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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Happy birthday!

Happy birthday!

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Did you know our own Pierce County’s Medical Examiner (ME) Office turns 40 years old in a couple of days? The office was established back on January 21, 1984, when Pierce County converted from the elected coroner model to a professional medical examiner. You did not need any specific experience to be elected as the coroner, but today our Medical Examiner is a licensed medical doctor with a specialty in forensic pathology. A lot has changed since the ME’s office began its operations four decades ago.  Luckily, there are still “historical artifacts” that have been retained, including old logbooks from the coroner days of 70’s (in cursive!), case information typed on index cards, and statistics reports printed with dot-matrix printer graphics!  Today, the team of highly skilled professionals (including two…
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Nooooooo!

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That was my reaction when the notification showed up on my phone that Pete Carroll was no longer coaching the Seahawks.  Like many of you, I have enjoyed watching Coach Carroll’s 14-year run as head coach.  I am so thankful for all the memorable games, especially the Seahawks winning Super Bowl XVLIII.  I appreciate his boundless enthusiasm and ability to create a culture where elite athletes and their dynamic personalities could succeed as a team. So where do the Seahawks go from here?  I am not sure, but I will still be cheering for the Seahawks next season. I feel the same way when I see some of our long-time County leaders retiring.  How can we ever go on without Melanie Halsan in Planning & Public Works?  Her leadership and…
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Happy new year!

Happy new year!

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Welcome to 2024!  We have a lot of work to do this year and I’m eager to start! Beginning a new year can often feel like a fresh start. It can be a time of reflection and recalibration – both in our work lives and our personal lives.  I set my goals and major plans for the year.  And judging by the packed parking lots at local gyms (at least for a few weeks), I am not alone! (I also always read humorist Dave Barry’s review of the previous year.  If you do too, here’s to Dottie in 2024!) For example, I enjoy the new energy that I see and experience each time I participate in New Employee Orientation. Our newest colleagues are happy to be with us and filled…
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Legacy

Legacy

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I have seen many amazing community leaders in Pierce County over the years.  However, one stood out earlier this month when she was honored with the naming of a new 77-unit affordable housing project in the Lincoln District. I first met Patsy Surh O’Connell about 20 years ago when we were both in the local American Leadership Forum’s (ALF) Class IX.  The purpose of ALF is to bring local leaders together in a one-year curriculum to both develop their leadership skills and establish a strong network of community leaders.  The class curriculum included “buddying up” classmates, so you could get to know others and be known.  Patsy was my “buddy” for the class - and remains so to this day. As I got to know Patsy, I learned of her…
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Verdict

Verdict

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Today our community learned the verdict in the trial of three Tacoma Police officers accused in the death of Manny Ellis.  It has been more than three years since that fateful night when Mr. Ellis died in police custody.  Today’s verdict will elicit a wide variety of emotions from our community and co-workers.  I trust we will be there for each other as all of us process the trial’s result. While our system of justice may be imperfect, it is foundational to our democracy and who we are as Americans.  The presumption of innocence and a trial by a jury of your peers are critical safeguards in our society. I would like to express my deep appreciation to the jurors.  These “ordinary citizens” accepted the responsibility of hearing the evidence,…
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2023 Year in Review

2023 Year in Review

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December brings many celebrations and remembrances for all or us.  One that I look forward to but is also the most challenging is our annual Year in Review video.  It is intended to share the key highlights of our work in the last year with our residents - so they can be reminded of our work on their behalf. Despite the outstanding support of Libby Catalinich, our Director of Communications, and the Emmy-winning PCTV Team (Megan Hutton, David Kellman, Jeremy Acree, Peter Gudmunson and Bryant Hankins), it is a difficult endeavor! Knowing the time limitations of our audience, the trick is choosing what content to highlight from a year’s worth of efforts.  How do you decide what makes the final cut and what ends up on the cutting room floor?…
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Regular, direct and face-to-face

