Learn. Do Interesting Things. Help Others.
These three things are the goals I have for my career, as well as the goals I have for my summer practicum in Person County. Before I tell you about my week let me tell you a little bit about Person County.
Person County is north of Durham county–about a 55-minute commute for me–and it sits on the Virginia border. The county seat is Roxboro, and the population based on the 2010 census was 39,464. I spent quite a bit a time this week looking at the Census of Agriculture so here’s some interesting information about Person County farms: In 2012 Person County had 395 farms and the top agriculture product was soybeans. The second largest agriculture product was my archenemy–wheat (Only gluten free foods for me so I can’t be like Oprah.)
As I reflect on the week, there are two things that stuck out to me most: the legacy of public service and a “big block of cheese”.
Public Service Legacy. As previously mentioned, I spent time this week gathering data from the Census of Agriculture, which occurs every five years. There was something special about reviewing someone else’s work from over one hundred years ago and still having the information be useful and relevant.
I also think the spirit of public service is embodied in everyone I have met over the past week. From County Manager Heidi York down through department heads and individual employees, everyone has been enthusiastic and passionate about their work, which has made me even more excited to be working in Person.
Big Block of Cheese. As an idealistic millennial interested in working in government, I would be remiss if I did not reference the West Wing or Parks and Rec. In Season 1 Episode 5 of the West Wing Chief of Staff Leo McGarry tells a not completely true story about Andrew Jackson keeping a “huge” block of cheese in the main foyer of the White House available for all who were hungry and as a reinforcement of the belief that the White House belonged to the people and should be open to “those who wished an audience.”
During a Board of Commissioners meeting where the budget was presented (really exciting stuff!) a local business owner spoke and shared his concerns about the impact of road construction on his business. The gentleman had been working with the Planning Director, but he also wanted to make sure that the commissioners were aware of what was going on. This exchange really stuck with me because I think it embodies the values and purpose of local government. It also taps into the sentiments behind Leo pushing his staff to meet with people they normally would not.
The ability of people to access their government and have their voices heard is incredibly important and local governments have an even greater opportunity to listen and learn from their citizens–a process I enjoyed seeing on my first day.
I will spend a good amount of time working on budget-related work, but I will also have a number of opportunities to learn more about what county governments do, and I look forward to sharing that experience with you all!