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Cook County Administrator Seeking People to Become Involved in Local Government

Cook County publishes periodic columns “on timely topics and service information from your Cook County government” called  “County Connections.” On October 21, a column written by County Administrator James Joerke titled “Becoming Involved in Local Government” seeks individuals willing to become involved with one or more of the 15 boards and committees that will have vacancies by year-end.

“The more engaged residents are in influencing local decision-making, the more likely it is that decisions made by local governing bodies will reflect the will of the community,” Joerke wrote.

Generally, these boards and committees meet at least once each month. Joerke acknowledges that the time commitment may be too much for some people. But he goes on, “If the idea of learning more about local government processes and influencing policymakers sounds appealing, there are many ways to become involved.” The county maintains a “Meeting Type List” on its website that includes all board meetings along with meeting schedules, agendas, and minutes for about 30 committees and advisory councils.

Most have at least one member that is a sitting County Commissioner. Several have two or more Commissioners on the roster.

Those with vacancies currently or at year-end have a button labeled “Apply” to take you into the application process.

The county board reviews applications and makes appointments. The terms of each position vary according to each group’s bylaws. Both Lake and St. Louis Counties have similar boards and advisory committees, as do the cities here in the Arrowhead region.

“Advisory committees are not just window dressing; they truly help County staff do their jobs better and help the County Board make better decisions,” Joerke wrote.

As of press time, the following committees, boards, and advisory councils have or are planning for vacancies, according to the web­site:

  • The Public Health and Human Services Advisory Committee and Cook County Local Mental Health Advisory Council both work to assist and advise the Public Health and Human Services Board.
  • The Revolving Loan Fund Committee promotes economic development by providing loans to businesses in or planning to locate in Cook County.
  • The Community Center Board of Trust­ees supports programs and facilities at the Community Center to promote communi­ty cohesiveness.
  • U of M Extension Committee, a legisla­tively mandated body that provides local knowledge, community connections, and feedback to the University’s Extension Service.
  • Grand Marais Library Board comprises four Grand Marais residents and three members from the county at large.
  • The Parks and Trails Commission advises the county commissioners on all matters related to the planning, development, implementation, and maintenance of parks, trails, and recreational activities in the county.
  • The Housing and Redevelopment Au­thority Board consists of one member appointed from each of the Commission Districts in the county.
  • The Cook County/Grand Marais Eco­nomic Development Authority exists to diversify the local economy, retain and expand existing businesses, and create jobs.
  • The Highway Advisory Committee is the sounding board for Highway Engineer Robert Haas. The 14-member committee includes two commissioners and the Ad­ministrator.
  • The Firewise Committee focuses on wild­fire prevention, specifically as it impacts property owners and public infrastruc­ture.
  • The Planning Commission considers re­quests for conditional and use permits for land uses, reviews permit applications, and makes recommendations to the Board. The Board of Adjustment consid­ers requests for variances to zoning ordi­nances and recommends to the Board for decisions to allow or deny those requests.
  • The Arrowhead Regional Corrections Advisory Board meets bi-monthly and assists in formulating the regional Com­prehensive Corrections Plan.
  • The Aquatic Invasive Species Advisory Committee currently consists of Com­missioners Debra White and Ginny Stor­lie.

Although it is most often associated with cli­mate action, this phrase is true of every impact local government decision-making and actions have, “Think globally, act locally.” Your community needs you.

If you are willing and able to serve on one of these boards and committees, you should contact your county administrator or coun­ty commissioner or visit your jurisdiction’s website.

Steve Fernlund
Steve Fernlund
Typically these “about me” pages include a list of academic achievements (I have none) and positions held (I have had many, but who really cares about those?) So, in the words of the late Admiral James Stockwell, “Who am I? Why am I here?” I’m well into my seventh decade on this blue planet we call home. I’m a pretty successful husband, father, and grandfather, at least in my humble opinion. My progeny may disagree. We have four children and five grandchildren. I spent most of my professional life in the freight business. At the tender age of 40, early retirement beckoned and we moved to Grand Marais. A year after we got here, we bought and operated the Cook County News Herald, a weekly newspaper in Grand Marais. A sharp learning curve for a dumb freight broker to become a newspaper editor and publisher. By 1999 the News Herald was an acquisition target for a rapidly consolidating media market. We sold our businesses and “retired” again, buying a winter retreat in Nevada. In the fall of 2016, we returned to Grand Marais and bought a house from old friends of ours on the ridge overlooking Lake Superior. They were able to move closer to family and their Mexico winter home. And we came home to what we say is our last house. I’m a strong believer in the value of local newspapers--both online and those you can wrap a fish in. I write a weekly column and a couple of feature stories for the Northshore Journal. I’m most interested in writing about the everyday lives of local people and reporting on issues of importance to them.
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