So what does a Commissioner do?
Updated: Feb 17, 2020
One of my friend’s daughters recently asked me: So Marsha,what does a County Commissioner do exactly? It is one of the best questions yet! Thanks Rachael. Here are my takes on the job and at the very end, read the official "Job Description":
Listening and then Leading
Almost every single issue that comes before the County Commissioners is complex with many viewpoints involved usually more than two. I am a professional meeting facilitator so listening is in my skill set.
Here are just a sampling of policy questions in the news lately:
* What level of "proving" water should be required before new development goes in?
* Should our County adopt "1041 Powers"? They allow the County and residents to have a say in projects that are "matters of State interest"?
* What are the County's role(s) in better addressing homelessness? And, should public funds be dedicated to implementing, with others, a strategic plan set to be released in Feb. '20?
* Should the Commission accept the 10 District Area Plans completed after almost two years of work by residents, the staff, and the Planning Commission?
* Upcoming: Should road impact fees be assessed for new development? If so, how would they be implemented fairly (note: this is an ongoing study)?
The breath and depth of these issues is wide and deep. So, to make good decisions, a Commissioner listens in formal ways (i.e, taking public testimony) but also through phone calls, talking with people, and paying attention to things happening across the county.
Oversight of Precious Tax Payers' Resources
The annual budget is prepared through a detailed process and is eventually voted on by the Commissioners. A budget reflects the priorities and values of the citizens. By law, it must be balanced. The document is so important because all funds spent come from tax payers' precious pocket books with a few exceptions such as when the County receives a private grant or gift. Importantly, the Commissioners set funding levels for the other elected officials' budgets including: Assessor, Clerk and Recorder, Coroner, District Attorney, Sheriff, Surveyor and Treasurer. With the County’s revenue situation making headlines, the budget will remain Job #1. If you want, you can read the La Plata County 2020 budget here: http://www.co.laplata.co.us/government/departments/finance___procurement/budgets
Linking with Staff & Keeping Roles Clear
In our county, unlike some, we have a full-time County Manager, a County Attorney, and 20 departments. The department heads and staff do the day-to-day work. Commissioners set policy and address the overall direction, the "big picture." Commissioners are paid and salaries are set by the State Legislature. It a full time job and I will drop all other endeavors if elected. Offices are in the County Admin. Building on 2nd Ave. in Dgo.
Speaking of...a few years ago, I gave all my consulting clients one of these mugs. As a professional facilitator, meetings are "my thing"...organizing them, planning them, leading them, helping groups arrive at agreement or a decision through other means (i.e. Robert's Rules).
Commissioners participate in many formal meetings each month and also are appointed to serve on most of the 40+ boards or commissions operated under the County Government structure. You can find the list here on the left under "Meeting Group": http://laplatacountyco.iqm2.com/Citizens/Default.aspx .
I do love meetings but feel strongly that they need to productive. Everyone needs to leave being heard and with a clear plan for the future.
Deal with Emergencies
As we all experienced with Missionary Ridge and "416" Wildfires or the Gold King Mine Spill in 2015, all of County Government becomes intricately involved. When a disaster hits, it's all hands on deck and other projects must be re-prioritized.
Working in Partnership
It is very important to network in all ways possible because running a County Government is about partnerships. There are common interests with other counties, and other levels of government (i.e., State and Federal), and other groups. By networking -- which takes, well, more meetings -- things can be accomplished that La Plata County cannot do alone.
My background in working with groups around complex and contentious public issues for 26 years is going to be beneficial to county residents, if elected. The skills I have gained in leading over 1,300 meetings with 100 groups will be used many ways on all days.
So thanks Rachael for asking this fundamental question. Those are the best kind.
Marsha for Commissioner
You can help me work for healthier communities and a good quality of life for all by joining my campaign.
Engage, Donate and Volunteer here: www.marshaporternorton.com
Contact me here: firstname.lastname@example.org or Phone: 970-403-5680
Facebook: Marsha for Commissioner@MPNfortheWIN
Here is the official Job Description as per the County's Web site:
The Board of County Commissioners (BOCC) consists of three elected officials, each representing a geographic district but all of whom are elected at large. As the governing body of the County, the BOCC performs legislative, budgetary and policy-making functions, administers the La Plata County Land Use System, and advocates for citizens at all levels of government. The BOCC establishes the vision and sets the direction for County government to plan for the future challenges that will face our community. The BOCC also appoints the County Attorney, who serves as legal counsel and adviser to the BOCC, and the County Manager, who performs executive functions including appointing and supervising department heads and hiring staff, coordinating and administering County programs, developing and maintaining intergovernmental relationships, drafting budgets, and advising the Board on policy matters.