‘County Commish 101’ -or- ‘Let Your Fingers Do The Walking’

Cnty Courthouse


It’s Monday. Time for a pop quiz. (If you live outside the Harbor, you can play, too. No extra charge. You’re welcome.)

Ready? Okay. Here are today’s quick questions:

  1. Who’s your county commissioner?
  2. What district do you live in?
  3. How long has your commissioner been in office?
  4. What party is your commish affiliated with?
  5. How many GH county commissioners are there, total?
  6. How long is a county commissioner term of office?
  7. What does a county commissioner do all day, anyway?

Answers to questions 1 – 6 can be found here. (Well, most of them.) The answer to question #7 is a little more involved.

Short answer: Depends on who you ask. And what day it is. If you’re a little fuzzy on what the average day in the life of a Grays Harbor County Commish looks like, don’t worry.

Navigating the labyrinthian maze of county government can require an Alaskan-sized GPS. (I personally recommend a trail of bread crumbs. Alaska’s too big to fit in most hip pockets.) So here’s the “Reduced Fat/Bread Crumbs Version”:

The Board of Commissioners is responsible for running county government. Major functions fall into three basic categories + advisory boards: administrative, judicial, and legislative. Administrative duties include providing direction to department heads for:

  • County Fair, Events and Tourism Department
  • County Forestry Department
  • County Facilities Department
  • Planning, Building and zoning of unincorporated areas
  • Public Health and Social Services
  • Public Works Department (Roads, Engineering, Utilities)

Also on the county commission plate (microwave version):

  • Public safety
  • County budget
  • Contracts
  • Zoning issues
  • The budget
  • Resource allocation
  • The budget
  • County ordinances
  • Hiring

Did I mention the budget?

Commissioners Wes Cormier, Vickie Raines and Frank Gordon also participate in meetings. Lots and lots of meetings. With constituents. Boards. Commissions. Advisory councils. Task forces. Consortiums and partnerships.

Issues/topics include everything from the Grays Harbor Transit Authority and Council of Governments to advisory committees on juvenile justice, tourism lodging taxes, to the Board of Health and the Olympic Area Agency on Aging. (It’s enough to make one break out in hives, eh?)

In case you’re running short on Sominex, here’s the 4-1-1 on which commissioner serves where:

Commish Boards

The commissioners also have full plates trying to find ways to plug a $2.5 million budget hole. Options include boosting revenue and cuts. FYI: The top three expenditures in the Grays Harbor County General Fund are: 1) Sheriff &Jail ($10,452,053 budgeted); 2) Prosecutor ($2,310, 262 budgeted); and 3) Juvenile ($2,305,824 budgeted).

Is this fun, or what?


The Power of Positive

Okay, class. It’s easy to be pessimistic. Doom and gloom. To unload on your county commish all day, every day. If you have an issue, sound off. Politely. But when’s the last time you thanked your commissioner – or any commish – for a job well done?

I can live for two months on a good compliment.

Mark Twain

Tip (throwin’ this in for free): When a commish or another elected official does something you appreciate and support, let them know. Say thank you. Anybody can pull off the steady drip of negativity and criticism routine. It’s a rare bird indeed who can deliver a well-earned ‘atta boy/girl.’

You might be surprised at how long your commissioner can live off a sincere compliment. They might even be motivated to keep up the good work. And the sentiment won’t cost you a cent.

So. You know what to do. Let your fingers do the walking: Commish Contact Info.


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