The dialogue around the Board of County Commissioners’ decision to hire a county manager is heating up.
On April 30, a group of citizens met at the Lake County Courthouse to discuss their grievances with the Board of County Commissioners (BOCC), county manager position included. On Monday, a few of the same constituents spoke in opposition to the county manager posting during the public comment section of a BOCC meeting. And on Thursday, the BOCC will host a town hall to answer questions about the job — a meeting that is bound to get contentious.
The change in public opinion around the county manager position has been swift, with a few vocal residents leading the charge of resistance.
In February, the Herald published an online poll asking readers whether the City of Leadville and Lake County Government should hire managers. Fifty-five readers voted “Yes, it’s long overdue,” while 35 readers voted “Nope, it’s unnecessary.” When we asked readers if the BOCC should hire a county manager again last week, 173 readers voted “No,” while 54 readers voted “Yes.”
The Herald finds this newfound opposition against the county manager posting to be too little too late.
The position was discussed at several BOCC meetings, all of which were open to the public, throughout 2020 and 2021. And the job has sat as a line item in the county’s 2021 budget since the fiscal document was passed by the commissioners last December.
The Herald itself provided coverage of the county manager dialogue four times in the last eight months. In one such piece, I editorialized my support for the BOCC’s hiring decision. I stand by that opinion for the following reasons:
— Fifty-six of Colorado’s 64 counties currently employ a county manager. That’s 88 percent. Six of the eight other counties in Colorado without a manager have smaller populations than Lake County. Employing an administrator to manage the internal workings of local government is the norm, not a rarity.
— County managers are career government workers, individuals who have studied the complexities of government at a collegiate, and often graduate, level. Unlike elected officials, county managers are trained in public management, budgeting and efficiency, as well as Colorado law.
— The Department of Local Affairs (DOLA) is helping set Lake County Government on a feasible path to sustain the position in the long term. DOLA will pay 75 percent of the manager’s salary in the first year, 50 percent in the second year and 25 percent in the third year. DOLA’s financial investment in the position signifies the State of Colorado’s commitment to the work of county managers across the state.
— County managers are hired help; they have no term limit. This promotes preservation of institutional knowledge and continuity of government in times of transition as elected officials come and go.
Our commissioners are not pawning their job responsibilities off at the expense of local tax payers; they are trying to grow the county’s capacity, to move us forward. The Herald supports the BOCC as it keeps its eyes on what will be, not the way things were.