Happy New Year. Since my swearing in last January, I have been drinking through the firehose of all things Valley County. I have worked diligently to educate myself on the different departments within the county, county employees and their positions, and most importantly the daily business at the Courthouse and many responsibilities of a Commissioner.
During my first months as a Commissioner, I attended several Elected Official Training sessions put on by the Idaho Association of Counties (IAC), and attended their winter and fall conferences. When a new Commissioner is elected, the Commission does a review of committee assignments. These committees constitute a large portion of our Commissioner duties. I was appointed as the Valley County representative for the following groups: Western Idaho Community Action Program, Valley County Community Action Program, USFS Winter Recreation Forum, Payette Forest Coalition, West Central Mountain Economic Development Council, the USFS Midas Collaborative Working Group, Waterways Advisory Group, and the Snowmobile Grooming Advisory Group.
In addition to the above, I serve on the Idaho Association of Counties committee on the Environment, Energy and Land Use. I have also been following and attending the IAC Legislative Committee meetings and the Public Lands Committee. These Committees are made up of Elected Officials from across the state and have been my first glimpse at how County Officials can introduce resolutions and influence state legislation. It has also been my first inside glimpse at partisan politics and what it feels like to be a minority.
As you may remember, I was elected in the midst of two contentious issues; one being the Community Partnership Agreement with Midas Gold and the other the creation of a waterways ordinance to protect and manage our local lakes and rivers. While the Midas Agreement has since been retracted, the Waterways issue is ongoing. I am hopeful that we will replace the 08-01 ordinance that was repealed during the 2019 discussions in the next few months. Currently we are waiting to see if the State Legislature is going to move forward with the creation of new, statewide waterways legislation before we can proceed with a county wide ordinance.
In addition to the above, the Board of Commissioners has seen an abnormal amount of complexities surrounding normal county issues including; the creation and balancing of our annual budget, property tax assessments and appeals, Idaho Department of Land leases within the County, Planning and Zoning appeals, public and private lands access, Road Department funding, USFS FRTA requests and road ownership reviews, and the demise and subsequent temporary reinstatement of Secure Rural Schools Funding.
While not as complex as the above issues, I have been spearheading the efforts to help resolve the current problems with our local recycling program. Progress has been slow, however, I do think we are getting close to seeing some real improvements beginning with a better understanding of how the program can work more efficiently and by moving it to a centralized collection facility for the summer of 2020.
As if the above isn’t enough to keep us busy, 2019 had an unusually high amount of employee issues. I am proud to say that we have made significant progress on this front by working with our Human Resources Director, the Prosecuting Attorney’s office, elected officials and the department heads to identify and address these issues and develop plans to cultivate a positive and effective work environment. Your commissioners are engaged and much more involved in the day-to-day activities of employees. As a team we have re-written handbooks, redefined policies, positions/job descriptions and worked to improve interdepartmental relationships.
As many know, the resignation of Chairman Cruickshank from the Board came as a surprise this fall, but the addition of Sherry Maupin has been a positive step towards strengthening and diversifying the Board of Commissioners. Commissioner Maupin brings a focus on fiscal responsibility and strategic planning to the Board, and the appointment of Elt Hasbrouck to the Chairman position has brought a different perspective to the team. Over the last year, I have appreciated his insight, candid nature and historical knowledge of Valley County. Despite our differences, the current board is working extremely well together, and proactively addressing issues that have been unresolved for quite some time.
I strive to do better for our constituents. With the establishment of regular office hours for the Commissioners, greater involvement in daily business and an open door policy for employees and public alike, I think we are moving in the right direction. The last and most important step that we are trying to move forward with is more public involvement on issues that affect us. The increase in public forums and open houses has been well received but unless we hear from you, we don’t know where you stand and whether we are representing your best interests.
The past year has been a wild ride and tremendous learning curve yet I have enjoyed getting to know the process of how our County government functions and the people who assist the Commissioners in that process. I hope to continue to hear from you, learn and serve your interests as we move forward and address the many issues that will come with a new year. Please feel free to reach out to me for a meeting, conversation, or just to share your thoughts.
Best wishes for 2020!
Valley County Board of Commissioners