Unearthing a mystery

Unearthing a mystery

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As I have mentioned before in this blog, the Executive Team is moving.  Next Tuesday will be our first day in our new home – 1501 Market Street! To prepare for the move, we’ve been going through closets, cabinets and drawers to determine what items need to make the move with us.  If you’ve moved recently, you can appreciate how much stuff there is to go through - and some of the interesting things you discover.  But the item we found in a hard-to-reach spot really surprised all of us! This silver goblet was awarded to the winner of the 1915 Pacific Northwest Golf Association Women’s Champion – Mrs. T. E. Curran!  It was awarded 100 years before we hosted the USGA Men’s U.S. Open Championship in 2015!  The 1915…
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Cause for celebration

Cause for celebration

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Next Wednesday our offices will be closed.  While a day off is often a cause for celebration, June 19th has much more significant importance: Juneteenth. Juneteenth, observed every year on June 19th, commemorates the pivotal moment when Union soldiers, led by General Gordon Granger, arrived in Galveston, Texas, in 1865, to proclaim the end of slavery in the state.  This proclamation, arriving over two years after the Emancipation Proclamation and following the end of the Civil War, symbolized not only the legal end of slavery but also the emancipation of African Americans within the region. It marked a profound juncture—a moment of liberation, hope, and the dawn of a new era for countless individuals who had long endured the shackles of bondage. But I think Juneteenth also represents the reconciliation…
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They like us!

They like us!

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Apologies to Sally Field and her infamous Academy Award speech but it feels awesome when outside people or organizations recognize your work. This week’s decision by the Hearing Examiner to approve the Conditional Use Permit and deny the appeal of our SEPA (State Environmental Protection Act) mitigated determination means the Tacoma Rescue Mission's (TRM) Good Neighbor Village for chronically homeless individuals can move forward! The Hearing Examiner wrote a very thorough and thoughtful decision after hearing seven days of testimony from the applicant, the appellant, our staff, and nearly 50 members of the public. His decision is 79 pages in length (excluding more than 350 exhibits), and is exhaustive in detail and description.  It includes 33 conditions, but gives TRM a very clear path ahead with construction starting later this…
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Day of days

Day of days

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The acclaimed video series “The Band of Brothers” follows members of Easy Company in the 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment from their initial training in Georgia to their end of World War II at Berchtesgaden - home of Hitler’s mountainside retreat.  The second episode, entitled “Day of Days,” depicts their night parachute jump behind enemy lines as part of D-Day - the allied invasion of Normandy on June 6, 1944. Next Thursday we will remember the 80th anniversary of the fateful day that marked the beginning of the end for fascist control of Europe.  I have been reflecting on that day - and the men and women who participated in the invasion and all that led up to it.  Not surprisingly, I have been reading a book - “Normandy ‘44 D-Day and…
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It sucks!

It sucks!

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We have a new addition to the team, and I’m delighted to introduce you to Vacsquatch - one of the most unique “employees” at the County. You may remember we just finished a public truck naming process and Vacsquatch was the winner by a landslide!  As with all our Planning & Public Works (PPW) equipment, it takes a skilled operator and often a team of employees to get the work done - and Vacsquatch is no different.  In this case, it takes a two-person crew - and sometimes flaggers -- to keep them safe on the roadside.  While still new to the work and honing their skills, they have already made quite a mark! I recently had the chance to meet Vacsquatch and try my hand at sucking up litter. …
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Celebrating leaders

Celebrating leaders

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I strongly believe in developing, promoting, and celebrating leadership.  I attended the U.S. Naval Academy where leadership is foundational to every other subject or program.  Our County Leadership Certification program is our effort to promote and develop a culture of leadership in Pierce County. I appreciate other organizations that value leadership, as well.  And the University of Washington-Tacoma (UWT) is one such organization! On Tuesday night, I attended the UWT Milgard School of Business 22nd Annual Business Leadership Awards - and it was awesome!  Chancellor Shelia Edwards Lange’s team did a great job.  The honorees represented some of the best leaders in our community: Clint Stein, CEO of Umpqua Bank - Business Leader of the Year Dean Allen, CEO of McKinstry - Lifetime Achievement (for profit) Rene’ Ancinas, CEO of…
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Reaching out and responding

Reaching out and responding

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Even though our employee turnover rate is significantly lower than most governments (0.9% per month v. 1.6% average for state and local governments), our amazing Human Resources (HR) team conducted 848 recruitments last year!  That included screening more than 20,000 job applications! In the past, we used to post job opportunities on our website and hope good candidates would see them and apply.  But when you want to hire the best, that is just not good enough.  Our HR Recruitment team knew they had to aggressively market our positions - including getting these great County jobs in front of a much wider audience! And the HR team knew that the people who knew the opportunities the best and had the most at stake in hiring the best new employees were…
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Hats off to CAP!