Regular, direct and face-to-face

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We have over 3,000 employees with a wide range of critically important responsibilities serving our community.  So, effective two-way communication with our colleagues is crucial!  I work hard to share our values, priorities, and success stories of our work.  Equally important, I appreciate listening to your concerns, perspectives, and ideas about how to make things better.  There are several ways I regularly share with you and your Pierce County colleagues - including this weekly blog.  But the best way to really communicate is through regular, direct and face-to-face meetings - and I had three of those meetings this past week! Monday mornings nearly always start with New Employee Orientation (NEO) at 9 a.m., and this week was no exception!  Getting to know our newest colleagues is a great way to…
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Fantastic

Fantastic

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In the classic holiday movie, Christmas Vacation, Clark Griswold goes through one calamity after another to create an over-the-top holiday light display at this home. All of us who go through this holiday ritual can relate a bit to Clark and his frustrations. And the movie is also a holiday tradition with our family! If you like slapstick humor, it’s a must watch! Thankfully, our team from Parks doesn’t go through quite as much pain and suffering to put up the beloved annual display, Fantasy Lights!  Fantasy Lights has been delighting residents for 29 years, becoming part of many family traditions!  To learn more about what it takes to create the show, I went behind the scenes in this latest episode of “Inside Pierce County.” As you’ll see, they didn’t…
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Gratitude

Gratitude

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I hope your Thanksgiving holiday is full of good food, football, and family.  But mostly, as the name prompts us, I hope it is a time of reflection and being grateful for the many blessings in our lives.  I will spend time with my brother, sister, and our expanded families.  We have had a year of tremendous celebrations and loss.  I am really looking forward to hugs, laughter and, potentially, some tears. Professionally, I’m grateful that every day you and our colleagues are committed to serving the people of Pierce County with expertise, teamwork, and respect. I know that some days are very challenging, but I appreciate your willingness to persevere to find solutions. I’m especially thankful for those who won’t be taking Thursday off.  Our Sheriff’s deputies will still…
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More than a month

More than a month

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The month of November has been designated as Native American Heritage Month but our partnership, respect and appreciation for local tribal leaders and members is present year-round. Our work of serving our residents frequently intersects with the priorities and interests of the four primary sovereign nations with whom we share the 1,670 square miles within our boundaries.  The Muckleshoot Indian Tribe, the Puyallup Tribe of Indians, the Nisqually Indian Tribe, and the Squaxin Island Tribe are key partners in preserving and enhancing our natural environment, creating jobs, keeping communities safe, and serving our most vulnerable residents. Those broad connections are why we prioritize our Government-to-Government training classes for County employees, led by Pam and Gordon James.  I like to personally kick off these classes (Although sadly, I was sick for…
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Turning a page

Turning a page

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Happy Veterans’ Day Eve! When many of your colleagues have more than 20 years of service to the people of Pierce County, it changes your perspective.  Specifically, recruiting, hiring, onboarding and developing employees takes on much greater significance when viewed through a long-term employee perspective. Five years ago, we realized that we were not taking full advantage of a ready-made population of potential employees with a proven commitment to service.  And they were already our neighbors - just down the road at Joint Base Lewis-McChord (JBLM).  In the process of learning how to better reach out to these excellent candidates in “green,” we also learned more about all they brought to the County! At the beginning of 2018 nearly 4% of our employees claimed veteran status.  By the end of…
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In Another’s Shoes

In Another’s Shoes

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I've said many times that the Employee Incentive & Recognition evening is one of my favorite events of the year. Who and what you celebrate as an organization says a lot about your culture and values. This year's event delivered the goods! On Wednesday night, I had the honor of co-hosting this year's celebration with Maura Maye from Human Resources and Council Chair Ryan Mello. I see the innovation, professional expertise, and compassion our colleagues demonstrate year-round. But this evening features our annual Standing Ovation Awards. These awards tell the stories that rose above the rest from the last year. It's a tribute to our entire organization that more than 145 employees were nominated for awards this year. I know the judges had their work cut out for them in…
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A season for frights

A season for frights

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It’s that time of year when scary stories and horror movies aim to give you nightmares and steal your sleep! At Pierce County we have a fun and not-so-spooky way for kids and adults to enjoy a few chills and thrills together.  Our annual Haunted Headlights drive through display at Frontier Park in Graham continues through Sunday and Jenn Sergent in Parks gave me a behind-the-scenes look! https://youtu.be/pCSClat3bX0 I think the scariest part of that video may have been my spirited sport coat – don’t you?  (It might “come back to life” on Halloween at the County-City Building!). But remember, this video was an up close and personal look from behind the scenes.  Our guests will be viewing from the safety of their cars! The Parks team spends about three…
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Marking a milestone

