Idaho

Writing as a Commissioner

I have officially been your county commissioner for a little over two months. I run into folks in town at coffee shops, in yoga classes, and at fundraisers. The questions are always, “How is it going?” “How do you like your new job?” I generally answer, “Fine!” “I like it!” “Latah County is a great place to work.” All of this is true. The other answer is that it is hard. It was easier two months ago because I did not know what I did not know. Now, I know. There is a lot to learn.

Writing has always been a great outlet for me. I enjoy researching a topic, reading what others have to say, relating it to my own life, and then producing a story. In the process, because I write publicly, I hope there are kernels that ring true for other people.

The reading that is required for this job is not really the type that fosters creative thought. I am not reading blog posts and opinion articles. I am reading bill texts at the state level, building code, tax exemption statutes, and legal briefs so I understand the history behind a decision that needs to be made that day. I am a geek, so I find it very interesting, but it is not something that stirs my creativity.

In the role of county commissioner, there is little actual writing as part of my day to day work. There are proclamations for things like Idaho Day that we get to read out loud, and there are multiple motions in any one given day. These are typed out ahead of time, and we read them verbatim. I scribble notes on the sides of my agendas, but these are mostly so I can remember what we talked about at 9:15am by the time we finally adjourn at 2:00pm and I don’t forget anything I promised to do.

The exception to this is when I get an email from someone who wants to engage on a topic of interest to them. These are not the emails with twenty attachments including the bylaws of their non-profit and their recent financial statements. There is generally a personal story along with the reasons they are interested in the topic, and then the dialogue begins.

This week, there will be many of us writing to our Idaho legislators and governor. It is tempting to let someone else compose the text and just sign off on it. It is easy to check a box on an online petition. It is much more difficult to pull the personal stories, put those into text or a phone call, and hope there are kernels that ring true. I know many of us are on “hope burnout.” I am pleading with you to not give up. Share your personal stories and let the dialogue begin.