Commissioner Gregory Wright assumed the role of chair of the Olmsted County Board of Commissioners on January 3, 2023. He shared the following update at the January 3 Board of Commissioners meeting.
History is a chronicle of the past, but it is also a living record that is written every day; such is the case today. Never before has the county board had four retirements and installed four newly elected commissioners in the same year. The board lost 76 years of experience with the retirement of four commissioners. Their presence, just like all the commissioners who served before them, will be missed. But like history, the chronicle continues to be written and Olmsted County has gained four new commissioners who have dedicated themselves to carry on the vital work of the county.
County government touches people’s lives every day. This recognition carries with it a great responsibility. It is incumbent upon us to carry forward the stability and reliability that past boards have provided for the people of Olmsted County. When the rest of the world seems to be in turmoil, when state and federal politics create uncertainty and anxiety, people must know that the county board will continue to do its work quietly, calmly, and with a sense of purpose to build a better future for the children and grandchildren of generations to come. We do this by continuing the well-established tradition of collegiality among the commissioners and through forthright discussions.
One of the hallmarks of the county board is non-partisanship. I believe this has allowed every commissioner to find the best course of action that comes before the board without the yoke of scripted slogans and remedies. When world and national issues swirl around us and catch headlines, our task is to focus on county operations and services; to continue to improve them with ingenuity and efficiency. This hallmark also allows us to move forward together regardless of a vote outcome.
I am grateful for the experiences that have prepared me for the responsibilities of a commissioner and now of the board chair. From my early days as a paper boy delivering the morning Minneapolis Tribune before I went to school, through the days of working in my family’s small business, studying with teachers who cared, working for the Del Monte Corporation during college, then as an educator, a single father, a union executive, and a legislative lobbyist, I have been afforded many experiences that have helped me in performing the duties of a commissioner. I also benefited from what I learned from my mother’s 25 years of volunteer work as chairperson of a Housing and Urban Development committee in the small town where I grew up.
We can be thankful for a great county staff that has demonstrated over and over again that it works for the people of Olmsted County by finding and employing efficiencies, by serving people with care and respect who are in need, and by thoughtful communication with the board to challenge state restrictions that obstruct our ability to carry out our mandates. We can be thankful we have the respect of our legislative representatives who look to us to improve legislation that affects counties. We can also be thankful to our families that must share our time with the community and who support us in our practical application of good government.
The role of a county commissioner is expansive; it requires that we continue to learn and rely on each other to set the correct course of action. As elected officials, the public expects us to perform responsibly. The public does not expect us to be entertaining. The public expects us to work diligently, steadily, and quietly, and without drama to improve the lives of the people of Olmsted County while remaining fiscally responsible. Our job is not to be caretakers of an enterprise in stasis but to create conditions that will ensure achievements which will continually move Olmsted County forward into the future.
People often ask me about leadership and what it takes to be a leader. This always puzzles me because I do not believe that one can declare himself or herself a leader; that is for others to decide. I prefer to tell people that I strive to be the best that I can be, and that is the charge to this board – to be the best commissioners we can be – if we do that, a great future for Olmsted County is assured.