Marking a milestone

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Milestones in your personal and professional life are important.  They mark significant events that give you a chance to pause and reflect – and, in many cases, celebrate! 1983 was a big year in my life!  I graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy and began my active-duty service in the Navy.  But far more significantly, I married then Lauren Anderson.  On October 1st, we committed to face life together, before God, our family, and friends - through all its ups and downs.  And the 40 years since have been one adventure after another - not nearly the life we expected. So, when thinking about how we should celebrate our 40th anniversary, it seemed only appropriate to have another adventure. So, we chose a bike trip on the coast of Maine! …
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Through fresh eyes

Through fresh eyes

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To start with, this blog is not being written by Chat GPT or any artificial intelligence (AI) - and it took me considerably longer to write than last week’s blog by Brian Hardtke! And I am not even writing it from Pierce County.  I am in Austin, Texas as part of the Tacoma-Pierce County Chamber of Commerce’s ASPIRE trip.  Twenty-four local leaders and I are spending two days looking at many innovative programs in the Austin area – we are seeking new ideas that we can bring back or could be coming to our community. Our first stop has some connection to last week’s blog regarding how AI is changing our lives.  Austin is the second major test market for Cruise - the General Motors Autonomous Vehicle initiative.  They currently…
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Wait ’til the end

Wait ’til the end

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In recent years, we have witnessed a technological revolution that is reshaping the way we work, communicate, and serve our community. At the forefront of this transformation is Artificial Intelligence (AI) and large language models like ChatGPT. These advancements are not just changing the private sector; they are also poised to revolutionize county government in ways we couldn't have imagined before. In this blog post, we will explore the potential of AI and large language models in county government and discuss how we can embrace this future for the benefit of our community. Enhancing Citizen Services One of the most significant impacts of AI and large language models is their potential to enhance citizen services. With AI-powered chatbots like ChatGPT, we can provide 24/7 support to our citizens, answering their…
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Celebra tu herencia   

Celebra tu herencia   

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My family heritage is from Germany.  While I don’t speak much German (Ein bisschen - “a little bit”), I especially appreciate Germany’s printing history (I have a model of the Gutenberg Press in my office). Each of us has a family lineage and history of which we can be proud. The United States and her residents are a beautiful collage of ethnicities, races, and ancestries. It’s wonderful to celebrate and honor what makes us who we are, including where we trace our roots to. Right now, we’re in the middle of Hispanic Heritage Month.  It starts on September 16 to align with the Mexican Independence Day celebrations (no, not Cinco de Mayo!). It is Mexico’s most important national holiday. At Pierce County we have a wonderful example of treasuring your…
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A balancing act

A balancing act

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This week I presented my (final) biennial budget to the Council. Months of data gathering, analysis, presentations, debate, and decisions ended for me and the Finance team, and the process now moves to the members of our legislative branch. For the first time, the priorities for how we allocated funds were guided by the results of a comprehensive survey filled out by our residents. We used a variety of channels to reach broadly into our community - from newsletters to Tik Tok!  2,577 people took the time to complete the survey, representing views from Tacoma to Eatonville and from Buckley to the Key Peninsula! We asked residents how they would spend the money they provide us. We also asked them to prioritize their concerns - and three stood out far…
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Being blue

Being blue

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It was in September 2021 - almost exactly two years ago - that I helped host a Blue Zones kick off along with our partners from Multicare and Virginia Mason Franciscan Health. We were in the throes of the pandemic, so our in-person event became a virtual broadcast from our television studio.  But it began the detailed planning and preparation for the Parkland Spanaway Blue Zone Project. I’ve been familiar with Blue Zones for years, first learning about it from Tarrant County Texas County Judge (equivalent to County Executive) Glen Whitley in Fort Worth.  I initially thought it was all about living longer and would focus on diet and exercise.  After diving in, while those are key elements, it is also about living better - emphasizing the importance of community…
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