On Tuesday, Feb. 18, I will have been a full-time employee of The Grayson County News-Gazette for one year, and while that may not seem like a long time, I have learned and grown more in the past year than I could have ever imagined.
Probably the most important thing I’ve learned is how local government operates. Prior to joining the staff here, I knew little about the duties and responsibilities of City Councils or City, Tourism, and Utilities Commissions.
When I thought about government, I thought about the President of the United States and Congress. Barack Obama, John Boehner, Mitch McConnell - these are the faces I equated with politicians - men and women with whom I would likely never come in contact. (Although, thanks to my job, I can now say I have met Senator McConnell.)
During the first local government meetings I attended, I felt as though I were listening to a foreign language. Phrases such as “passing motions;” “approving minutes;” “old business;” “new business;” etc. meant nothing to me.
I felt lost, and a number of months passed before I started to grasp what I was witnessing. But as humans are wont to do, I adapted out of necessity. With every meeting I attended, I gained a better understanding of the role that local government plays in our lives.
Your tax rate? That’s largely determined by local government. I know this firsthand because I watched the Leitchfield City Council struggle with whether to raise the rate of taxes to combat a weak economy. Without revenue to support its programs, the City may very well have gone bankrupt. A tough decision had to be made, and local government stepped up.
A year ago, I wouldn’t have understood this. Many of us may let the failures of Federal government make us cynical about government as a whole. But there are countless men and women working tirelessly to make the community in which we live the best it can be.
While local governments ultimately answer to State and Federal government, the work done by individuals such as our City Council-members, our Mayors, and our County Magistrates is much more immediate - though, for some reason, less noticed - than that of our politicians in Washington.
Our local politicians will bring in new business. Our local politicians will bring in new recreation. Our local politicians will listen to your concerns. That’s why, as my co-worker Adrian argued so well in her most recent column, it is essential to become involved in and informed about the workings of local government, especially now as election season kicks off. I’m thankful every day that my job has afforded me the opportunity to do just that.