UW-Extension educates citizens on county government
On Wednesday, two representatives from the UW-Extension led a session in an effort to inform the public about the ways of county government.
The representatives were Lynn Feldman, with UW-Extension youth development, and Tim Brown, UW-Extension economic development.
The session covered the basic aspects, what Brown and Feldman think every citizen should know about county government.
Feldman began the session with a fundamental question: What county district are you in? Many attendees were unsure. The duo went on to discuss the districts—what they are, what they’re for and how to find out which district you belong to.
Conversation then turned to supervisors. Again, what they do and the role they play in county government. There are 21 different supervisors, and attendees were encouraged to be aware of who their supervisor was, and to contact them with any questions or concerns.
Brown emphasized that the supervisors are volunteers—they receive per diem stipends, but they are not paid politicians. They are donating their time and energy to the people of the county.
Later, Brown and Feldman went into the makeup of county government. Feldman said that between limited-term employees and regular full-time employees, the county employs over 400 people annually. These 400 workers are broken up into approximately 25 different branches of government, from forestry and highway to public health and social services.
At the end of the session, the highlight of the learning experience was a simulated county board meeting, with attendees playing the roles of supervisors and concerned citizens. They ran through a fictional board agenda that mirrored the agenda of the budget meeting that would take place later that night.
Agendas for the real board meetings must be posted 24 hours in advance, and the board is not allowed to discuss items not listed on the publicly released agenda, the session leaders said.
Around 20 people attended, including a few supervisors, who were able to answer questions directly. Supervisors Carol Pederson, Scott Holewinski and Ted Cushing were the supervisors in attendance.
“I was very impressed with the turnout, I thought that was wonderful. The questions were great, it was great to have supervisors here who could answer questions. I’m not an expert,” Feldman said. “I think I learned a lot in the process.”
After the session was the annual budget meeting, and those at the session were encouraged to attend. The UW-Extension workers said the county had a $50.5 million budget for 2015, which would be decided in the night’s agenda.
“I thought they did a fine job,” said Supervisor Pederson. “The encouragement to take part, whether you’re experienced or knowledgeable or not—if it’s an issue that is important to you, you should feel free to come and speak with me.”
Both Extension workers said there is potential for more citizen training in the future. Feldman said she had spoken to several students and teachers who were unable to attend, but would like the education.
“If we hear people saying they want more of this we’ll certainly give it a try,” Brown said. “We only want to do things that are wanted and that are necessary and that are having an impact, so if this seems to have made some positive impressions we’ll probably look at doing more.”