For the past 32 years, I’ve had the wonderful opportunity to work for Douglas County, most recently functioning as the department head for four separate county departments (IT, Building Facilities, Land/Timber and Radio Communications).
During this time, it’s afforded me the great opportunity to work directly with and for 13 different county commissioners. That’s a lot of commissioners and allows me a unique perspective on how our local government operates. It’s allowed me to see the exceptional value our three full-time elected commissioner positions bring to our county, a value that many times is not fully seen or realized by the public in general. As such, I’m personally fearful that changing to a Home Rule Charter and losing full-time working commissioners to part-time volunteer positions will have a detrimental financial effect on our county.
Over the years, I’ve personally watched our full-time commissioners work long and dedicated hours to secure funding opportunities for our county that a volunteer commissioner board and single county administrator simply will not have the time to pursue. For example, during just the past two years, our community has seen the Secure Rural Schools program expire. Thankfully, due to the dedicated efforts and committed work of Commissioner Tim Freeman, the county secured a renewal of this funding for another two years, which amounted to over $31 million in funding for our county.
Following the Umpqua Community College tragedy, our three commissioners rallied, and again through diligent efforts by all three, they secured over $200,000 from the state of Oregon, and helped receive a $1.2 million grant from the federal government, all to help support local victims programs here within our county and community.
This past year, I worked with and watched Commissioner Chris Boice apply for, and receive, a $1.2 million grant from the state to invest in security infrastructure upgrades in our very own aging Douglas County Justice building. Commissioner Gary Leif has spent endless hours working with private groups to try to find a community solution to keep our libraries open. Lastly, this past budget year the commissioners and the district attorney together worked to search out, find and secure $150,000 of private community funding to forego the elimination of a deputy DA position, and the very successful Mental Health Court program, both of which provide incredibly important services to our community.
The above are only a few examples of the numerous funding opportunities and dollars our county has received through the dedicated and stalwart efforts of our full-time commissioners. There is simply no way a single county administrator and volunteer commissioner board will have the time to dedicate to pursue these types of projects. As such, most of these types of specially funded dollars coming into the county budget will be lost should the Home Rule Charter pass.
I can attest through 32 years of experience working with 13 different commissioners, all of them work very hard and long hours as full-time servants of the community to find funding opportunities. Our commissioners have a thankless job, and that’s part of the job, but do understand the incredible revenues they bring into our county budget. Please realize the revenues that will be lost should these positions go away, and join me to vote “no” on the Home Rule Charter.