Douglas commissioners, manager discuss leadership
July 28, 2010
GARDNERVILLE – More than a dozen adult students got a candid glimpse into the minds, and hearts, of Douglas County’s top three leaders on July 20.
Students of Leadership Douglas County, which is organized by the Carson Valley Chamber of Commerce, sat down beneath the shade-bearing trees of Minden Park to listen to county manager T. Michael Brown, commission chairman Mike Olson and vice chairman Dave Brady discuss their respective roles in the county and the challenges of governance.
A year-long program, the leadership class meets the third Tuesday of every month to explore and learn different aspects of the county. July 20 was local government day.
“In addition to the relationships that develop within the class, what every leadership graduate will tell you is that at the end of the program, their understanding of how the Valley and Douglas County work, how the pieces fit together, has grown enormously and that it’s knowledge that makes them better, more effective citizens,” said Chamber Executive Director Bill Chernock.
Brown told students what it’s like to be county manager, to be charged with the supervision of dozens of departments, hundreds of employees, and millions of public dollars.
“My No. 1 job is to find the resources or the people to get stuff done,” he said.
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“I’m an anti-government guy, and to this day, my passion against government is stronger than I’ve ever had it. It seems contrary to this position, but I get so sick and tired of the common routine that government gets caught up in. They use the term, ‘Think outside the box,’ and I just want to rip down all these unnecessary regulations and processes they have.”
Brown said the most challenging part of his job is politics.
“It can become irrational sometimes,” he said. “Let’s just say that’s an important part of my job, and I’m not very good at it. I’m not very good at it because I don’t think like that. I don’t want to have to worry about, ‘Well, is someone not going to like me because of something?'”
Rather, Brown said, his responsibility is to avoid sides and work on behalf of everybody, “to lift everyone up.”
“You figure out pretty quickly that you got to have a thick skin because you’re going to get accused of all kinds of stuff that you didn’t even think about,” he said. “At times, I wish somebody could just cut my heart out and look at it and say, ‘Hey, man, are there bad intentions in here?'”
Brown said the issue is communication.
“You step into situations, and you’re immediately suspect because you’re a bureaucrat and all these kinds of things,” he said. “But you know what? There are times when 51 percent of them are going to pissed off about what you did, and that’s just how it’s going to be. You don’t have a choice in the matter.”
Brown said he relies on five organizational values that “aren’t just words.”
“They are integrity, accountability, leadership, communication and team work,” he said. “Those things are real.”
Olson said that although Douglas County tends to attract great people, its success is never dependent on one person alone.
“I don’t have a lot of ‘pearls of great price’ to share with you,” he said. “Other than I think all of you are good people, and I think that along with good people, hard work will bring the success that each of you are looking for within our community. And I will tell you that the success is not yours. It’s the community’s.”
Brady said leaders must articulate why they make certain decisions. He pointed to the county’s recent economic development efforts.
“In years past, we were like firemen. We’d just show up and ask what brush fire do we have to put out,” he said. “Now, we’ve got an eye to the future. We’re looking at what our vision is and how we are going to meet that vision.”
Chernock said this year’s leadership class will wrap up in November. In August, the chamber will begin taking applications for the 2011 program.
Students spend one day a month exploring aspects of Douglas County life, including local government, education, social services and health care, among others.
Student also must complete seven homework assignments throughout the year.
“They take some time,” Chernock said of the assignments. “And they take you out of your comfort zone a little.”
Cost of the program is $650 for chamber members and $750 for nonmembers, though discounts are available during early enrollment.
For more information, call Chernock at (775) 782-8144.