State of Eagle County presentation focuses on civility, collaboration, innovation
EAGLE — Traditionally, Eagle County’s State of the County presentation features a fair amount of boasting about accomplishments of the past year.
But this year the Eagle County Board of Commissioners opted to switch things up a bit. They highlighted the county’s accomplishments in a written document, which appeared in the Vail Daily, on Monday, Feb. 12, and in an entertaining video produced by the county’s communications department. They also took some inspiration from the event that is on everyone’s mind — the 2018 Olympics — and Eagle’s own Olympian Jake Pates made a cameo in the video.
The Eagle County Room was packed with a standing-room-only crowd for the presentation on Tuesday, Feb. 13, largely comprised of county employees with representatives from other local governments and valley businesses sprinkled in. As Commissioner Kathy Chandler-Henry noted, the attendees were likely more attracted by the video presentation and free lunch than the county officials speeches. But she went on to challenge the audience with the themes for this year’s State of the County address — civility, collaboration and innovation.
More than being polite
“I was awed by the Olympics Opening Ceremonies and the themes of peace, harmony and connection,” said Chandler-Henry to launch the presentation. “These Olympic themes, I believe, are at the core of the value of civility.”
Chandler-Henry noted that civility isn’t just politeness, although being polite is a great first step.
“It is about disagreeing without disrespect. Seeking common ground as a starting point for dialogue about differences. Listening past one’s preconceptions and helping others to do the same,” Chandler-Henry said.
She noted that civility is the hard work of staying present, even when we fiercely disagree with others.
“We can all be more civil in our home, community and work lives,” Chandler-Henry said. “We can lead the way starting right here in Eagle County.”
Commissioner Jeanne McQueeney highlighted the need for collaboration to achieve county goals.
“As Vince Lombardi describes it, ‘Individual commitment to a group effort — that is what makes a team work, a company work, a society work, a civilization work.’”
McQueeney cited the value of having fresh eyes look at a problem. “There’s a power in looking at an issue for the first time, free from rigidity, bias and status quo,” she said.
“People believe in what they have a voice in creating,” McQueeney continued. “We’ve all experienced individuals and groups that exist solely to attack others’ ideas. Bringing them to the table and elevating their voices can lead to stronger support when creating solutions.”
She challenged county workers to work toward collaboration in 2018.
“This year you will inevitably face complex problems, challenges or disagreements. You may be tempted to make decision in isolation, within the safety and expertise of your own team or department,” McQueeney said. “I challenge you to be courageous and invite the opposition into the room. Bring different experiences into the conversation and use collaboration to improve the efficiency and efficacy of your decisions. We will get further, faster if we can authentically involve more people in our work.”
Local governments lead
Commissioner Jill Ryan spoke about how local governments across America are rising up as leaders in problem-solving and innovation.
“Local government is at a time and place where our relevance may never have been more important,” Ryan said. “According to a 2015 Pew Research Center report, Americans rate their local governments far more favorably than they rate federal and even state governments.”
She cited the many services that county government provides, services that directly affect the lives of citizens.
“We must keep evolving and improving,” Ryan said. “I have a 2018 challenge for you, which is around innovation. Each one of you has the permission, the power and the responsibility to innovate.”
She encouraged county staff to critically examine customer service and look at ways to improve.
“This is critical. We have limited resources and infinite community need and frankly, our customers will demand it,” Ryan said.
Following their remarks, the commissioners recognized staff members with years of service awards, but before everyone headed out to enjoy the promised luncheon, Henry summarized the State of the County message for the audience:
“Be nice, play well with others and have fun because local government is where it’s at,” Chandler-Henry said.
In terms of area, it’s the county’s smallest conservation deal ever. In terms of location, it’s one of the county’s rarest acquisitions.