Hats off to CAP!

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May is Community Action Programs (CAP) month around the U.S. and our team in Human Services deserves our appreciation for the important work they do serving our residents. Pierce County’s CAP helps residents with early childhood education, energy assistance, rental assistance, home repairs, home weatherization and more.  These are some of my favorite programs because of the direct impact they have on our neighbors.  The smiles that come with a new wheelchair ramp, a repaired roof, or a young child who can say their ABC’s are awesome. Carol Mensah manages the CAP division and give us a great explanation of the range of programs in this video: https://vimeo.com/940959568/91587b1e6e?share=copy My thanks to Carol  for her leadership - and for sharing her personal story.  Both Carol and Krysta are “paying it forward!”…
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A steaming pile

A steaming pile

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Our colleagues in Planning & Public Works do a great job managing solid waste.  And they just made a change that is a real win-win! Now, anywhere in Pierce County, your food waste can be added to your yard waste bin (Or does your family call it a “cart”?) for composting. This change in how we handle food waste is beneficial for many reasons.  First, it reduces the amount of garbage going into our landfill.  Second, food waste rotting in a landfill creates methane gas which is bad for our environment.  Instead, food waste composts well with our yard waste.  And finally, this compost can be sold and end up in someone’s garden.  From my count that is 4x “wins” - we avoid two bad things and replace them with…
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The next generation

The next generation

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This week I delivered my annual State of the County (SOTC) Address, both to people attending in person and virtually online, for the 7th and final time. I always enjoy talking about the work we do to serve our residents, but this one hit a little differently.  I focused on what we’re doing through the lens of our children and grandchildren - ensuring they have the best possible start to their lives AND the best possible future.  So much of our work deals with today, this week, this month or even this year. But, as I explained during my remarks, since I became a grandfather while in office as the Executive, my perspective changed. The here and now are very important, of course, but taking the long view so that…
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Laissez les bons temps rouler

Laissez les bons temps rouler

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Next week I’ll be delivering my annual State of the County Address.  I’m excited to talk about the work all of you do to serve the people of Pierce County – especially our youngest residents.  As a reminder, you can join us virtually next Wednesday at noon at this link. At the State of the County in 2022, I introduced folks to Brenda Miller, an entrepreneur and food truck operator. She owns Velvet’s Big Easy, which specializes in Creole and Cajun cuisines. Those who attended in person were treated to her delicious handheld fruit pies.  They were fantastic! Brenda’s story is a testament to the power of a dream and the success one can reach with some support and encouragement. Brenda was a manager at The Boeing Company when she…
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An unseen world

An unseen world

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I recently had the chance to go behind the scenes in a place I hope you will never see – behind the bars of our jail! The Pierce County Jail is made up of both the “old jail” and the “new jail” - and operates like a self-contained city. The jail has a medical facility, a dentist, laundry, kitchen, mental healthcare, and training facilities for Corrections Deputies. Minus the inmates, it reminded me a little of shipboard life in the Navy. A little bit of background on the “County Jail."  Our jail is responsible for detaining adult inmates who are awaiting trial and before sentencing.  If the inmate is charged with a misdemeanor, the city or county bringing the charges pays for the confinement.  For the more serious felony charges,…
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Hold on, tomorrow needs you!

Hold on, tomorrow needs you!

