Guest Commentary: State of the State’s Counties: Resolute

Published 4:28 pm Friday, March 11, 2022

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By Todd Patzer

What is the state of our state’s 87 counties? The word that most resonates with me when I contemplate this is “resolute.”

Counties are resolute in our mission to serve. Minnesota’s county commissioners and staff are the no nonsense “do-ers” of many things. While levels of government above us bicker and haggle over the hot buzz words of the day and scream at one another with a red and blue fueled rage — we work to rise above it, roll up our collective sleeves, and ask the important questions: What do our people need? What do our communities need? And how do we help get it to them in an affordable and responsible way?

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When Washington D.C. needed help distributing Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act funding in 2020 to local business communities, they turned to resolute counties. They understood that we were uniquely positioned to do the most good with the money and get it out to the business community with the most beneficial impact possible. There were about as many models for distribution of these funds as there were counties … 87! And every one of them was right, because it was the right fit for that county.

This is just one example of course, which repeated itself when the Minnesota State Legislature appropriated funds for $116 million in COVID business relief dollars and again turned to counties to help get the money to the right places.

And it continues to repeat itself as we prove ourselves to be the most effective form of government in Minnesota.

Counties are resolute in our work and resolute in our ability to rise above partisan political rhetoric to do that work. This of course does not mean that we all don’t have our own individual thoughts and beliefs around government and politics. We are passionate about the things we believe to be true and fair and best for our community, our state and our country. Procurement, county-based purchasing, policing, election reform, inflation … the list goes on and on.

At the end of the day, county commissioners will first and foremost care about people. We try to assume that almost everyone is acting in good faith to do the best they can for the people they represent even if you strongly disagree with their message. We try to remember that we may not fully understand the journey of others having not walked in their shoes. We try to treat those with whom you disagree with the same respect you give those who share your beliefs and convictions.

We are all living and working through challenging times. But challenging times are nothing new to your community, the State of Minnesota, and every Country Commissioner. With humility, sincerity, and good faith we will rise to meet the challenges of the day just as the leaders of the past have risen to meet the challenges of their day, time and time again in our history.

Todd Patzer is President of the Association of Minnesota Counties  and Lac qui Parle County Commissioner