  As we navigate through our COVID-19 world we are in uncharted waters.  We know a lot about the virus: the vast majority will either not become infected or will recover at home; our children are very resistant; and our seniors with compromised health conditions are at the greatest risk.  However, there is much uncertainty and much we don’t know.  It is impacting how and where many of us are doing our work, as well as our home lives.

As I talk with our colleagues throughout the county, the themes are the same.  Everyone’s work has changed in some way.  Our wastewater treatment plant is absolutely essential to the health of our community and environment.  Keeping those operators healthy during this crisis is critical – and they are taking the appropriate precautions – although they assure me they have always been diligent in washing their hands!

I stopped by HR and talked with a small subset of folks that were working in the office.  Some had come in to do things that could only be done from there – like printing letters.  Tele-working has brought challenges for many of our folks – remotely accessing to the network, learning to Zoom Conference, sending e-faxes, remembering to unmute when talking on a conference call.

Our Economic Development team has shifted to economic stabilizing and recovery!   At the Central Maintenance Facility, they have split up shifts to safeguard our Roads crews and are using pool cars to reduce the number of people in a truck cab.

Additionally, we are helping our families deal with the uncertainty and disruption.   I have talked with a colleague who goes home after a stressful day at work to a house where his wife has suddenly found herself “homeschooling” their five children on Chromebooks.  Many of us have loved ones that have compromised health that could make them more vulnerable to COVID-19.  I have two nieces and a nephew who have recently been laid off.  Some are using Instacart to order food to be delivered to their elderly parents.

We are all facing real uncertainty and real stresses.

So, what do we do?  We make sure we are taking care of ourselves (taking all the appropriate social distancing precautions, washing our hands, disinfecting our workplaces), so we can be able to take care of our families AND our community.

We are in a very dynamic time.  Our teams are working to quickly adapt our work practices and HR polices to this new world. We understand that this is a very stressful time for everyone – and we all need to extend an extra measure of grace to one another.

I am particularly thankful that, with the leadership of our Finance team and our Council, our reserves are strong enough to ensure we will be there for our community when they need us during this crisis.

So, how did those early mariners confront the uncertainty of navigating uncharted waters?  They had confidence in both their ship and in their crew.

As we confront COVID-19 and beyond, I have full confidence in Pierce County and our crew!

Stay safe,





P.S.  I wanted share two examples of how people are adapting to the COVID-19 world.

First, Luke’s Donuts on Meridian is strictly applying social distancing – I had to order by phone from outside the storefront, pay by credit card, and they delivered them to the car.

Second, I wanted to share a fun video of a serious violation of “tele-work” etiquette.