Brian Ziegler
Public Works and Utilities Director
Pierce County, Wash.

Brian Ziegler's a busy guy. His list of responsibilities includes roadway planning, design, construction, maintenance, and operations; managing a ferry system and two airports; wastewater collection and treatment for 60,000 customers; solid waste; and overseeing a storm-water management and construction program serving rural property owners.

“Brian came to the department with five initiatives: employee safety and development, quality and process improvement, accountability, communication, and project delivery. This focus guides us so we don't get off track while working to meet goals,” says Sandra Pedigo-Marshall, communication and accountability manager of Pierce County Public Works and Utilities.

Around 2007, the department was experiencing a lot of turnover. Rather than having outgoing employees complete the infamous exit survey, Ziegler implemented the “stay survey” for all employees.

“Instead of figuring out why people left, Brian wanted to know what the department could do to encourage retention. This gave employees a chance to tell upper management where to shift focus to make the department a better place to work,” says Toby Rickman, deputy director of public works and utilities.

After the results were in, management — under Ziegler's direction — made improvements and implemented changes in the department's strategic plan. Employee recognition procedures, for example, were refocused to acknowledge education, certificates, and licenses, and encourage employees to participate on national committees and boards. Once employees saw action on behalf of their feedback, they felt empowered to help make positive changes.