With the goal of better serving residents in unincorporated areas, King County is establishing the Department of Local Services and last week named John Taylor as its first executive director.
The new department will begin operations on Jan. 1 and will include a permitting division for development permit review, code enforcement and planning; a road services division and the director’s office, which will include the Community Service Areas program.
“Executive Constantine wants to make sure that everyone who lives in unincorporated King County has their own version of a city hall, a hub that coordinates services that improve their quality of life,” Taylor said in a recent press release. “Having a new department dedicated to unincorporated communities will make it easier for us to deliver direct services that would be unmatched in any city.”
In a phone conversation last week, Taylor said he feels that he knows Vashon fairly well, as he is currently the assistant division director at King County’s Department of Natural Resources & Parks, which has done a lot of environmental restoration work on the island. Additionally, he has attended meetings of the Vashon-Maury Island Groundwater Protection Committee and King County’s town hall meetings. He said once the department is up and running, he believes residents of Vashon and the other unincorporated areas, some 250,000 people in all, will see improvements in county services.
“My hope is the difference they will see is more accountability, and that accountability will translate to better services,” he said.
Asked about some of the pressing island challenges, such as ferry services and health care, he said it is possible the new department could help address problems related to those areas.
“I think that … we can become a focal point for a lot of those inquiries. I do not know that having that focal point translates into solving all the problems, but my the hope is that with someone who can act as a clearinghouse and has a more comprehensive view of what is coming across the transom, you can look for ways to solve the most critical things first, and elevate them to the people who actually have the authority for decision making.”
He also expressed caution about the complexities of island health care and ferry service.
“If those were simple problem to solve, they would have been solved a long time ago,” he added.
Taylor said that a roll out for services has not been planned yet, but he expects there will be a meeting on Vashon, and also expects to make additional trips to the island.
“My approach is to just be out and about a lot,” he said.
Taylor, who earned his master’s degree in public administration, coordinated a 2017 agreement that aims to restore salmon habitat, strengthen the region’s agricultural economy and reduces flood risks in the Snoqualmie Valley.
The county has designated an email address for asking questions about or providing feedback regarding county services or the new department: firstname.lastname@example.org.