It has been a wild two weeks for many of our County colleagues. Getting snow off miles of our county roads and protecting our unhoused community from subfreezing temperatures took the urgent efforts of many in our Planning & Public Works, Emergency Management and Human Services Departments.
And just as the snow was clearing, Omicron and other factors caused a spike in demand of COVID tests. Our Department of Emergency Management (DEM) team pivoted, expanding and opening new testing sites to serve our community.
Despite continuous rain yesterday and high winds today, our DEM staff, augmented by volunteers from other County departments, will have tested over 10,000 people at our mass testing sites this week. And now the warming temperatures and rain have us watching our rivers carefully and responding to localized flooding and mudslides!
While I am proud of all the work our County team has done in response to these urgent situations, another important event took place on Wednesday – our first Employee Town Hall meeting of the new year!
When we send out the Town Hall invitation to submit questions, we never know what we’re going to get. This time was no exception, but I was struck by tone and tenor of your questions. Clearly, there is anxiety and concern about what the future holds, whether it’s about moving forward with COVID, working remotely, or dealing with the economic realities of inflation and supply chain issues. I was pleased that we received a record number of questions and I regret that time limits didn’t allow me to read and respond to all of them. But I think I addressed the general topics you wrote about. And while I know not all of my answers were what some wanted to hear, I am committed to being transparent and candid with you. That’s why I started the Town Halls in the first place.
There is no doubt that we face large challenges in dealing with the impacts of the pandemic. And there is certainly not unified agreement on how best to respond to this threat. Your opinions mirror those of our community and span the range of thoughts. That’s what is great about our County. We can respectfully disagree, while having the best interests of our community at heart.
As I said on Wednesday, we need a strong, stable and professional workforce to serve the people of Pierce County. To achieve that goal, we must have both a positive work environment and ensure our salaries and benefits are competitive with the broader market. We do this by having both an annual “general wage increases” AND conducting a Classification & Compensation Study every two years to see what other employers are paying for similar jobs requiring similar skills. This approach enables us to recruit, hire and retain the workforce we need to serve our community today and into the future. Some folks asked for more information on our Classification & Compensation study and HR is currently assembling the data into a more accessible format for you. You can find the original study here (scroll to View the Report button) and that’s where the updated data will be posted in a few days.
I covered a great deal of ground during the hour plus of the Town Hall. I want to make sure I clear up one thing I didn’t get quite right: we are not “enforcing” mask wearing at the County-City Building. We have posted signs, have masks available and are following the mask mandate at the entrance of the building. But we are not asking Security to remove people who do not wear masks. We never have. I am thankful that the vast majority of people in our buildings comply – showing respect for those around them.
And as I said several times during our meeting, I believe the best way for you and your family to protect yourself from COVID is to be both vaccinated and boosted. I am, and so is my family.
If you missed the Town Hall, or would like to watch a replay, you can find it here.
I’m grateful to serve our residents with such engaged and committed colleagues. Thank you!