river trip

Collaboration and Competition


I’ve just returned from a glorious four days on the Grande Ronde River. The water was low. The ranches and small communities along the tributaries are redirecting the flow for flood irrigation of pastures. It made for long lazy river days but we still managed to put in our miles prior to lunch, allowing for even longer afternoons hanging out in camp. My son, Jasper, came in from Colorado for the trip, and Greg, my husband was able to take some time off of work. Throw in two more extended families and we had a tight fourteen people that all got to know each other in the intimacy that only comes from being on the river together.

On the way home in the truck, Greg and Jasper got into a rather heated exchange. I don’t even remember what exactly they were discussing, but there was a bit of yelling and some almost tears. Jasper is 24 and has beliefs and strong opinions. He just finished his first year of teaching after five years in higher education and has been surrounded with like minded folks. Greg has had many of his beliefs thrown into a blender by divorce and moving across the country away from family and familiar. He has spent his life in the corporate world and loves nothing more than a good debate. Once they both calmed down, they both felt better...and it was me that found it hard to sleep that night. The next morning as I was driving Jasper to the airport, we talked about it. Not the topic, just the style of the communication surrounding it. Jasper stated, “I think, Mom, that certain people are just more wired for collaboration, and others for competition. It affects their world view and how they communicate with the people in it.”

As I was putting up all the berries that ripened during our absence, I thought more about these two words. Competition is striving to gain or win something by defeating or establishing superiority over others who are trying to do the same. Collaboration is the action of working with someone to produce or create something. I am not, by nature, a competitive person. I never liked making finals as a kid in diving, unless my friend Karen made it too. I did not engage in team sports until after college, and my women’s ultimate frisbee team was not tall or big enough to even score at the regional level. I’ve never had to work in a corporate environment nor had any competition when applying for jobs. I’ve spent my entire career as a member of many collaborative teams. I’ve felt the power of what can happen when, using limited resources, we can produce a plan for a child and create a better world for her. I love what happens in that team when we succeed, and I rely on those shoulders when we fail.

A campaign is a competition. I’m running for Latah County Commissioner and I will have an opponent in the general election in November. My entire focus for the next four months needs to be proving that I am superior to him and better qualified. I don’t know him well. I’ve seen him at the primary forum, and we are in the same parades. I haven’t seen him at many events or commissioner meetings, which makes me believe I have more time, energy, and passion for this campaign than he does. But, he could be just attending other events. There will be folks that vote for him out of loyalty, and I will have the same. It is a competition, and the citizens of Latah County get to choose who wins.

I spent a large amount of time in June listening to the department budget requests at the county. Then there was a week of funding requests from community organizations such as senior meals and veterans groups. Over this next few months, the commissioners will review all of those requests and make decisions about how and where our property taxes are spent. Along side of this, they are hearing appeals of tax appraisals and have ongoing confidential requests for indigent funds. They have hard decisions to make. Tax revenue is a finite resource. Not everyone will get everything they ask for. The commissioners have to be creative. The noxious weeds department may need a new vehicle, but perhaps one that is retired as no longer effective for the sheriff can be used. What impresses me is how well Latah County collaborates. The commissioners work as a team with the county departments and with its citizens to create a plan that keeps Latah County, all of its employees, and its citizens running safely and smoothly. I’m very excited about this job. I like creative problem solving as a team. I like to collaborate.

We played a lot of games during the afternoons in camp on the river. We tried to shoot rocks across the river with Greg’s yoga band...until it broke. We played paddle ball to see how high of a total volley we could get. We played bocce ball and volleyball. One evening, there was a poker game. That was a bit competitive, until one kid just wanted the game to be done, so she bet all of her chips on a losing hand. I could empathize. I found myself more attracted to the collaborative games, but I did enjoy winning one round of bocce with my son on my team. I’m looking forward to serving as the next Latah County Commissioner and being part of that collaborative team. I will also do my best to win the competition that is this campaign. See you at the parades!

Terra and Ali.jpg