The World According to Rico – It’s hard being a local elected official

Oh my gosh, it’s not easy being a local elected official. I know this for certain because my mom does public information work for the county and she had to leave the commissioners’ meeting last week because of a prior commitment.

She stewed and fretted about not being there, but was resolved to knowing the hours-long budget conversation would be recorded and she could watch it, take notes and write about it later.

Unfortunately, for me personally, I had to participate then because I had to listen to all the serious conversations about spending, tax dollars, road graders, jail, ARPA, computers, insurance, cruisers, new hires, human resources, revenues, expenses, lid computations and God knows what else.

After about 15 minutes of laying on her feet, while she took notes, I had to move to my pillow and tune out.

It’s hard, being a county commissioner!

I’m just a puppy, but I’m telling you – their budget session went on for hours. Every once in a while, I’d wake up for a trip outside and Mom’s eyes were glazed over while she reached for another notebook. Other times, I’d play with my bear or my ferret or a multitude of other toys, just to distract myself from the conundrum of county business. Then I’d just pass out from all the stresses of creating a new budget.

Did you know there are more than 100 people employed by the county?

Did you know there are so many inmates in the county jail they can’t fit another person so the county has to house them elsewhere at a cost of $60 a day, per inmate?

Did you know health insurance and fuel and cruisers and bridges and paving and even chemicals to kill noxious weeds still keep going up in price?

Did you know there was a global virus a few years ago and the federal government sent a bunch of money here to make everyone feel better about it?

Did you know there is a presidential election next year so money has to be set aside to pay for voting day?

Did you know the county maintains 1,100 miles of rural roads, even though they’ve been understaffed for years?

Did you know state lawmakers keep passing requirements for the counties without any sources of money to locally pay for them, which I guess are called unfunded mandates?

Did you know there is a thing called an interlocal agreement and if they spend money on those types of contracts, they “fly under the lid?”

I don’t know what any of this means, but those people talking on my mom’s computer sure did. And my mom seemed to speak their language, which is good seeing how she writes down everything they talk about.

While I was more interested in my bed and play tire than what the levy will be in the next fiscal year, I did understand one thing. Local elected officials should be commended. On all levels – the county, the cities, the villages, the school boards, NRD boards, etc.

These are just normal people, willing to do this hard work on behalf of the other taxpayers, for very, very little pay. They do it because they see it as their civic duty and they care about their communities. They sometimes have to take criticism because not everyone will ever completely agree. They hear a lot of opinions and try to represent them all the best they can based on what they believe is the common good.

They have jobs and commitments, yet they take hours of their own lives to work through the complicated tasks of setting budgets, determining wages, setting policy and even the roadmap for the future of the place we call home.

At the end of the long, difficult meeting the other day, the county commissioners set another meeting date for Aug. 22 because more work has to be done. Mom will be physically present for that one, so I won’t be subjected to spending the afternoon with fiscal responsibility in my ears. But while they are away, in that room in the courthouse, I will think of them as they make more difficult decisions.

I think I have a lot to do, as I sleep and run and eat and chase butterflies and gnaw on dandelions and chew shoes. But those people sitting on those boards, especially at this time of year when there is so much at stake, they are the ones who have it tough.

I’ll say it again, it’s not easy being a local elected official. Even though, as a dog, I personally don’t pay taxes or vote, I still want to say thank you. I think everyone should.



Thanks for reading this article. content is free and never behind a paywall.
We believe in trustworthy, local journalism that is accessible to everyone.