A fresh perspective

Time and time again in my life I have seen the power of a fresh perspective in confronting a problem or opportunity.  Asking “Why do we do it this way?” or “Have we ever considered this approach?” can be powerful catalysts for innovation.  “Out of the box” (or “out of the County?”) thinking can really help those of us “in the box” improve our service, results, and productivity. 

That is why at New Employee Orientation I tell our newest employees that I especially value their perspective on a new situation or task. Fresh eyes and experiences from outside our “box” can help us innovate!

Her dynamic, proven leadership AND fresh perspective were key reasons why Mayor Victoria Woodards and I appointed Chantell Harmon Reed as the new Director of Public Health for the Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department (TPCHD).

During our interviews, Director Reed’s decades of experience in delivering local public health results for her community in Louisiana and more recently Multnomah County stood out.  She clearly had done her homework and offered powerful insights into how to take on the public health challenges facing our community.  And she has the leadership to capitalize on the strengths of the existing staff at TPCHD.

Photo courtesy of Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department

Our joint appointment of Director Reed went before both the County Council and Tacoma City Council for confirmation this week.  As anticipated, she was confirmed unanimously.  But the most exciting part for me was seeing and hearing about her interaction with both Councils and in subsequent meetings.  She has further validated our hopes for her leadership at TPCHD.

Her role is particularly important for our community.  As I mentioned in my remarks to Council on Tuesday, many of the people of Pierce County face or will face significant health challenges that will limit their potential and shorten their life.  I have been tracking the respected Robert Wood Johnson Foundation County Health Rankings for many years.  Pierce County consistently ranks around 20th in terms of health outcomes for our residents. At the same time, other Puget Sound counties (King, Snohomish, Kitsap, Skagit, Island and San Juan) are all in the top 10.  Behind those rankings are thousands of our family members and neighbors facing diminished lives and health crises.  Additionally, we know that within Pierce County – from one community to another – expected life spans can vary by more than 10 years!  We must improve the health outcomes for our community.  We want everyone to “live longer and better” lives (The goal of our Blue Zones Initiative in the Parkland-Spanaway community!).

While all issues affecting health outcomes are not in the control of the director of the TPCHD, Director Reed is the key community leader to spearhead these efforts.  She brings great experience and a fresh perspective to this important challenge (and other public health challenges like fentanyl addiction). Plus, I know her infectious spirit will rally people around her and bring the collaboration we need to show results.

Welcome to Pierce County, Director Reed (Although she has been here before – her son attends the University of Puget Sound and a cousin works for the City of Tacoma Public Works). We are glad to have you in our community helping us build a brighter future!

Have a great weekend,