Seeking Public Servants
by our Prosecutor Mark Lindquist, first published in The Tacoma Weekly
Walt Bettinger, the chief operating officer of Charles Schwab & Company, sometimes takes job candidates to breakfast. Before the meal arrives, Bettinger asks the restaurant manager to botch the applicant’s order.
For example, instead of the pancakes and orange juice she ordered, the applicant could be served bacon and a banana shake.
This, of course, is a test.
How does the applicant react? Is there anger? Is there a scene? Does it throw the candidate off-kilter?
Or does the applicant respond with coolness and grace?
As F. Scott Fitzgerald said, action is character. One of the most important lessons I’ve learned in nine years as your elected prosecutor is to hire character with competence.
I personally interview all of the finalists. The future of our office depends on hiring talented, diverse, service-minded people with integrity.
The safety of our community also depends on this.
We best serve the community, we best protect the community, we best keep the community safe when we hire the best people.
Based on experience, we have condensed what we are looking for into three criteria we call the trifecta: good worker, good colleague, good emissary.
A good worker is someone who has the skills to do the job well. If a candidate is a finalist meeting with me, they almost certainly qualify.
A good colleague is someone who can do the job well and also help those around them excel. Good colleagues are team players. They treat everyone respectfully. They understand the job isn’t about them, it’s about serving the public.
A good emissary is someone who can do the job well, help their colleagues do their job well, and represent the office well to the public we serve.
In this noisy era of fact-free politics, it is especially important that public servants let the community know what their government is doing for them. The antidote to misinformation is information.
We also have to listen.
Last year, I spoke with approximately 200 community groups. I listened, I learned, and we made adjustments in the office based on feedback from our constituents. Everyone in our office is expected to communicate with the public to some degree.
People from the community serve on our juries and elect the county council members who set our budget. We earn their confidence through action, including communication and responsiveness.
We have a staff of about 220. Many were hired long ago. A few have struggled with our demanding standards and our culture of public service. We are progressing from the trial warrior culture of the past to the public service culture of the future.
Public service is not for everyone.
It’s a tough job. You’re always busy, you’re sometimes maligned. People can burn out. To survive and excel, you cannot let bacon and a banana shake throw you off-kilter. You have to find grace.
You will not make everyone happy.
If you want to make everyone happy, sell ice cream.
Like many organizations, we use character-driven interview questions designed to distinguish positive people from negative people, learners from blamers, hard workers from slackers. You can guess who successful organizations prefer to hire.
Every year, some people retire or move on. We are often hiring. We want our office to reflect the diverse community we serve. We are always changing and growing and improving.
As Arnold Schwarzenegger, who has had a few cool careers, said, “I guarantee you will discover that while public service improves the lives and the world around you, its greatest reward is the enrichment and new meaning it will bring your own life.”
If the ecstasy and occasional agony of public service appeal to you, if you want to help us keep our community safe and strong, if you can be a good worker, a good colleague, and a good emissary, then you should consider applying to our office.
If you’re a finalist, maybe I’ll take you out for breakfast.
A career prosecutor with more than 22 years of service, Mark Lindquist is our Pierce County Prosecutor. He was appointed in 2009, elected in 2010, and reelected in 2014.
Have a Pleasant New Year
By our Prosecutor Mark Lindquist, first published in The Tacoma Weekly
“Years ago, my mother used to say to me, ‘In this world, you must be oh so smart, or oh so pleasant.’ Well, for years I was smart. I recommend pleasant. You may quote me.”
I’m quoting Elwood P. Dowd, the hero of “Harvey.” This classic holiday movie starring Jimmy Stewart is about a dipsomaniac and an invisible, six-foot, three-and-a-half-inch tall rabbit. Elwood P. Dowd says things like, “I’ve wrestled with reality for 35 years, Doctor, and I’m happy to state I won out over it.”
This is not the sort of stuff you would expect a serious candidate to quote on his Facebook page, but I know a candidate who did.
The candidate, Mark Roe, was a friend of mine in college. We bummed around Europe together in the early ’80s. He was appointed as Snohomish County Prosecutor in December of ’09 and ran for election in ’10. I was appointed as Pierce County Prosecutor in September ’09 and was also on the ballot in ‘10.
We didn’t plan this.
That campaign season, we talked a lot. I probably should have advised Roe against quoting an eccentric tippler, but I didn’t. I thought it was so original for a political campaign, and so authentic, that it worked.
Roe’s faithfulness to pleasantness wavered only once that I know of during his campaign. He called to say, “My opponents keep lying about me.”
Welcome to the club, I almost said.
Instead, I advised him to stick with his Elwood P. Dowd philosophy of pleasant. Roe did. He found campaign Zen and won easily.
In Roe’s younger years, he was concerned with demonstrating how smart he was. Unlike most people who do this, Roe truly is smart. He is so smart that he figured out that pleasant is more important.
I had this epiphany later in life than Roe. Timing is everything, as they say, and I was open to the concept in the summer of 2010. The death of my brother in June and the birth of my daughter in August was a yin-yang wake-up call.
Life is short and uncertain.
After serving three terms, one partial and two full, Roe and I are both up for our fourth term in 2018. Roe, however, is not running. The reality of public service may not be as pleasant as it once was, but I cannot say to what degree this affected Roe’s decision to retire. I can say I still love serving. Even the things about the job I don’t like, I still love.
