Eagle County commissioners: Striving for Civility, Collaboration and Innovation
At our State of the County address this year, our talented staff members were acknowledged and organizational accomplishments recognized.
We also decided to switch it up a bit and address themes we think are vital to a high-functioning organization and a healthy democratic society: civility, collaboration and innovation.
Our event was nicely timed, proceeding the awe-inspiring Olympic Opening Ceremonies with its themes of peace, harmony and connection; themes we believe to be at the core of civility. There’s a lot of discord, anxiety and downright hostility in our world today, but viewing the world stage at the Olympics, and seeing the good things that happen in Eagle County every day, gives us hopes.
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According to the Institute for Civility in Government, “Civility is claiming and caring for one’s identity, needs and beliefs without degrading someone else’s in the process.”
It’s more than just politeness, it’s about disagreeing without disrespect, seeking common ground as a starting point for dialogue about differences and listening past one’s preconceptions, while helping others do the same.
Civility is the hard work of staying present, even with those with whom we have deep-rooted and fierce disagreements. It’s about holding space for those disagreements and making room for different ideas; offering our truths in a way that can be heard by others.
Civility is political in the sense that it is a necessary prerequisite for civic action. It is about negotiating interpersonal power so that everyone’s voice is heard, and nobody’s voice is ignored. Tolerance for opposing views, and the ability to really listen and hear one another, is an essential ingredient to a successful democracy — in fact, we would argue that it is the most essential ingredient.
Finding and acting on the shared values at our core as humans was on full display at the Olympics, and it’s what holds us together as we serve the public in our work here at Eagle County.
We generally operate with a preference for action over process; we try to avoid meetings without a purpose and studying things we already know. But despite its difficulty, we believe that collaboration is critical to solving complex problems.
One of the most powerful aspects of collaboration is the power of fresh eyes when tackling complex problems — looking at an issue for the first time, free from rigidity, bias and status quo. Someone who doesn’t know everything about what you are trying to accomplish will see it differently. This is helpful; what develops will be better.
Next, people believe in what they have a voice in creating. We’ve all experienced individuals and groups that hold different values from ours. Bringing them to the table and elevating their voice can lead to stronger support when creating solutions. Working through what the naysayers think will produce better results.
And lastly, we are interdependent with our community. We share process, systems and resources with our partners. Aligning our efforts and decisions through collaboration sets the table for improved results. Ideas, initiatives and programs live on when everyone feels invested in their creation. We all take pride in their success.
Local government is at a time and place where our relevance may never have been more important.
According to the Brookings Institute, counties and cities are the vanguard of a movement that could help override state and federal government shortcomings. In the past two decades, there has been a rescaling of the nation-state where local governments have gained increased responsibilities. Local governments serve as a growth engine for the nation’s economy, and are leading nationally on innovative policies such as housing, the environment and social equality.
Here at Eagle County, we do these things and more. We plow roads, inspect restaurants and provide public safety services. We operate an airport, a recycling facility, a landfill, and a bus system. We run elections and a TV station, and conduct assessments and collections for all local taxing entities. We build roads, bridges and partnerships. We lead major community initiatives such as mental health funding and climate action planning.
There will never be enough resources to meet all the needs, so we simply must innovate. We must look at services critically, ask what our customers value, and introduce fresh ideas to improve customer experiences, efficiency and effectiveness.
As we rise to the challenge of meeting these themes, we invite you to join us. Simply put: be nice, play well together and have fun, because local government’s where it’s at!
The Eagle Board of County Commissioners consists of Kathy Chandler-Henry, Jeanne McQueeney and Jill Ryan. Each Monday, The Aspen Times hosts a guest column from a Roaring Fork Valley nonprofit, government agency or local entity.
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