Get involved and make a difference!
Article by Patte Smith photo by Carla Kenny
Government day, held in January for the members of Leadership Douglas County (LDC), was a refresher course in what many of us learned in middle and high school.
“We revisited a lot of useful information about our government and the difference in governing at the state and county level,” noted Carla Kenny, one of the LDC participants. “We also reviewed how a bill becomes a Colorado law. It helped me understand more clearly how our legislature works and the role the house, senate and governor play in getting a bill into law. And, the responsibility and impact that each of us as citizens has on our government.”
The theme of citizen involvement was paramount during government day. “You would be surprised how much influence you have as a citizen on the legislature,” stressed speaker Michael Valdez from the Colorado Bar Association. “Citizens are an excellent resource for the legislature – they are elected officials who want to hear from constituents. Take the time to meet with them and know the issues. Remember that the legislative sessions are always open to the public.”
Woodrow Wilson stated that “we are the greatest democracy on earth because we have been able to adapt and change.” From the 1890s through the 1920s, our country reinvented its democracy by focusing on what a person knew and how well they could do the job instead of who they knew.
“We are still very capable of making changes because we are a great democracy,” emphasized Christopher Gates, executive director of PACE, Philanthropy for Active Civic Engagement. Communicating and engaging our local officials is imperative Gates stressed. “We need to collectively come together to make our government, businesses, churches, schools – our whole country better.” Many of the speakers noted that change occurs first individually and locally; social change does not begin in Washington D.C., but in neighborhood communities.
The importance of county governments was also explained during the presentations. County government in America predates both the Articles of Confederation and the U.S. Constitution. For more than 350 years, American county history has been part of American lives. It first appeared in Virginia in 1634 as a way to serve administrative, military, electoral and judicial functions. In those days, county governments varied from colony to colony. The form our county government in Colorado takes can be traced to the tradition established in the middle colonies. Colorado counties are a constitutional subdivision of the state government and their boundaries are set forth by statute and were drawn by the general assembly. Initially, counties were established to carry out policies and programs of the state, but today these functions have grown.
A panel including Mayor Jeffrey Huff of Castle Pines, Mayor Ryan Reilly from Castle Rock, Mayor Sherilyn West of Larkspur and Mayor James Gunning of Lone Tree spoke about working together as government leaders to enhance the quality of life in Douglas County. Each shared their goal as a leader and their leadership style. “It was interesting to see the four different perspectives and challenges they face as community leaders,” said Kenny. Some of the challenges mentioned were medical marijuana dispensaries, water, annexation, lawsuits and transportation.
The mayors once again stressed that the community needs to get involved. Volunteer, attend council meetings, join a citizen committee, ask questions, and run for office. There are many issues facing Douglas County, Colorado and the country. Contact your legislators and get involved!