When I need the philosophy of pleasantness affirmed, I turn to Marcus Aurelius, my favorite stoic. “Begin each day by telling yourself: Today I shall be meeting interference, ingratitude, insolence, disloyalty, ill-will, and selfishness — all of them due to the offenders’ ignorance of what is good and evil.” He goes on to charitably note that none of these things can injure him because we are all brothers and he cannot be angry with his brethren.
In other words, be relentlessly pleasant.
I have long been into New Year’s resolutions. Historically, my resolutions were a typical laundry list: read more books, quit watching bad movies, appreciate beauty, use sunscreen, and so on.
In my thirties my resolutions were about the length of “The Great Gatsby,” which is short for a novel but long for a to-do list. So I began honing them. Rather than resolutions, the list became one of guiding principles, how to best fight the good fight.
I eventually thinned it to three: live with integrity, practice gratitude, be a person on whom nothing is lost.
Thanks to Elwood P. Dowd and Mark Roe, I’ve added be pleasant. Pleasantness is how Elwood P. Dowd “won out” over reality.
It’s smart to be pleasant.
You may quote me.
Mark Lindquist is our Pierce County Prosecutor. A career prosecutor with more than 22 years of service, he was appointed in 2009, elected in 2010, and re-elected in 2014.
BUILDING A SAFE COMMUNITY
By our Prosecutor Mark Lindquist, first published in The Tacoma Weekly
One of the joys of being a dad is reading to our daughter. She laughs at Dr. Seuss and is fascinated by the “Wild Things.” Like millions of other children, she also loves “The Three Little Pigs,” a fable about hard work and safety.
Mom sends the three siblings out into the world where there are dangers, as represented by the big bad wolf. The first two pigs build their houses quickly, one with straw, the other with sticks. They both become wolf lunch.
The third sibling, in contrast, works hard and builds his house with bricks. He stays safe. The lasting appeal of this fable speaks to everyone’s fundamental need for safety, which is the cornerstone of well-being for any community.
As your Prosecutor, my job is to keep our community safe. Keeping you safe is not my only duty as the people’s lawyer, but it is my main duty. Our office protects you in a variety of ways, some old-fashioned, some innovative. It’s all part of a brick-solid foundation.
I’ll be discussing our numerous public safety initiatives in this column. This is a preview of some of our efforts to protect you and your family, which I’ll cover in more detail in future columns.
PROTECTING VULNERABLE ADULTS
As our population ages, our vulnerable elders need greater protections. In 2011, I formed an Elder Abuse Unit. We have become leaders in both the prosecution and prevention of elder abuse. In 2016, our office was one of only nine counties in the country to win an award from the Department of Justice of nearly $400,000. These funds are being used to coordinate a comprehensive approach to protecting elders and other vulnerable adults.
HIGH PRIORITY OFFENDER PROGRAM (HPO)
HPO is a new data-driven program where we focus resources on the small percentage of criminals who cause a large percentage of crimes. In crime, as in life, it’s a small group of bad actors causing most of the problems. That’s not new, that’s common sense. What’s new is how we are using data and technology to identify these career criminals and high-impact offenders, tag them in the system, and remove them from our streets. This new program has already reduced crime and made us safer.
REDUCING GANG VIOLENCE
Gang violence in Pierce County is down more than 60% since we formed a specialized Gang Unit to vigorously prosecute violent street gangs. We successfully used conspiracy charges, gun charges, and other tools to hold violent gang members accountable. We also work with local government and non-profit partners to prevent gang violence by steering our youth away from street gangs.
HUMAN SEX TRAFFICKING
The average age for children coerced into the sex trade is 12-13. Many of them are runaways who were sexually abused as children. To protect these vulnerable victims, we vigorously prosecute their abusers. We also work with our partners to support victims and assist them in finding alternatives to the sex trade.
FIGHTING FOR FAIR SHARE
For decades, the Department of Corrections (DOC) used Pierce County as a dumping ground for offenders from other counties. With “fair share” legislation, we stopped the dumping. This year, DOC closed Rap-Lincoln, a work release facility that drew offenders here from around the state. Further, we reached an agreement with DOC that any replacement facility would not be in our county. We remain vigilant so our county is never again a dumping ground.
Many crimes are driven by drugs, mental health issues, or some combination. As an alternative to traditional prosecution, we have a progressive drug court, a veteran’s track in drug court, and a mental health court. By balancing accountability and compassion, we offer help to non-violent offenders willing to seek treatment.
Juveniles and adults are different and therefore we treat them differently. The primary goal of the juvenile justice system is rehabilitation. We hold juveniles accountable, and also provide them with support and guidance. We use innovative, evidence-based programs to help juveniles grow into productive members of our community. This is yet another example of smartly and effectively using our limited resources to keep our community safe. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.
SERVING THE PUBLIC
I’m also proactive in other criminal justice system issues, including legislation to improve public safety and equal access to justice. Our justice system should be fair, free of bias, and serve all of our people well.
One of my goals as your prosecutor is to cultivate a culture of effective public service. Our office leaders expect high performance and high standards from our staff and will fight for what’s right.
Pierce County is booming. Population is up, crime is down. Our brick foundation is solid. As your Prosecutor, I am committed to keeping Pierce County safe and strong.
Mark Lindquist is our Pierce County Prosecutor. A career prosecutor with more than 20 years of service in the office, he was appointed in 2009, elected in 2010 and reelected in 2014.