“Thank you for your service, Amy.”
The message popped up on my Facebook page from a person I didn’t know. It was followed by the hashtag #serviceisunderrated.
This isn’t the first time that someone has thanked me for my service during the past six months. In fact, I’ve heard it frequently. Those comments have surprised me and touched me.
As you may know, I’m wrapping up a six-month appointment as a member of the Linn County Board of Supervisors. Interesting? Yes. Enlightening? Yes. A bit overwhelming? Yes. One of the best experiences of my life? Absolutely.
I parachuted into my appointment in early May with very little time to prepare. Linda Langston vacated her seat in mid-April. In late April, I interviewed for a temporary appointment to fill her position. By May 2nd, I was on the job.
A job that’s so big and so broad, it’s very hard to describe.
With very little lead time, I was part of a five-member board that oversees 14 departments, roughly 850 employees, a $107M budget and guides the strategic direction of the county. From social services, to public health, to parks and land use planning — and everything in between — the board of supervisors is the governing body of the county. It’s a tremendous responsibility.
I quickly learned that county government serves a much different segment of our population than city government. City government is geared more toward economic development. County government is geared to help some of the most vulnerable people in our community: veterans, individuals with mental health issues, the homeless and those with disabilities, to name a few. In some cases, county government services are the last option for those who have nowhere else to turn.
The Board of Supervisors is also the final authority regarding many decisions that impact the lives of Linn County residents. As a supervisor, I’ve had the chance to contribute to important discussions about our disabled population, our new public health and child development building, the expansion of a local hog confinement facility, a conservation bond referendum and the minimum wage.
And of course, a natural disaster.
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“Who ever thought you’d experience this?” asked Supervisor Jim Houser as he helped me climb over HESCO barriers to survey the rising floodwater on May’s Island in late September.
But that experience gave me even greater insight into how the county operates. Just like the city, county employees and departments quickly and calmly mobilized to prepare for the worst. Within three days (including the weekend), five county buildings were evacuated, important county services were relocated and key buildings were secured with flood barriers. It was an impressive display of leadership, planning and teamwork. Perhaps most impressive, all five county buildings were back open to the public by October 3.
As I prepare to leave office and turn my seat over to the new District Two supervisor, Stacey Walker, I have a few final thoughts. First, I am grateful to all of the Linn County employees who took the time to welcome me, teach me and bear with me during these past six months. I will never forget your patience and kindness. Second, I am proud to live in a place with such a thoughtful, progressive and productive county government. There are many wonderful success stories to share in Linn County and I’m proud to have told some of those stories during my tenure. Third, I want to encourage more people — and women, in particular — to seek elected office. If you have an opinion, get involved. Let your voice be heard. Any elected office is only as good as the people who step up for duty.
And finally, the next time you see an elected official, please be sure to thank them for their service. They will appreciate it, trust me.
Thank you, Linn County, for giving me the opportunity to serve.
• Amy Johnson is outgoing Linn County Supervisor for District 2.