Commissioners complete County College program
Taking on a role in county government for the first time can be a bit daunting.
Brian Barney, who was appointed commissioner in February, can attest to this.
"It is a bit overwhelming," he admits. "The county is huge."
His fellow rookie colleague Jerry Brummer agrees. Having won his position by election, he had roughly a one month head start on Barney, but he acknowledges that the job comes with many responsibilities.
"The challenge for me is the fact that there are 23 different departments in the county," he said, "so you have got to be versed on so many different things. You have to know a little bit about everything."
To help ease the transition, Brummer and Barney joined more than 30 other newly elected or appointed county commissioners throughout the state at County College. Provided by the Association of Oregon Counties, the course takes place during 13 days and covers a variety of topics relevant to county government.
"You get a pretty big, broad spectrum of county government and all aspects of it," Barney said. "It was educational, and what I got out of it mostly is how accurate the education is."
Brummer added that the classes, which were held on 13 separate days in several Oregon cities, covered everything from public safety, leadership and finance to infrastructure, bidding processes, human services and bonding.
"It was the whole gamut of things that you have to deal with as a county commissioner," he remarked.
Going into County College, Brummer was told by some people that he may not need to attend because of his years working in the public realm. He spent many years supervising the City of Prineville's public works department and has served on multiple public boards, including the county planning commission.
"But I got a lot out of it," he found. "A lot of it may have been refresher stuff, but any of these things that you go to you are going to learn. It has some value, that is for sure."
The commissioners also praised the networking that County College provided them. They learned that many counties face the same issues as Crook County and have employed different strategies to deal with them.
At the same time, each county is different. Brummer recalls a Sherman County commissioner saying its population was 2,000 people and is served by nine county employees. A Clackamas County commissioner later said that 435,000 people live within its borders and 2,000 of them — the same amount as the entire population of Sherman County — work as county employees.
"That is an eye-opening experience," he said.
Barney went on to praise the camaraderie the County College fostered. He noted that people came from all different areas and political leanings, but the group came together during the sessions.
"In today's political climate, there is so much anger and people fighting back and forth," he noted. "We had conservatives and we had liberals with different viewpoints, but what was interesting at the end of the class is they were together. People had a better insight of working together and realizing the problems."
At its conclusion, both commissioners felt they were better served for attending the County College. Brummer not only felt it benefitted him and Barney as they begin their journey in county government, but could benefit anybody who is considering work in public service.
"I would recommend it for any elected official," he said.