What topics and issues are hot in Grays Harbor, and who’s doing what at the county level? When and where is the next road construction project and how will it effect my commute? What’s going on at the Sheriff’s Department or the Department of Public Health?
If you’ve asked any of the above and more, the county is offering some answers in its What’s Happening at the County newsletter. The inaugural issue rolled off the press in April. The July (summer) issue is available here.
What’s Happening was started by Commissioners’ Administrative Assistant and Clerk of the Board Donna McCallum in an effort to improve communication and educate the public on what’s going on in the county.
“Past and current commissioners have desired to get news out to the public and educate the public on various issues” said McCallum in a phone interview. “We try to get each department involved. We do an educational piece on county departments each time and try to incorporate an article by one of the commissioners or department heads.”
County Commissioner Wes Cormier (R) also takes communication with the public seriously. Cormier, who campaigned on enhanced and improved communication and transparency in local government, applauds the newsletter launch. Additional communication tools and opportunities for engagement he makes available include town halls, radio interviews, and social media. He said:
“As a candidate for County Commissioner I made a commitment for more transparency in local government and as an elected official I am fulfilling that promise. I sit on both radio stations every month to talk county business. I hold 3 town hall meetings every year in each commissioner district. Finally, I am fully engaged on social media as a means to reach constituents. Communication and transparency with the public are vital to achieve good government.”
Meetings are also digitally recorded and available via an on-line audio/video library on the county web site, usually within 24 hours following the meeting’s adjournment. Some, but not all of the associated documents are accessible via Adobe’s Acrobat Reader™ format (pdf).
The four-page newsletter is done in-house. McCallum collects the material and does most of the editing and writing in tandem with Commissioners Cormier, Welch, and Gordon. Jenna Amsbury handles formatting and publishing. Said McCallum, “We try to make it (the newsletter) as non-political a possible. As things happen, we try to cover them.”
The summer issue of What’s Happening includes articles on the Bring It Up campaign against underage drinking, Connect Grays Harbor (transportation), Cultivating Roots community garden, an article on barbecue and picnic food safety, Road Department news (chip sealing, road spraying, road construction projects), and a recipe.
The newsletter goes out to local mayors, Greater Grays Harbor, local media and a broad mailing list. McCallum said the county hopes to publish four issues a year, but says it’ll “probably be three” due to timing related to the upcoming election and budget issues. She’s “hoping to get the next issue out in November.”
What’s Happening is available on-line at the county’s website. Hard copies are also available in the lobby of the County Administration Building in Montesano. “It’s been a fun little project” says McCallum. “We hope to keep it going. Any time we can get better communication between the commissions and the public, it’s awesome.”