Talent rarely rises to the top of an organizational chart. A great athlete plays the starting position, an unbelievable violinist sits in the first chair and a coding prodigy leads a team at a software company, but they aren’t the highest ranking officials. They are role players.
County commissioners are the highest ranking members in the organizational flowchart of county leadership. Democracy purists will rebut this saying the voters are, which is true in the collective sense, but much like a company’s board of directors has a greater influence than an individual shareholder so too does a county commissioner wield much more power than any one constituent.
The distinguishing personality trait that ascends someone to the top is the ability to problem solve.
An entrepreneur doesn’t have to be the most talented, but he or she does need to have the temperament to solve any of the seemingly endless number of complications any startup faces with an equal amount of endless ideas, and perhaps more importantly, patience.
Our current board is running thin on both especially when it comes to two issues: residential road resurfacing and the animal shelter.
Both were discussed in Tuesday’s meeting. The focus was on the animal shelter as residential road resurfacing has an upcoming public workshop.
Here’s a hard truth: some problems don’t have a clear solution even when a tremendous amount of resources have been expended to solve it.
This is incredibly difficult for entrepreneurs to believe because built into them is the fundamental American belief that anything can be solved with hard work. Sometimes, no matter how much hard work is put in, the answer still isn’t there.
Take the animal shelter for example. The board is considering spending nearly $1 million to fund an architectural plan for the proposed structure.
Initially, the funding source for this was from the roughly $2.2 million in donations that have been collected. That proposal was met with the reminder that the commission voted to use the donated money exclusively toward add-ons to a base shelter. The only other alternative funding source was the county general fund reserves.
Commissioner Jeff Kinnard rediscovered his patience after a suggestion of County Attorney Denise Lyn to instead delay the vote two weeks until the county can determine the amount of donations collected prior to the commission’s vote to use them toward add-ons with hope that there would be enough to cover the cost of the plans.
Out of options though with some reluctance at the delay, Dr. Kinnard’s fellow commissioners approved this idea unanimously. If there was not enough money in donations collected prior to the vote, the imminent sale of the Betz Farm property may provide another solution.
Using this sizable amount prior to construction beginning, however, may lead to the commission needing to revisit the borrowing amount. The ability to get the shelter built within the funding originally outlined feels like a problem without a solution so far, which the commission is tolerating for now.
One topic of less tolerance was residential road resurfacing. County Administrator Randy Oliver insisted that the problem is solely in funding rather than in the formula. He urged commissioners to accept that a mile of road is a mile of road so there is no magical change that can be made to the formula that will affect the amount of money that is needed.
This led Chairman Ron Kitchen to once again bring up the idea of a local sales tax increase that will undoubtedly be pushed at the public workshop to appear on the ballot in November. This approach is a mistake.
Even if all other options have been exhausted, those in favor of a sales tax raise will need a reasonable argument why certain changes to the system will not help reduce costs rather than outright dismissing them like the administrator did. That’s not the only thing working against the budding campaign.
The commission’s creative workaround to use donation money intended for add-ons instead for shelter plans reflects the deepest voter resentment that they will approve an increased financial burden on themselves only to have the commission squander it through using it for other purposes.
Not every problem has an immediate solution. Sometimes the amount of work put into solving the problem is disproportionate to what is expected to reach that solution. The commission, made up primarily of entrepreneurs, is going to find this difficult to accept but must hold on a little longer to tackle our biggest challenges.