By Bruce Dammeier, Pierce County Executive.
Four years ago, I had the privilege of being sworn in as Executive for the first time. Hundreds of guests joined me in a large conference center. It was festive, loud and lively.
Fast forward four years and this week’s swearing-in was small, socially distanced, masked and brief.
Despite the difference in the two events, I was honored and humbled to be chosen by our voters to serve our residents for four more years, and grateful for the opportunity to share the ceremony with a few guests.
You can watch the entire ceremony below, but I will give you a brief summary of my remarks.
After a welcome from City of Sumner Mayor Bill Pugh and a blessing from Pastor Aaron Stewart, retired Judge Frank Cuthbertson administered the oath of office while my wife, Lauren, stood by my side. It was both an exhilarating and humbling moment.
In my comments to the group, I laid out three immediate goals that we must prioritize and three challenges that require our diligence and hard work.
The three areas in which we will move with determination and urgency are getting COVID vaccinations to residents more quickly, getting our students safely back into classrooms and saving as many businesses (and jobs) as possible by focusing on re-opening them as soon as possible. These three priorities are at the top of the list as we start this year – our community needs them to be accomplished.
I then outlined three areas that require strong commitment and purpose. First, we need to make badly needed progress on reforming our criminal justice system so that everyone is treating fairly and equitably. Secondly, we must address housing affordability – we need more and more types of housing for those for whom a home is rapidly becoming out of reach. Finally, we must continue our work to expand access and availability of behavioral health care and treatment. The pandemic has exacerbated mental health concerns throughout our county.
I mentioned that I cannot make progress on these six initiatives by myself. Moving these important priorities forward will require your partnership, as well as that of the members of the Council, the other elected officials in the County, and our judges. It also will require us to partner with leaders from our healthcare systems, non-profits and business community. The work is critically important and none of us can do it on our own.
Complex challenges require collaboration, compromise and cooperation. I’m eager to get to work and I hope you are, too. Together, we can make 2021 a year of recovery and reinvention.
I want to close by thanking three employees whose response to an increasing complex and urgent challenge this week protected our environment from significant harm. Early Wednesday morning saw a dramatic windstorm and heavy rains that knocked out power throughout our region. This sudden and dramatic combination placed our Wastewater Treatment Plant (WWTP) under significant stress. While a neighboring jurisdiction became overwhelmed, resulting in over 11 million gallons of untreated sewage discharged into Puget Sound, our team was successful in keeping everything working properly – despite having a surge of over twice the plant’s normal flow! I want to extend my deep appreciation to Derek Sobczak, Todd Carlson, and Ricky Dosch for their cool heads and expertise in the face of one of the most challenging nights we have ever seen at the WWTP!
We all have more great work ahead of us in 2021. Let’s go!
First published on the Pierce County website.