It’s something of a symbolic gesture, but new Pierce County Executive Bruce Dammeier plans to submit all of his recently named department heads for confirmation by the County Council, despite their familiar faces.
“I am sending all of the new leadership team up for confirmation — even if they’ve been there before,” Dammeier said in an interview this week. “It’s about honoring the process.”
The team, announced Jan. 24 by Dammeier’s office, isn’t exactly new. All the players held similar positions under former executive Pat McCarthy, a Democrat. Most will continue in the same roles under Dammeier’s Republican administration, with a few significant wrinkles.
The biggest changes involve the consolidation of four departments into two. Planning and Land Services will combine with Public Works to form one agency: the Planning and Public Works Department. Information Technology, formerly its own department, will merge with the Budget and Finance Department.
The byproducts of the consolidations include the departure of two department heads. Longtime public works director Brian Ziegler will retire. Dennis Hanberg, director of Planning and Land Services, will take the helm of the new combined agency.
IT director Linda Gerull also is gone; Gary Robinson, head of Budget and Finance, will lead the new version of the agency. The county is seeking a new risk manager, following the retirement of Mark Maenhout.
Longtime Public Works director Brian Ziegler will retire. Dennis Hanberg, director of Planning and Land Services, will take the helm of both agencies. IT director Linda Gerull is gone; Gary Robinson, head of Budget and Finance, will lead the new version of the agency.
The decisions followed an evaluation and analysis by an outside consultant, as well as Dammeier’s vision of more streamlined service delivery.
“One of the important things I wanted to do was consolidate all of the permitting under one person who’s accountable for it,” he said, explaining the merger of Public Works and PALS under Hanberg. “We’ll get more timely, more accurate and more kind of streamlined solutions, which affects the county culture of getting good answers out more quickly.”
Dammeier said he wanted stronger leadership in Information Technology, and he believes Robinson, who has a background in that area as well as budgeting, meets the need.
“Gary will be providing that strategic overview that’s important,” he said.
One more department head is moving to another position within the county. Tony Tipton, former director of Parks and Recreation, will move into the Budget and Finance Department under Robinson. Scott Hall will serve as interim leader of Parks and Recreation until Dammeier selects a replacement.
We’ll get more timely, more accurate and more kind of streamlined solutions, which affects the county culture of getting good answers out more quickly.
Bruce Dammeier, Pierce County Executive
In another move intended to “break down silos,” as Dammeier put it, the Facilities Management Department will take charge of all facilities — a process that started under McCarthy. Formerly, some of that responsibility fell to Public Works.
“We need to gain some efficiencies and more consistent approaches on those other support areas,” he said.
A former state senator, Dammeier is still adjusting to the rhythms of county government.
“The pace is different,” he said. “Obviously the Legislature, it’s 10,000 miles per hour. This pace as executive, it’s fast, but the meetings take longer, and they’re really good interactions. You don’t have 105 days (the time frame of a legislative session) to get things done.
“This is a four-year job, so part of that really shapes how we put our team in place. There’s pressure to move quickly, and you really have to fight that pressure. Better to make the right decision than the quick decision if they’re in conflict.”
There’s pressure to move quickly, and you really have to fight that pressure. Better to make the right decision than the quick decision if they’re in conflict.
Dammeier described the chain of command in his administration as a two-lane road. Dan Grimm, a former Democratic state treasurer who is Dammeier’s chief operating officer and second in command, will oversee services delivered to residents. Dammeier will handle internal services involving government and employees, such as human resources and communications, along with his broader administrative and budgeting duties.
The decision to send his department heads through the confirmation process, likely in mid-February, reflects the new executive’s desire to build a collaborative relationship with members of the Republican-led County Council.
“In the past, they felt that their confirmation responsibilities had been kind of worked around or disrespected,” Dammeier said.