Mission Impossible

County commissioners Marc Boldt, Tom Mielke and Steve Stuart had their annual retreat Friday the 13th at Legacy Salmon Creek Medical Center. I wrote about the highlights.

There are highlights, then there are mission statements.

Deputy Administrator Glenn Olson said the county mission statement has evolved into “To better serve the will of the people.”

From Olson’s handout: “Each of the commissioners considered the wording above and favored it over any of the more typical kinds of mission statements that talk about protection, safety, etc. It was the commissioners’ view that the people will tell us when they want protecting, or anything else. What they first want is compliance. Each commissioner paraphrased this in his own way, with a common theme being ‘… at least quit doing things to make people angry.'”

The handout continued: “Each commissioner acknowledged that knowing the will of the people is an art, and that the reason people are elected into office is to practice that art. What is important is to be able to stand before the people and sincerely say that we doing what we truly believe is the will of the citizens.”

Olson wrote in the handout that the mission is the “trump card, the ultimate standard for justifying spending. If one cannot explain how an activity better serves the will of the people, then the BOCC may choose to move that activity’s funds elsewhere.”

Boldt had an observation: The will of the people often conflicts with the laws of the state.

Olson said it’s true that sometimes higher-level politicians tell the county commissioners what the will of the people is, for example, the stringent state stormwater regulations the county is dealing with under the federal Clean Water Act. That’s just one example of regulations the county must enforce but some of “the people” don’t like.

But there you have it. The county’s mission is to serve the will of the people. Good luck with that.

I checked to see what missions other local governments are striving to accomplish.

City of Vancouver:

To foster leadership, stewardship, responsive services and community partnerships.

City of Camas:

The City of Camas is committed to preserving its heritage, sustaining and enhancing a high quality of life for all of its citizens and developing the community to meet the challenges of the future. We take pride in preserving a healthful environment while promoting economic growth. We encourage citizens to participate in government and community, assisting the City in its efforts to provide quality services consistent with their desires and needs.

City of Ridgefield:

Committed to providing the community with superior services, building on the proud history and meeting the challenges that shape our future.

For Battle Ground, La Center and Washougal I couldn’t easily find a mission statement. I’m not saying the cities don’t have them, because of course bureaucrats love mission statements. I’m just saying I couldn’t find them. I’m not counting departmental mission statements – police departments, for example, all have a variation of “To protect and to serve.”

For the town of Yacolt, I could not find a mission statement but was reminded the name of Yacolt translates to “valley of the demons” or “haunted place.”

So I’m too frightened to call anyone to ask if the town council has a mission statement.

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