Well. That was exciting!!!
First off, I want to thank all of my supporters-- those who helped me in one way or another with my campaign, and those who voted for me. As anyone knows that has accomplished any large goal, it is never done alone. Now it's up to me to follow through with all I said that I would be and do on this board.
So far, I'm feeling extremely excited about the future and the possibilities for our area.
Tuesday, the 13th, was my first day on the job. We were sworn in at 8:30am, just before the first meeting of the day (Forest Preserve District). It was just enough pomp and circumstance to feel official but it didn't go too long. In fact, the whole morning went by extremely quickly. On one end of the day I was not yet a full board member, and on the other end I was lodged into a select group of citizens that share this unique experience together.
It seemed that everyone on the board was slightly disoriented upon arrival, as the chairman had broken from previous tradition in the seating arrangement (districts sat in numerical order from one end of the room to the other) and he, perhaps arbitrarily, had assigned everyone a seat. It's sort of like coming back from winter break and your teacher decided to shake things up with a new seating chart, haha.
Committees are the Key
One thing I've learned is that the key to understanding government is knowing that most of the work is done in committee. By the time things get to the full County Board meeting they have already been pre-approved by the respective committee and also the Executive Committee, which is made up of all committee chairmen as well as the Chairman of the County Board, Chris Lauzen.
Presentations are given to the committees by various special interests, perhaps encouraging them to pass a resolution toward some particular end. Government programs may be decided on in these committees also.
Resolutions are proposed and voted on and if passed, the resolution goes before the County Board. At this point it is placed on the Consent Agenda, where resolutions from committees go to be voted on all at once. If passed, the resolution becomes legally binding per the language used within it. You can read any resolution that is being voted on.
Sometimes during a County Board meeting items are removed from the Consent Agenda, when a member disagrees with it on some grounds and wants to give the whole board a chance to bring it forward or not.
So. Pay attention to committees if you want to know what's going on about a particular issue, project, or just to know more about how your tax dollars are being spent.
I'm going to try my best on this website to communicate some of the major things I learn in committee each month, but I won't be able to cover everything because there is just so much.
Each committee has its own ongoing story, and so does each county department, such as Public Health or the Office of Community Reinvestment.
You can see a chart of all county offices HERE.
As you can see, Kane County is involved in a lot of different activities and duties! I've met just a small handful of the many talented people working 9-5 (and more!) to provide services to all citizens. They are always interested in the public knowing more about what they do, how they do it, and why they do it. The same goes for committees.
So my best advice to you, from one citizen to another, is to get involved. You don't have to become an activist. You don't have to attend every, or even most or many, meetings. You can start by simply looking into what's going on at the county and, ideally, finding something that interests you. Even if you don't, just pick an issue and follow it. Go HERE to see the list of Standing Committees (which are the main committees dealing with county issues) and browse around in the Agendas and Minutes.
Minutes are more or less a shorthand of what went down at the meeting and they are posted only after the next meeting when all members have approved them to be published. The Agenda Packets give you the same upfront information that all committee members receive. Anything from presentations being given that day, to the budget for county departments, to resolutions up for vote. From there, you can get an idea of what has been going on in each committee and then find something to start tracking.
Maybe you'll look at the Agriculture Committee and see the work that's being put into creating a local food hub in Kane County. So now you can go through the minutes and look for mentions of that issue. You can contact the committee chair, T.R. Smith, and discuss the issue with him. You can reach out to the people giving presentations to the committee on the issue and gather more info from them. And maybe you'll end up working closely with the organizations helping the county to get this project from planning to execution. Or maybe you'll help to spread the word around through social media and conversation.
Another way to get involved is to contact your local political party. Start with Precinct Committeemen, as they are there to help get you started:
Always feel comfortable contacting me for anything you have questions about. There are multiple ways to get in touch like Facebook, this website, my email <firstname.lastname@example.org>, and my county phone line <630-444-1224>. Don't feel like you're ever being a bother, it is much better that our citizens feel listened to rather than keeping it quiet. I mean it!
I will do my best to help inform and empower you along the way, as I take this journey through county government that has been 18 months in the making and I'm only one week in...
Here we go.