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Last week, I went to Open Pierce County to find an answer I needed to know - but was concerned by what I would find.  Last year when I had checked the Medical Examiner’s data on fatal accidental drug overdoses in Pierce County, it showed nearly one resident dying per day in 2022 (363 total deaths).  As I feared, 2023 was even worse with a total of 439 deaths.  These horrific increases are driven primarily by the scourge of fentanyl - with nearly 8 in 10.  Fentanyl is so deadly and hard to detect, many are dying without ever knowing they took fentanyl.  It kills across all demographics. So, when Clover Park School District Ron Banner invited me to a private screening of his students’ Fentanyl Awareness videos, I was…
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A celebratory week

A celebratory week

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How many lawyers does it take to ensure our community has adequate access to legal representation?  (No, that is not the lead into a joke!) The short answer is, more than we have in Pierce County today. Those of you who have lived in Pierce County for many years will remember the 1970’s when the University of Puget Sound was home to a well-regarded law school. UPS sold it to Seattle University in 1994 who subsequently moved it up north in 1999.  That was a dark day for our community.  Having a local law school, where residents from our region can be educated and trained to serve our community is very important - and this comes from an engineer.  But, data shows Tacoma is the largest city in the U.S.…
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Good vibes only

Good vibes only

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I stopped by yesterday’s Career Fair, and I left in such an upbeat, positive mood! The Pioneer Park Pavilion in Puyallup was the perfect setting for this year’s hiring event – it was buzzing with eager job seekers and enthusiastic County employees. The Career Fairs held in previous years have been great events, but this year’s Fair took it to a whole new level!  Nearly 200 people came to the Fair. They were joined by a photographer taking pictures for updated resumes, staff members holding on-the-spot interviews and several key coworkers available to provide attendees even more ways to find their new job. In addition, nine community partners hosted tables, including the Puyallup and Nisqually tribes, WorkSource, Goodwill, Tacoma Community House and MultiCare.  An impressive 19 Pierce County divisions and departments…
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A fresh perspective

A fresh perspective

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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…
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Making progress

Making progress

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Today, we are releasing our fourth Annual DEI Report.  It reflects the work many of you are doing to provide opportunities for everyone to reach their full potential. I’m proud of the progress we have made.  For example, since 2017 we’ve significantly broadened opportunities in management, hired more women and veterans, and our workforce better reflects the community we serve.  These accomplishments are due, in part, to important and smart updates we’ve made in our hiring practices. Measuring our success is important but numbers don’t tell the whole story.  That’s why the report includes some written and video profiles of people and groups serving our community in all facets of diversity, equity, and inclusion. The full report, including videos, may be viewed by clicking on the front cover image below:…
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History in the making

History in the making

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When we talk about various commemorative “months” or “days” we raise awareness of those who came before us. We do this to remember those who overcame great challenges and to celebrate their achievements - and sometimes - their cultural heritage.  These stories inspire us and help us think beyond ourselves. The month of February is celebrated as Black History Month, and much deserved attention will be focused on Black and African American achievers in our past. Some will talk about the courageous leadership and powerful voice of Frederick Douglass and his role in ending slavery.  Others will remember the courage and skill of the pilots of the 332nd Fighter Group (Tuskegee Airmen), who despite a racially segregated US Army Air Force in World War II, fought bravely over the skies…
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Put your heart into it

Put your heart into it

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I’ve always said that we work with amazing people, and I recently learned about another extraordinary County employee. During the day, Kyra (O'Keefe) Smithlin is an Accounting Assistant II with the Finance Department.  But the rest of her time is devoted to the American Heart Association.  Once you hear her story you’ll understand why. https://vimeo.com/906482669/b388f73aec Today is Go Red for Women Day and as the new national ambassador Kyra appeared on the TODAY Show live in the NYC studio earlier today.  Kyra was selected from thousands of applicants, and she almost didn’t even submit her name for consideration! You can see a clip of her time on the TODAY Show with Al Roker and team here. Kyra has been busy over the last decade speaking with local groups at places…
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Heroes

Heroes

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The first major cold snap is behind us and for the most part we escaped significant snowfall in the lowlands.  But the sustained cold did wreak some havoc - did you hear about the frozen then broken fire sprinkler in Woodland Elementary?  The flooding did significant damage.  How did you fare?  I have a minor broken pipe to deal with, but our power stayed on, and we were warm when the temperatures took a nosedive. But we have remarkable people working alongside us at Pierce County, doing critically important work to help our community weather the freezing temperatures. Our Human Services Energy Team helps keep lights on and heat flowing for some of the most vulnerable people in our community. Their work is important year-round, but especially significant in the…
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