By Bruce Dammeier, Pierce County Executive.
The evening when we honor our outstanding employees is one of my favorite nights of the year. The Employee Incentive and Recognition (EI&R) reception gives us a fun way to hold up and appreciate some amazing examples of public service innovation, creativity and dedication in action.
Along with my trusty co-host, Council Chair Doug Richardson, and the “hostess with the mostest” Maura Maye, we spent Wednesday evening celebrating this year’s recipients of Standing Ovation Awards and thanking our long-time employees with Years of Service recognition.
I’ve included the links to the great videos we showed throughout the evening so you can learn more about the fantastic projects.
We announced the winners in the Entrepreneurial Climate category, first. These award-winning projects feature smart risk-taking and valuable innovation.
Planning & Public Works Front Loaded Permits Program
Our permitting team has a long record of innovation in their goal to be the best permitting agency! But they don’t rest on their laurels. This latest effort to streamline permitting for some single-family homes saves time and money for home builders and the County, helping us create badly needed housing faster than ever. Way to go, Kevin Stender, Chris Tebaldi and Nick Waggood!
The centralized drone program across three departments has revolutionized data collection, helped manage risk, and improved cost effectiveness – a classic win-win-win! Other jurisdictions look to Pierce County as a model for their own drone programs, and even the Federal Aviation Administration recognizes our program as one of the best in Washington state.
Leading the way for the County – and others – are Greg Lang, Joey Bisig, Luke Dailey, Charlie Johnson, Scott Powers, Win Sargent, Dave Sarver, Mike Johnson and Nate Condreay!
Personal Protective Equipment for Businesses
The team from Economic Development wisely saw well in advance that companies, organizations and churches in our region would need Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) in order to safely reopen. With amazing event organization and implementation, millions of pieces of PPE were distributed to grateful residents throughout the County. Thanks to Rob Allen, Betty Capestany, Kevin Clegg, Valerie Coty, Sara Garner, Mike Gommi and Gary Westcott for their inspiring work to get our businesses back open and safely operating.
Aging and Disability Resources Effective Training
This project features fantastic work by Mary Fran Marron, Alicia Valencia, Anna Owen, Annette Dawson-Miller, Debbie Baker, GuHun Kwon, Jodi Main, Keslie Mojean, Kerri Hummel and Tiffany Conway to keep residents from some of our most vulnerable populations in our community safe. Their training program has saved money and time – great job, team!
Next, we congratulated the recipients in the Vibrant Community category, which recognizes and honors groups and people who are serving important human services needs in our community.
Felony Drug Court – COVID 19 Adjustments
Our appreciation goes to Rose Wilhelm, Jami Bonomo and Lisa Sinnitt for placing the needs of our court-involved residents at the heart of their work. It was especially difficult to do during the pandemic, but this talented team didn’t let that stop them!
Parks Specialized Recreation virtual programming
The “Jens” – Jen Spane and Jenn Sergent – have been recognized with a Standing Ovation Award in the past. This time they are being honored for their innovation in keep a strong and entertaining connection with their special needs fans and followers. Great job, J and J!
Cross Park: The Team Behind the Dream
Benjamin Barrett, Kurt Reuter, Jess Stone and Becky Little have made a long-time dream of a park in Frederickson come to fruition. It’s a beautiful project that includes the restoration of two old, historic barns, and an accessible playground for children of all abilities. You should go check out the amazing results!
Law Library in the Community
The law library staff serve a wide variety of patrons. Approximately 90% of the average 220 daily patrons are non-attorneys with reference questions ranging from family law to federal appeals.
The staff’s dedicated work in helping citizens create safer homes and communities has made Pierce County Law Library a nationally recognized law library. The American Association of Law Libraries (AALL) awarded them the Excellence in Community Engagement Award in 2020.
The team of Ame Watterson, Laurie Miller, Lancia Speed and Sue Castelin also expanded access to legal reference materials and support through creative partnerships with other libraries in the region. Well done!
Last up were the winners in the Effective Government category. Despite the impacts of the pandemic, these award recipients found creative ways to solve big challenges.
Virtual Superior Court and Search Warrant Portal
I said during the awards program that the most important person working at the County is Kyle Schmidtke of the Communications Department – and I wasn’t kidding! He is at the center of some of the most important programs and initiatives we undertake. And, he was at the center of these two innovative programs to leverage technology. Whether it’s giving our residents their day in court in the middle of a pandemic or making it faster and easier for our Sheriff’s deputies to file for search warrants while out in the field, Kyle made both of these critically important projects happen!
Superior Court COVID 19 Changes
Congratulations and thank you to Chris Gaddis, Dea Finigan and Dorene Caillier for reinventing how Superior Court fulfills its obligation to justice for all. From jury selection to courtroom operations, this team had to completely reimagine how to do their work in the midst of a pandemic. Their work was challenging and creative – bravo!
Communications Response During COVID 19
The challenge to keep internal and external audiences informed, engaged and connected during the pandemic has been met by the team from the Communications department. Theirs has been a 24/7 task as information is constantly changing while residents and employees seek accurate, helpful details about COVID. From social media to websites, and from countless media stories to constituent newsletters, CARES videos, Town Halls and an endless stream of Zoom meetings, this team has used every channel available to get the word out.
