RALS launches Leadership Fellowship in lieu of traditional hiring  

Organizations small and large are always on the lookout for top talent, and King County is no exception. Our organization employs some of the brightest, forward-thinking people in the nation who work every day to make King County a great to live, visit and work.

Not only does King County draw talent from our community and across the country, it is also developing in-house talent through the Investing in You strategy.

Recently, Records and Licensing Services Division launched a Leadership Fellowship pilot program in lieu of permanently filling their deputy director vacancy. The fellowship is a countermeasure to traditional recruitment to ensure that County employees are provided opportunities to grow into leadership careers.

RALS Director Norm Alberg chose to forego the traditional recruitment process, and instead implemented a tailored fellowship development plan for the two selected fellows, covering a “five bucket framework” of competencies in leadership, operations, human resources, finance and organizational development.

“I needed to change my expectation from doing a traditional hiring process that was looking for somebody to hit the ground running with all the tools in their toolkit, to creating a development opportunity where someone can gain some of the tools that they might not have, and develop them for future senior leadership positions,” Norm said. “I believe organizational leadership has the responsibility to establish more development opportunities for our employees, and utilizing our Deputy Director vacancy provided RALS with a great opportunity to try something new.”

Senior Human Resources Analyst Robert James led the executive level recruitment for the fellowship.

“The leadership program is tailored to their own development plan,” Robert said. “We expose them to the areas where they feel they need improvement.”

Out of 18 applicants, two County employees, Maria Laird and Robert Tovar, successfully completed the rigorous interview process and were selected as the two fellows for RALS Deputy Director.

Each fellow will have six months to act as a Senior Operations Manager. Maria Laird started her fellowship in September, and will be focusing on operations and human resources. Robert Tovar’s fellowship will start March 2018, as he looks to bolster his organizational development and financial acumen.

“This leadership fellowship is a prime example of Investing in You because we are responding to employee survey feedback,” Robert said. “Employees have expressed that they’re looking for promotional opportunities, especially in leadership positions.”

RALS leadership fellowship is a new, innovative approach for building the next bench of senior leaders, which will be monitored and tweaked for future fellowships to ensure that County departments are striving for continuous improvement.

Minor adjustments were addressed at the conclusion of the recruitment process: RALS anticipated more employee applications for the fellowship; and candidates needed a more flexible start date to ensure their department filled their vacancies with a special duty assignment.

Above all, fellowship candidates shared positive feedback regarding the recruitment process and the learning opportunity. Candidates also found it beneficial that Norm was actively involved in both rounds.

Outreach was supported through Department of Executive Services communications and the Employee News e-newsletter. The hiring committee identified leadership-ready and interested professionals, and also sees a window of opportunity for more involvement from countywide leadership to encourage their employees to apply.

“Much like the Bridge Fellowship and the other training and development plans that we’ve put together, this would certainly be an example of Investing in You and walking the talk,” Norm said.

Please join us in welcoming Maria and Robert, and supporting them in their new assignments. 

Maria Lairdcurrently Operations Support Manager for the Department of Public Health

Maria has served King County for 16 years, demonstrating skills and growth in managing operations and continuous improvement. She is committed to employee engagement and workforce development. Maria’s journey began as a frontline supervisor, managing two Public Health dental clinics, then becoming the program manager responsible for budget and operations support for five clinics across King County. For the last four years, Maria has managed central operations for 10 Public Health Centers.




Robert Tovar, currently a Program Manager with DNRP’s Wastewater Treatment Division.

In his 18 years with King County, Robert has developed experience leading employees and stakeholders through strategic planning, policy development, and organizational development and employee engagement projects. Robert began his WTD career in the Director’s Office, leading a major reorganizational effort. Robert has also worked in Operations, Resource Recovery, and in WTD’s Human Resources section.