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Residents Association of Greater Lake Mathews

RAGLM Board > Announcements > Kevin Jeffries Posts His Perspective ~
9/2/2015 2:50:14 PM
Kevin Jeffries Posts His Perspective ~Post: Willow
Kevin Jeffries:
     Our latest newsletter is out, and available in its entirety at the link below, but I've pasted my complete "Kevin's Corner" column here, if you just want to read my latest thoughts about how I see my role as your Supervisor--I think you'll like it: If you've read my Corner before, you know that I routinely welcome fellow First District residents to write and share (or even vent) about how our county government can do a better job - or just to give us a heads-up about a festering issue. The emails I receive are often all over the map. On occasion I'm accused of being a part of the good-ole-boy club and then the very next email says I need to tone down my impatient quest to overhaul the county bureaucracy.

I've said it before and I'll say it again - I’m not here to be a rubber stamp, or to be a member of the government "family.” I see myself as the representative of the taxpayers to the government - not the other way around. Now to be honest, I make mistakes (elected officials are not supposed to admit that), and I do have to pick my battles - as not every issue is worth going to war over. But I’m also not afraid to be the lone dissenting vote on issues like pay raises for elected officials, hiring lobbyists, over-budget projects or even our recent discussions about the legal turf-war between the Grand Jury and our County (legal) Counsel.

There is a culture in government, especially on the regional boards and commissions, where the members (some elected, some appointed) seem to believe that their job is to pretty much rubber stamp the recommendations made by the “professional” staff, and staff often seems to share that expectation. We have a lot of hard working employees in the county system, and I believe most of them are giving 110%, but they, like the rest of us, are not infallible. I believe it is important to ask questions, verify the information provided, and of course demand performance and good customer service from our agencies.

This philosophy extends to my own staff and the commissioners I appoint. I don’t hire yes-men (or women) and rubber stamps to work for me. We have robust discussions in our Monday staff
meetings about priorities and policies, and I encourage them to speak up when something we are doing isn’t working, and every one of them is held accountable. My appointed commissioners and board members are given the same direction in what they do.  Specific instructions have been given to my appointed commissioners that they are to be my eyes and ears on these boards and commissions and they are to ask questions of the agencies and work within their own communities to advance the interests of our district and bring issues forward for
discussion at their meetings.

This has not gone over well with some of the departments and agencies that work with these boards or commissions. They’ve grown accustomed to having them do what they are told and simply providing cover for their decisions, with the appearance of having consulted the public for the decisions they’ve already made internally. Some have complained to my appointees directly, and some have complained to me that they are over-stepping their authority or asking too many questions and would I please call off the dogs???

No. I won’t.

If these boards and commissions aren’t there to ask questions and respectfully challenge decisions, then we may as well disband
them. But I believe they can be useful, and they can provide an important role in the decision making process, while also giving
citizens the opportunity to have a more direct say in what is happening in their communities. That is why I highlight a different
commissioner each month in this newsletter—I want to recognize the hard work these individuals are doing, and also educate
others on what kind of commissions exist in the county, and what it is that they do.

We’ve already seen evidence that these kinds of commissioners asking these kinds of questions can make a difference in the level of service our district receives, and in resolving community concerns. And similarly, even in cases where I may have been the lone dissenting vote, or the only one to raise concerns in a Board Meeting, I’ve seen changes that result from that effort that may not come at that meeting, but are implemented later.

One recent example came just a couple of weeks ago, when I was informed that because state judges had just received a pay
raise, the Board of Supervisors would also receive another increase in our pay, because the Board had voted to tie our salaries to theirs automatically. Last year, I voted (unsuccessfully) against the policy, and then when I attempted to refuse the pay raise, I was told I couldn’t. Only after a series of emails and legal threats did they admit I didn’t legally have to accept the pay raise.  This time when I received the notification, it specifically offered the opportunity to decline the increase in the email — which of course I did.

That’s not going to balance the county’s budget, and it isn’t an Earth shattering policy change with great impacts, but we see those sorts of changes in many departments as we make it clear that the status quo isn’t acceptable and that we are not going to stop asking questions or requesting that changes be made. Some agencies are certainly more responsive than others, and some changes are bigger than others, and some don’t like it at all! But as I said above—I didn’t come here to represent them,
but to represent you.
     Kevin Jeffries
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