In my first months in office we have been re-examining everything we do. By questioning the conventional ways of doing business and seeking the most effective ways to reach our goals, we can help put our region in a position to compete in a rapidly changing world. That means getting the most value for each dollar and having enough carefully invested dollars to get the job done.
So my job - our job - is to ensure that government works, and that it works for all the people - to support safe communities, provide accessible justice, a clean environment, the ability to get around, and a chance for everyone to thrive and succeed regardless of the area in which they live.
The common thread running through our success is a spirit of partnership - finding a way for people to work together. For instance:
With the sheriff and others in the community, we have reset our efforts to build a new jail.
With the support of the Superior Court judges, the prosecuting attorney, the sheriff and the County Council, we are close to having state approval for adding a fourth Superior Court judge that will allow for more jury trials to be docketed and completed.
Through adopted inter-local agreements, the seven cities and the county are working cooperatively on the 2016 Comprehensive Plan updates.
The county, City of Bellingham, and Port of Bellingham are collaborating more closely than ever before. Jointly our legislative priorities are actively pursued by our delegation in Olympia.
With Bellingham Mayor Kelli Linville and our county fire districts we are laying out the plans to extend our ability to provide unified emergency medical service for years to come.
Speaking of emergency service, Mayor Linville, Port Executive Director Rob Fix and I are collaborating to reopen the port's original Olympic coordination center for use as a combined emergency management center and 911/emergency dispatch center for all local governments in our county.
The state of county government can be found in this simple fact: Whatcom County is on sound financial footing. We spent the past five years reducing our budgets by millions and reducing county staff from close to 1,000 to a little more than 800. Our credit outlook is strong, as we have little debt.
Being back on sound financial footing doesn't mean we are back to the level of revenues or services that we came to expect in the old days. Significant cuts in state support for public health and human services, for example, are largely outside of our control. But we are aggressively managing those things we can control.
This year we are working on getting our economy out of the grips of this global recession. This means investing tax payers' dollars in technology, reinstating and continuing to train our workforce, and promoting a discipline of great customer service to our citizens. The county Planning and Development Services department are undertaking LEAN training, initially focusing on the single family residence permit process. You will be hearing more about that in guest editorial later this year.
I want Whatcom County to be a place where you can live and perhaps even become wealthy, but you don't have to be wealthy to live. A place where you can be educated, trained, find a good job, buy a decent home, raise a family, someday retire, and live better than your parents did, knowing that your kids can live better than you.
However, great prosperity only really matters if it is also a broad prosperity that is fueled by good jobs in both the rural and urban areas, in both traditional and new industries. If it produces a high quality of life with good transportation, parks, education and cultural resources for all.
Coming out of the worst recession of our lifetimes we have the opportunity to work hard and compete with many other areas in ways our fathers and mothers could never imagine. Whether we step up to that challenge is not a matter for a squabbling Congress, or even a shell-shocked Legislature, it is a matter for us - the government and business leaders, the thinkers, the entrepreneurs, and the remarkable people of this place.
County government and its partners have done good work together over the past few years. We will build on what we have accomplished and continue to work on behalf of all Whatcom County citizens to keep the state of our county strong.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
This is one of a series of monthly Civic Agenda reports The Bellingham Herald invited Whatcom County Executive Jack Louws to provide to share updates about Whatcom County issues and projects. He invites citizens to contact him at 360-676-6717 or firstname.lastname@example.org.