Driving County Roads

An on line journal sharing my views. The content reflects my background as a rural person employed in agriculture and as a retired elected official of local government.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Excerpts from Ledger Q and A

1. What is your job/role as a commissioner?

The job description for a county commissioner is that he/she is one of five chief executive officers of a county. Another way to explain it is that a county commissioner wears three different hats at various times. Example.

Executive Hat - this hat is worn when the commissioners develop and set budgets, negotiate contracts, hire and fire employees, etc.
Legislative Hat - this hat is worn when the commissioners develop and administer county ordinances i.e. zoning ordinance, solid waste ordinance etc.
Judicial Hat - this hat is worn when the county commissioners set as the drainage authority and are called upon to administer the drainage statutes when landowners request maintenance, repairs, or improvements to their ditches.

2. What have you taken away or learned from your experience as a commissioner?

Counties were created to be partners with the state. Counties do the work of the state (St. Paul) - but they do it in 87 different parts of the state. Unlike cities, counties are more closely aligned with state government in that over 65% of the work of the counties is mandated by the state. A county does what the state tells it to do -- many times without much help (funds) from the state. Property taxes are the main funding source for this work.

There are no easy answers to governmental issues. it is extremely hard for a citizen to have a thorough understanding of why local governments do what they do. Issues that should be black and white - seldom are. The devil is always in the details and almost all of the time, misunderstandings of county actions occur because of a lack of understanding of the intricate nature of mandates, laws, and procedures under which counties operate.

3. Sum up your experience as a commissioner.

Local government is sometimes difficult to understand. During my time as commissioner, the idea of educating the public about what local governments do came up time and time again. I did some investigation and found that no one had developed a curriculum to teach about local units of government. Since I have a background in education, I decided to develop a curriculum that dealt with local government: townships, school districts, cities, and counties. In 2006 I completed the curriculum and offered the class through St. Peter Community Education. Unfortunately only two people were interested enough to sign up for the class.

I have enjoyed serving the citizens of Nicollet County. I have looked on my 16 years as "earning another college degree". I ran for office to give back to the county and I truly feel I have received more than I have given back. END


At Saturday, January 29, 2011 6:27:00 PM, Anonymous Linda said...

Judy, I enjoyed reading the article about your retirement in the Lafayette paper. It's been nice working with you in the past on the TdS board. Best wishes in your future endeavors.


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