I have hit 30 plus days in office and I’ve had a lot of information to absorb. During this time I have met many talented people who work for the county and who’ve organized my office space. I’m still trying to get used to a new dress code of wearing dress shoes and ties compared to jeans and work boots. I feel that I have learned a lot up to this point, but after a three-day seminar for new commissioners held in Columbus by the County Commissioners Association of Ohio (CCAO) it has become very apparent that there is so much more.
This past election year brought in over 50 new commissioners across the state; that is almost 20 percent newly elected officials taking on new responsibilities. With this many new faces in county offices, we are all facing a learning curve, but are up to the challenge knowing we are supported by an association that supplies information and experience as the CCAO does.
I have found that anytime you attend an association meeting, of any kind, you get to meet with fellow peers to share information about what is happening from their part of the state. It is not the class time, the meals, or stacks of paperwork you’re sent home with to further review, but it is the down time between sessions, at lunch, and the evenings that you get to share ideas with others from across this great state. The CCAO has done an excellent job on the lineup for this workshop that covered every aspect of what it means to be a commissioner and what our responsibilities are. The major take away from the conference was that I am honored to serve a county that is far ahead of the norm throughout the state.
From discussions with others that attended this program, some commissioners only see each other in session, some don’t share offices, some commissioners actually have to make appointments with each other to meet, some only hold office hours shortly before and shortly after session, some mow the lawn on county properties, some don’t know where all their county properties are. These conversations have me wondering how good of representation do the citizens have in those counties?
Here in Darke County the commissioners share an office, we talk with other elected officials to work out find ways to be frugal with the spending, we know your name, family, and neighbors when you come to see us or we pass you on the street and we genuinely care about what happens in this county and want to help it grow for the next generation. Typically you can’t see large changes or results right away, but future planning and taking small bites at a time to spread the cost over many years rather than having to lay it all out at once will show results over time.
A major difference I have found that makes us stand beyond the majority is our staffed departments of economic development and grants. Both are specialized to grow the county in different ways, but are vital for the growth. The economic development office is there to help businesses and bring new development come to the county and to provide jobs. While our grant department is here to bring funds to our county, to update properties, provide funding to municipalities, and provide services throughout the community. Both of these have been in place for years and we are lucky that we have competent and capable staff to push Darke County forward. Some other counties, have no one hired or are just now starting to set up these departments.
The top technical sessions that were covered were the sunshine law, ethics, and budgeting. A perfect quote to go along with these topics I first read in Merriam-Webster’s dictionary: “Being a politician these days means living in a fishbowl—every part of your life is open to public view.”
Sunshine Law are just that. Everything we do, except for a couple of rare exclusions allowed by law, is done out in the open (sunshine) for the public to view what is going on. Ethics follows along similar lines to the Golden Rule “Do unto others as you wish done upon yourself” or more simply “Do what is right.”
When it comes to budgeting, I stated previously that we surround ourselves with people who do what is best for the county, are very conservative with the money, and try to make the best choices for the future of our county. Under these budgeting guidelines, there are many moving parts to our county that many probably do not see , but are vital. The upkeep of buildings, care of families, and safety of our community, to list a few.
We are fortunate to have the people we do, citizens we have, and the businesses that are here in our county. We have a board of commissioners that talk to each other, are conservative with county funds, enjoy working together, and are trying to do the best for Darke County. I’m looking forward to the next four years in office and what I and the other elected officials are doing to maintain and grow our county.
Matt Aultman is a Darke County Commissioner. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org Viewpoints expressed in the article are the work of the author. The Daily Advocate does not endorse these viewpoints or the independent activities of the author.