Congratulations to Jeremy Acree, Lillian Allred, Erin Babbo, Emmi Buck, Libby Catalinich, John Deweese, Mike Halliday, Amanda Hansen, Megan Hutton, David Kellman, Gregg McClellan, Sue Merritt, Kari Moore, Tonya Reichl, Anne Radford, Ben Ramsey, Sheryl Rhinehart and Kyle Schmidtke.
IT Department – COVID 19 Response
When 3,000 of us needed to switch to remote work nearly overnight, our IT team sprang into action to make it possible. From ordering and delivering equipment to hardening our network security, it took a cast of thousands to pull it off quickly and safely.
We are indebted to the dedicated team of Paul Alexander, Bingo Baillie, Peter Barlow, Jason Barnes, Joey Bisig, Cathy Blattner, Neil Blindheim, Mon Boonprohm, Jesse Bostic, Teresa Breckenridge, Alexa Brockamp, Jason Buckingham, Josh Calhoun, Kevin Cavanagh, Kevin Charboneau, Ariel Golden, Sean Grady, Lawrence Grass, Mark Grindstaff, Jay Guenthard, Randy Haffly, James Hainaut, Heather Haley, Benjamin Hamlin, Mike Hanks, John Humen, Daniel Humfleet, Sean Hyde, Jim Irvin, Sandy Jacome, Trisha James, Charles Johnson, Dave Knecht, Tapan Maulik, Patrick McCabe, Marleena McDaniel, Harold McNeal, Aniza Mendoza, Bradley Mize, James Monteiro, Nate Moore, Sean Moran, Yu Nakayama Tran, Michael Pawelak, Michael Payne, Toni Peters, Kelsey Robinson, Paul Sargent, Sean Sawyer, Rick Schieche, Terry Schimon, Jim Scott, Scott Siburg, Matthew Sullivan-Barrett, Subu Swaminathan, Tony Trinidad, Robin Tuttle, Son Vu, Hillary Wagoner, Marciel Wallinger, Andy Williams, Rahul Charles, Jeremy Chenvert, Yunsik Choi, Jian Chu, JD Chyan, Julie Cislo, Joshua Clark, Mike Clark, Craig Colburn, Luke Dailey, Cort Daniel, Jared Erickson, Zach Fisher, Mike Fitta, Scott Freeman, Reece Garrett, David Garza, Stan Gerber, Larry Gezelius, Steven Hansen, Curtis Hanson, Steve Hays, Ross Heasty, Greg Heintz, Steve Hoefel, Terry Lamberte, Greg Lang, Cindie Lang, Laurie Lauerman, Cheng-Han Lee, Dolores Leister, Nate Levesque, Kurt Lindgren, Kevin Mattsen, Bill Morman, Cody Morse, Ed Muranaka, Chris Murphy, Yousef Niari, Sean O’Donnell, Raymond Odem, Larry Osborn, Reggie Osborne, David Oum, Nicole Owen, Andy Randall, Don Rennie, Brandy Riche, Deanna Rink, Tom Steger, Zachary Stroud, Melissa Sturzen, Ben Sweigart, Darwin Taylor, Russ Tena, Dawn Thomas, Mitch Watt, Jamal West, Gary Westling, Adam Wilhoit and Tim Zitzer. Whew – thanks to the entire crew!
The full Zoom celebration was recorded and is available to watch at www.piercecountywa.gov/banquet. At the site you can check out the lists of employees recognized for 5, 10, 25, 30, 40 and 50 (!) years of service.
If you go to the site by the end of the day today you can also donate to Nourish Pierce County at the banquet website. We weren’t able to feature the gift basket frenzy in this year’s event, but we are still able to support our community through a donation to our local food bank system. Thanks for your generosity!
I want to take a moment to acknowledge that this was Chair Richardson’s last event with us as his term on the Council comes to an end. Co-hosting events like the EI&R reception with him have been some of my fondest memories over the last four years. His corny jokes, brilliant comic timing and good-natured ribbing certainly make me laugh and add so much fun to whatever we’re doing. We just might have to bring him back for special hosting gigs in the future!
I will have more to say about the Chair later this year but, for now, I want to thank him for taking the time to recognize our employees and for exemplifying our culture. Well done, sir!
Recognizing our employees and maintaining a respectful, engaging culture are two ways that we attract talented candidates to the County. Another way is by insisting on an inclusive and fair candidate selection process.
For too many years we’ve had a practice of finding extra hires through friends, relatives or neighbors. As a hiring manager you might have a short-term but urgent need to add someone quickly to fill a gap. You may have thought the short timeframe didn’t provide time for a broad recruiting effort and, as a result, we developed a reputation as a place where you needed to “know someone” to get a job at the County. Compounding this was the fact that landing one of the coveted extra hire spots often gave people an inside track on a full-time job with us.
Thanks to work done by Judy Archer and the Human Resources department, those days are over. Folks filling extra hire spots will now go through the same recruiting and review process as we do for permanent roles. I’m proud of the change and know that we will benefit from giving more people the opportunity to join us and do great work on behalf of our residents. Who knows – maybe the extra hire we bring on board next week will be a Standing Ovation Award winner next year!
First published on the Pierce County website.