Long-time employee retiring, reflects on his time with King County

This article is featured courtesy of Jamie Holter, Communications Manager, Department of Information Technology


Gary Hocking

Gary Hocking, a KCIT Service Delivery Manager, is retiring after 39 years with the County. He shares his journey through the IT sector, how he came to work with King County, as well as several of his proudest accomplishments and his advice for the next person to fill his shoes.

What’s changed in 39 years? That is a question that is really pretty easy to answer: Just about everything, except the people. The folks that I’ve been privileged to work with in my career have all taken pride in the work they do and the resulting benefits to our community. Everything else in King County has changed though.

Looking back

In 1978, I started working at the Kingdome. John Spellman was County Executive. There were no computers and no networks. The only enterprise system in the County was the mainframe. The scoreboard system in the stadium was the closest thing there was to a computer in that facility. It filled a room and took 3 people to operate. All work was done on paper. Copies were made using carbon paper or pre-printed multi-part forms.

Then things began to change in the early 1980’s. First, a company called BASS (the precursor to Ticketmaster) came to town with a computer system that printed tickets as they were purchased. The Kingdome was such a huge venue for events, that BASS set up their office across the street and we installed their terminals at all of our ticketing windows. Concurrently, the first PC’s were developed, and the stadium acquired one (a Tandy TRS-80) for me to use in accounting for ticket sales associated with the 1984 NCAA Final Four hosted at the Kingdome. That proved successful, and the TRS-80 was replaced with a Compaq PC, a database application called D: base, WordPerfect, and Lotus 1-2-3. We used these tools to account for ticket assignments for the next NCAA Final Four the Kingdome hosted in 1989. This was also about when other staff at the Kingdome concluded that the use of computers would make their jobs easier.

Pretty soon, everyone had a computer and printer, but we were still printing everything we needed to share with each other. Then we heard about a small group in the King County courthouse who had installed a network to connect their computers and used a server as a place where everyone could store and share files. Since I’d worked with computers the most, the Kingdome management asked me to figure out how to do the same thing at the stadium. The County IT department was still only running the mainframe, so we were on our own.

This started a huge learning experience for me, and eventually a career course change. Collaborating with the IT folks in the County courthouse, attending courses on my own time, and reading, I learned about networking, the Novell Netware server operating system, and Microsoft MS-DOS for our PC’s. Being the only “IT” person at the stadium, I got to do everything – lay cable for the networks, setup the servers, setup the office PC’s, etc. I even got to install and manage one of the early email systems, but all of this was just running within the Kingdome, and I was still splitting my time between doing event management and IT work.

A new chapter

Then the person who was my manager at the Kingdome became the deputy director of the County’s Department of Public Works. In 1993, she called and asked if I would be interested in doing just IT work for her new department. That was an easy answer – yes. But I was walking in to a department many times the size of the Kingdome with offices in many different places. They had lots of PC’s but no networks and no servers, and I was the only IT person. Working with some new County contractors, we managed the installation of networks at all of the worksites, so then we had a bunch of network silos.

At about this time, the County merged with Metro. Metro had some IT folks who had setup a network connecting their sites. In 1996, a team made up of IT folks from the across the County and the former Metro group collaborated to setup the first County enterprise-wide area network. I was fortunate to be able to work on this team, which was another massive learning experience for me.

Over time, the department of Public Works grew out its own IT staff. Since I was the first hire, I was the supervisor/manager. The County reorganized, changing the makeup of Public Works and renaming it The Department of Natural Resources and Parks.

In 2001, Executive Ron Sims asked Wayne Watanabe (my peer in DOT at the time) and me to lead a reorganization of the County GIS program. This resulted in the formation of the King County GIS Center. The Executive decided to house the new GIS Center in DNRP, so they became part of the IT team I was managing.

Shortly after the King County GIS Center was in place, we started our slow progress on reorganizing all of IT in to one County department. It took until 2011, but here we are now.

Proudest accomplishments

None of these I can say I was solely responsible for, but to me, they are:

  1. While it’s not work related at all, my two sons have grown up to be fantastic young men.
  2. Managing ticketing for huge events at the Kingdome like the NCAA final four in ’84, ’89, big concerts, etc.
  3. Working on the team that implemented the first King County enterprise-wide network.
  4. Helping create the King County GIS Center – a hugely gifted group of folks, and an asset for the whole County.
  5. Being part of the formation of KCIT – we still have a long way to go to reach excellence in all of our service areas, but as long as we follow our own words on how to achieve excellence, we will.

For the next person to step into my role, I have one rule of advice: The world around us is always changing. To be successful, you have to embrace change and help shape it.