New office is ready to harness new ideas to achieve social change

Matias Valenzuela, Director of the Office of Equity and Social Justice

Matias Valenzuela, Director of the Office of Equity and Social Justice

Equity and OpportunityKing County’s commitment to Equity and Social Justice is taking another step forward with the creation of an Office of Equity and Social Justice.

“This has been a progression. It has become one of the priorities for our leadership, especially for our Executive Dow Constantine. It’s essential to what he and our other County leaders are trying to accomplish,” said Matías Valenzuela, the Director of the Office of Equity and Social Justice (ESJ).

What started as an initiative by former County Executive Ron Sims has now evolved into a sustained effort that cuts across all County agencies with the aim of creating fairness and opportunity for all.

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Rebranded program helps people understand CSOs

confronting climate changeProtecting Our Waters is King County’s program to prevent pollution caused by excess stormwater in the sewer system on rainy days. The older parts of King County’s wastewater system use a single set of pipes to carry both sewage and rain running off streets and buildings. Most of the time, this polluted water goes to a wastewater treatment plant. But in heavy rains, the pipes can overflow into rivers, lakes, or Puget Sound. Overflow points called “combined sewer overflows” or CSOs are built into the system. CSOs prevent sewer backups into homes and streets.


“People from the public and outside our utility didn’t understand the term “CSO” and we struggled with how to explain CSO facilities to people – including why we are building them and how they are different from other wastewater treatment plants,” said Annie Kolb-Nelson, Communications Specialist with the Wastewater Treatment Division. “So we put together an internal team of experts in branding, marketing, communications, engineering, community relations, and operations and created a new “look” and language for the program.”

The new branding, which includes a name, tagline, and images, helps King County better tell our story of protecting water bodies and people from pollution on rainy days. This year, the “Protecting Our Waters” campaign was a finalist for the Water Environment Federation (WEF) Ingenuity Award.

Five Questions with Jennifer Hills, Risk Manager, Department of Executive Services

Jennifer Hills Photo1. What was your first role at King County? I came to King County in April of 1999 as the Loss Control Manager in the Office of Risk Management. My position was new and was added as a result of a budget proviso.  The council wanted more resources dedicated to preventing liability losses. One of my early attempts at sharing lessons learned with departments was through a publication called the Risk Management Recipe (I love to cook, hence the name!).  The publication did not last but the concept of collecting, sharing, and disseminating lessons learned has remained.

2. What do you do as King County Risk Manager? I recently had the pleasure of meeting with a graduate student in the Evans School of Public Affairs about her interest in public sector risk management as a career. I described our lines of business within the Office of Risk Management: claims investigation and resolution, purchasing insurance coverages for county operations, consulting with agencies on appropriate risk transfer in their contracts, managing our insurance fund to finance our retained risk, and enterprise risk management which I’ll explain in a moment. It was so much fun describing my job to this student because I am certain I have the most interesting and enjoyable job in King County!

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Metro’s unofficial ambassador to seniors

Regional TransitOnce a month, on his own time, part-time Metro Transit operator David Waggoner (East Base) takes friends from the Issaquah Senior Center on bus trips that, he feels, profoundly improve their lives. “Just because you belong to a senior center doesn’t mean that the next thing is that you’re in a coffin and next you’re in the ground,” he said recently. “The best thing for seniors is travel.” InTransit_1501JanFeb_Waggoner

He has taken friends on bus rides from Issaquah to downtown Seattle, Northgate, the North Bend outlet stores, and Sea-Tac Airport. “It’s amazing to see them learn how to take the Route 554 and Link light rail to the airport. When they realize they don’t need a family member to take them to the airport, they’re so proud that they can get there on their own.”

When Waggoner started driving buses, for Metropolitan Transit in 1967, he could let riders off in Seattle but couldn’t pick up new ones because Metropolitan drivers weren’t allowed to steal fares from Seattle Transit as they drove into the city. The fares he collected went into a pouch, because the “Silversides” buses he drove, with giant shift levers on the steering columns, had no room for fareboxes.

