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Swapping notes on county management
Crook County officials travel to Eugene for the annual Association of Oregon Counties conference
November 26, 2012
As Crook County officials and staff navigate through government business, it sometimes helps to reach out to a peer who has faced similar issues.
Some of them were given that chance earlier this month as two Crook County commissioners and four department heads joined about 400 of their peers statewide at the three-day Association of Oregon Counties Annual Conference.
Crook County Commissioners Seth Crawford and Ken Fahlgren said the conference provides an opportunity to meet with other county commissioners and engage in some shop talk.
“Networking is a huge thing,” Fahlgren said. “We all want to know what worked and maybe what doesn’t work.”
Crawford noted that the conferences have helped him foster relationships with 18 other county commissioners whom he can call when local issues arise.
“There is nothing worse than trying to reinvent the wheel when somebody a phone call away can give you the answer when they have been dealing with the same problem for years,” he said.
Fahlgren said the commissioners discussed a variety of topics including the continually dwindling Secure Rural Schools (county timber payment) funds.
“Health care is probably one of the biggest things with coordinated care organizations and how counties need to align with their partners who aren’t normally partners — the hospitals and the insurance companies,” he added.
The commissioners learned about upcoming legislation and how it will affect local budgets and participated in district meetings that group officials together from neighboring counties.
“We go and have conversations about what things in our region are important for us to promote at the state level,” Crawford said.
Not only did Crawford absorb new information, he helped teach some of the new commissioners about serving in county government. He took the orientation classes himself two years ago.
“This gave me an opportunity to go back and tell the new commissioners what the benefits (to the orientation) are — how my classmates have used it in the past,” he said.
Along with the commissioners, a variety of county department heads from throughout the state gathered to engage in similar networking and learning sessions. Crook County Clerk Dee Berman for example met with other county clerks.
“There are usually breakout sessions (with legislator representatives) if there is something going on with a (ballot) measure or something,” she said.
The clerks have also used the conference to improve certain job skills.
“The (Oregon) Department of Revenue no longer provides in-house training for county clerks on board of property tax appeals,” Berman said, “so the clerks are trying to figure out a way to self-train. So that was part of the meeting.”
Joining Berman at the conference were Crook County Juvenile Department Director Debra Patterson, Crook County Health Department Director Muriel DeLaVergne-Brown, Crook County Planning Director Bill Zelenka, and Assistant Crook County Counsel Eric Blaine.