The County Connection: What the county does

By Sallie Clark

       Recently, I attended a reception for Dr. Norm Ridder, our outgoing superintendent for School District 11. On a personal note, the Westside will miss Norm. It was his support and leadership that put the Westside Schools Task Force together, looking for innovative ways to increase enrollment and improve our neighborhood schools - and it's working! His leadership touched the lives of so many.
       While at this event, I was speaking with a local citizen, who asked me, "What does a county commissioner do? Don't you have something to do with the fair?" I answered, "Well yes, but that's only a very small part of what we do." It occurs to me that many of our residents may not be aware of the purpose of county government, its officials and how we interact with all the communities in our area.
       El Paso County encompasses approximately 2,200 square miles of land. In contrast, the city of Colorado Springs covers less than 200 of those square miles. Our district, District 3, also includes the city of Manitou Springs and the town of Green Mountain Falls. The primary job of a county commissioner is to provide direct oversight of the county's budget. The non-board elected officials; sheriff, district attorney, clerk and recorder, treasurer, and assessor all have budgets approved by the commissioners. The commissioners also act as the board of social services, overseeing the Department of Human Services. Importantly, our county government provides facilities such as the courthouse and the jail, oversees our county parks, makes decisions on planning proposals in unincorporated areas, and manages county transportation and maintenance. Commissioners meet twice a week to discuss various issues, hear staff reports and approve contracts.
       What many don't realize is the crossover between our area's government services. As an example, people who are arrested by the city police work their way through the county's system. Because there's no city jail, they'll be housed at the county jail. The district attorney will decide whether to prosecute. When they come before a judge, they'll be arraigned at the courthouse building, which is managed by the county. And, the sheriff's office manages the jail and provides for security. It's an integrated and cooperative system. Transparent regional cooperation takes place everyday. In the next few columns, I'll talk more about how the county is working with other entities to coordinate, cooperate and in turn, save taxpayer dollars.
       On Memorial Day weekend, I hope you enjoyed our own Old Colorado City Territory Days... and, importantly, that you took a moment to remember our military service men and women, and their families, in recognition of their service to our country. It's also an appropriate time to thank our local protectors - our law enforcement, firefighters and emergency personnel, who work every day to keep us safe.

Clark, a Westside resident, represents District 3 on the Board of El Paso County Commissioners and serves as its vice chair. You can reach her at 520-6413 or