New program helps commissioners navigate county government

June 16, 2006

CORVALLIS, Ore. – It's a year of elections and this January at least 20 new commissioners will take office in counties across Oregon. Many of the potential candidates have prior experience with Oregon government, but others may be new to the legislative world.

The Oregon State University Extension Service, in partnership with the Association of Oregon Counties, has put together a series of courses to assist Oregon's commissioners in learning the ins and outs of county government.

County College is a continuing education opportunity for county commissioners and judges. OSU Extension and the Association of Oregon Counties – with the assistance of experts in state government, political science and community development – have designed the program to help newly elected and experienced county officials successfully navigate government systems, issues and programs. The course is voluntary and participants receive a certification of completion at the end of the program.

"A number of the newly elected commissioners have little background in county government," said L.J. "Kelvin" Koong, an OSU professor in the College of Agricultural Sciences and one of the creators of County College. "They are private citizens from varied walks of life. OSU Extension's job is to educate, and we developed the program at the commissioners' request for a comprehensive curriculum dealing with county issues."

County College consists of 72 hours of instruction spread out over seven sessions. Each session focuses on a different aspect important to the success of county government. Subjects range from Oregon's educational system to public works and human services, and each session is held at a location relevant to the day's topic. For example, a session focused on public safety was recently held at the Marion County Correctional facility.

"Participants in County College have given it high grades this year, and we expect continued high achievement in the future," said Ben Boswell, president of the Association of Oregon Counties, and Wallowa County Commissioner.

"The program has proven to be extremely valuable to new and seasoned commissioners alike," Boswell added. "We couldn't have accomplished this without the enthusiastic participation of Extension, and we hope the partnership between AOC and OSU will develop into a relationship that continues to bring improved services to Oregon's communities."

Oregon's county board's of commissioners act as the governing body for the counties. They are responsible for county administration, management and policy. The commissioners prepare and adopt county budgets and work closely with districts, cities, public agencies, organizations and federal and state officials. They hold public meetings and hearings, conduct private and public land sales and exchanges and enact ordinances, orders, contracts, leases and other legal agreements.

Author: Aimee Lyn Brown
Source: L.J. "Kelvin" Koong