COUNTY CONNECTIONS: Primum Octavus
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COOK COUNTY, MINNESOTA - July 26, 2019 (LSN) People often ask if I like being a commissioner. I do. I enjoy it quite a lot. Assign me nearly any task, though, and I will do my best to enjoy it.
One of my favorite aspects of the job is learning from friends and neighbors around town and the county as well as from other commissioners and county staff from around the state. It is wonderful how other people’s experiences can help me see bigger pictures. They can help me see our own challenges from different angles, potentially revealing opportunities or solutions not otherwise seen from my singular, individual perspective.
Listening to other perspectives can completely change the way I look at things. A column in a publication, a social media post, and a conversation at the store all help shape my understanding of where people are coming from and the challenges they face. I find it important to listen to as many people as I can in effort to approach the common truth. I try to ask any relevant questions I have, because information out of context can easily lead to a false narrative. Working together is not always an easy task. It is, perhaps, straight up challenging for some of the good, independently minded people we cherish in our community. We live together in a very small world. The better we can get along, the better off we’ll all be. I don’t expect us all to agree on any one topic, but I do expect us to respect each other in tone, words, and actions. Without this decency, I have a hard time taking perspectives seriously, as much as they may contain a part of the truth.
From what I’ve seen, heard, and learned locally and from around the state, I am proud of the team employed in Cook County. I have worked with nearly every department on some level, learning some of the needs they fill, the process that’s required, and the challenges that come up. The County is always doing a delicate dance between the State and the individual, trying our best to satisfy the whole without forgetting the part. It is by no means an easy job, though it may not necessarily be physically demanding. It is important that our customers and employees receive fair and just treatment. Statutes and policies intend just that, though they can also be frustrating without the context behind them. I’m not saying our team is flawless, without improvements to be made, but I am proud of the team we have, and the work being done. I am confident our staff and policies will continue to improve and strengthen going forward, learning from the mistakes and hardships of the past.
One of the hardest lessons I’m learning in this position is that I cannot do it all myself. Balancing the role of a commissioner with building a house, being a father and husband, and maintaining our income takes all that one with a better grasp of reality than I might expect. I rely on county staff daily to provide current information, historical perspective, and potential future outcomes. They schedule meetings, help develop agendas, keep records of discussions, decisions, and directives, and guide the Board away from (or through if necessary) legal scenarios that could have potentially disastrous outcomes for taxpayers if mis-stepped. Our staff helps the Board make the best, most informed decisions we can, and I value their perspectives greatly even if I disagree with them from time to time. They provide and organize the information I request and take the time to bounce ideas around with me. It significantly affects me when staff are mistreated, whether in person or in the media.
There is no place for the disrespect and abuse of our staff, particularly Administrator Cadwell. It is okay to disagree with the views and advice of staff, but please send your grievances to the County Board. It is our right to disagree and express ourselves, but personal attacks on staff are inappropriate. The burden to hear and respond to your feedback rests on the County Board, as we were elected. The Commissioners request, direct, and decide, and it is most certainly a team effort.
I always welcome honest and respectful feedback and will continue to listen and respond in turn. Thank you for taking the time to read my thoughts and observations. Thank you for electing me and thank you for being a part of this vibrant community!
Commissioner Mills can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or 218-370-8950
By: Commissioner Dave Mills, District 3
County Connections is a column on timely topics and service information from your Cook County government. Cook County – Supporting Community Through Quality Public Service