Did you ever start a job that you thought you knew how it was going to go and then find out it is even better? Well that's how my first year as a commissioner went. It has been a learning experience every day! I'm sure it will continue to be every day this year too.

Just a few of the things I've learned:

Did you know the county has 263 miles of roads to maintain? These roads are maintained, plowed and patrolled by county employees. We also provide over $100,000 worth of aid to our 17 townships' roads and bridges. Besides our 17 townships we also serve our seven cities.

Did you know that there are about 185 people that work for the county? We have a very good management team in our department heads. They are very hard working and dedicated employees. The department heads are very good stewards of our tax dollars.

Did you know that our county has a budget of $29,591,610? Of that amount we only levy for $10,937,276. The rest of our budget is either reimbursed or paid by state aid. Because the county is a service orientated industry, as the needs of the citizens increase or decrease so does the cost of the services.

There have been some tough decisions to make this year. The Wheel Tax was one of them. It's never easy to raise the costs of anything but sometimes it's necessary. The tax will be used exclusively by the highway department. The rotation of equipment purchases has not been kept up and we all count on this equipment to maintain and plow our roads. We have a county shop that desperately needs to be replaced. These are a few of the thing that have been pushed off way too long.

The Criminal Justice Center is often a topic of discussion. We have it, we use it 24 hours a day, and it's time to move on.

Raising the levy was a difficult decision also and I voted in favor of it after much thought and research. I feel a strong responsibility to the people of Houston County. With funds from the state being cut and the cost of operating the county going up - there really wasn't any other choice. We run a fiscally responsible county. We demand accountability of every dollar spent.

One of the things I think would really improve the communication between the county board and the citizens of the county would be to video tape our meetings and live feed it to our web page. This would facilitate much more open government which is what we all want.

As we start the New Year I can promise you that all of your county commissioners are working hard to make this a county we can all be proud to call home!

Thank you for the opportunity to serve you.