My goal in this column is to explain why the commissioner’s office believes a community outreach program is critical to success. Communication is defined in part as; the imparting or exchanging of information with news and/or the successful conveying or sharing of ideas and feelings. The Montgomery County Commissioner’s Office is committed to communicating as effectively, efficiently and as clearly as possible. The most important role in communication is listening and if we take the time to listen to each other and have open and honest conversation, great things will happen.
I have learned a lot about communication in my years serving the public. Community outreach is about education, information, inclusion and transparency. I don’t think it’s possible to have too much of any of these things. Unless you have served in a public service role, it is difficult to understand some of the processes elected officials or government employees must follow to accomplish the simplest tasks. We have decided it is best to share details in written articles, at public events and on social media in an effort to explain these processes, goals, initiatives and the reasoning behind them.
Government has struggled for years with lack of information being provided to the communities they serve. I think it is important for the public to understand local government’s struggles with things such as financial standing, road and bridge improvements (or lack thereof), government responsibilities, taxation issues, etc. All of these things are already being discussed on social media, in newspapers and in the local coffee shop. We should be starting these conversations with facts and not just responding to information that many times is factually inaccurate.
We are now making it a priority to improve our communication and public outreach. We strive to be transparent and to inform the public what we are working on to include strategy and progress all the way through to completion.
In the coming year the commissioners and other offices of county government have many initiatives to share with our constituents and sharing them in a timely manner is important. We feel this is good government and makes us all better public servants.
The monthly commissioner coffees have allowed the public to discuss issues, ask questions, raise concerns and more. Many of the topics of the commissioner’s articles will come directly from the notes taken at these public outreach meetings. These meetings give us an opportunity to better understand issues from the public’s perspective while also expressing our own.
As with any community, there will always be disagreements as to what the “right” direction is and that is absolutely understood. With any change, public outreach is critical to keeping the public informed. Many times we agree on an end result but have differing opinions on how we get there. With effective communication we can better manage our time, limit misunderstandings and get to work on your behalf. Respectful debate is a wonderful thing.
In the future you should expect to hear from many of your county government elected officials and department heads on the topics listed above and much more, stay tuned.
We have a very bright future in Montgomery County. We must capitalize on opportunities and create an environment that our kids and grandkids will want to be a part of in the future.
Mark Casteel is the Montgomery County Administrator and can be reached at email@example.com. Check out the Commish Facebook page @montgomerycountycommish.