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New Human Resources website makes navigation quick and easy

Best-Run GovernmentKing County’s Human Resources Division (HRD) has launched a new and improved website to help visitors to the site get quick and easy access to the content they are looking for.

The new site will make it easier for King County employees, human resources professionals, residents and job seekers to navigate the site and find what they are looking for, quickly and easily.

“We wanted to make sure that all visitors to our website, whether they are current employees or possible future employees, have a good experience with our website and leave with a good impression of King County government and the Human Resources Division,” said Nancy Buonanno Grennan, HRD Director. “Building a new website that is both easy to navigate and attractive to look at is just one way we can improve the service experience for our customers, both internal and external.”

HRD web screenshot Continue reading →

Stay-in-School program builds opportunity for local students

Equity and OpportunityWhen a student is in danger of not graduating from high school in south King County, the Stay-in-School program is there to help. Stay_in_School

The federally-funded and County-operated program identifies students who are at risk of dropping out based on their grades and/or not passing the High School Proficiency Exam (HSPE) in their Junior year.

Each year about 120 youth in King County receive assistance through the program, and its results are impressive: in the 2013/14 academic year, 86 percent of participants completed their high school diplomas and 82 percent went on to college or employment.

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Five Questions with Robin Fenton, Chief of Technical Services, King County Sheriff’s Office

  1. Fenton Chief Robin-DSC_1860What was your first role at King County?  Upon completing the police academy, I was assigned to the SW precinct  as a patrol officer. I was in a marked patrol car dealing with calls for service in the unincorporated area of King county. Loved that assignment. Everything was new and exciting. I worked with wonderful people and had many eye opening experiences.
  2. Why did you choose law enforcement as a career? I initially entered college with the thought of becoming a dispatcher. It was during my criminal justice classes, that I changed my focus and decided to pursue a career as a police officer. The King County Police Department recruiter at the time came to our college and  encouraged us to apply. I took the exam, and was very fortunate to get hired one month after I turned 21.  Thirty-four years later I still love my job and  feel very fortunate not only for the career, but for landing in such a wonderful agency. I always knew that I wanted to work in a profession where I could help others and make a difference. The King County Sheriff’s Office has given me numerous opportunities to do both. Continue reading →

2015 MLK Celebration focused on voting rights

Equity and OpportunityDr. Martin Luther King, Jr. believed not possessing the right to vote was similar to enslavement.

“[A right to vote] enables all Americans, most especially those who have been denied other rights, to participate fully in their community, this country and our world,” said Maria Gitin, the Keynote speaker at King County’s 28th annual Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Celebration, held on Thursday, January 15, at the Paramount Theatre in Seattle.Maria Gitin

Gitin joined the civil rights movement in 1965 at the age of 19 to work for the Summer Community Organization and Political Education (SCOPE) to help register African American voters in Wilcox, Alabama.

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Employee Assistance Program is there to help you

Pay Wyss (left) and Tony Hansen from King County's Employee Assistance Program

Pay Wyss (left) and Tony Hansen from King County’s Employee Assistance Program

Best-Run GovernmentSometimes workplace issues get to us. Whether it’s stress, a performance issue, conflict with a coworker or any other type of workplace problem, the Employee Assistance Program is there for all King County employees to use.

“We’re on-site, in-house. We’re here for you to deal with work issues,” said Tony Hansen, one of the County’s EAP councilors along with Pam Wyss. “We know the internal resources that we can guide you to and we can help facilitate.”

EAP is an in-house resource available to all King County employees that offers tangible strategies and useful resources to resolve workplace problems.

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Fleet and Radio Communication teams patch things up—in more ways than one

RCS-fleet-1Best-Run GovernmentWhen two teams work closely together for a long time, relations sometimes become challenging as staff and technologies change. This in turn can affect productivity, quality, efficiency, and customer service.

That’s exactly what happened between the Department of Transportation’s Fleet Administration and King County Information Technology’s Radio Communication Services (RCS).

Both RCS and Fleet work on County vehicles, including all Sheriff’s Office vehicles. RCS is primarily responsible for installing radios and hooking up lighting, and Fleet is responsible for maintaining the vehicles and installing additional add-ons required by the Sheriff’s Office.

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