The County Connection: Scouting for government

By Sallie Clark

       While contemplating what to report to you about El Paso County government this month, one special recent event came to mind. I was asked by a local Westside den mother to conduct a tour of our El Paso County facilities with a group of Cub Scouts. While I planned for the tour, I racked my brain, thinking about what would be of interest in county government to young boys. One thing was certain, I knew they wouldn't want to just see a group of administrative offices.
       I was surprised to see their excitement about "hands-on government" interaction, even if it was a bit difficult maintaining their attention. When they arrived, I introduced the scouts to several commissioners and then we entered our board chambers. They were excited to sit on the dais in the commissioner chairs and take turns hammering the gavel. I explained in basic terms what commissioners do; voting on land and planning issues, approving the funding to the other county offices and maintaining the buildings used by our elected officials and county departments. I showed them a map of the commissioner districts and where they lived in my commissioner district.
       We then moved on to the office of John Bass, our county assessor. The scouts were especially interested in the GIS mapping program, each of them identifying their address and seeing how their houses appeared on aerial photos. In Treasurer Sandra Damron's office, the highlight of the tour was the treasurer's vault. A visit with our clerk and recorder, Bob Balink, proved to be the perfect ending of our day. The kids were impressed with the clerk's computer election equipment, the automobile license plate area and finally, the new play area for kids in the waiting room. It's a good thing we didn't start there, as the Cub Scouts enjoyed testing out the new "kids equipment." I explained there were many more county offices, and that at a later date, we might visit the Department of Transportation and the Sheriff's Office.
       So what did this afternoon with a group of Cub Scouts teach me? Here are some of the unedited thank-you notes I received:
       "Dear Commissioner Clark, Thank You for meeting with us and talking to us about the county commissioner's duties and the county government. I especially like hitting the gavel and seeing the mapping program. What I learned helped me understand about paying taxes and becoming a good citizen."
       "Dear Comissioner Clark, Thank You for meeting with us about the County Government, I really like seeing the valt. What I learned will help me understand voting and becaming a good citizen. Thank you again for your time and help."
       "Dear Commissioner Clark, Thank you for meeting with us and talking to us about the County Commissioner's duties. I especially liked sitting in the County Commissioner's Chair's. What I learned will help me understand voting and becoming a good citizen."
       Not only did our Cub Scouts learn a bit about county government that day, but it reinforced in me how an introduction to adult activities affects children's perceptions. Being a commissioner is more than just roads, bridges and infrastructure; it's about "human-structure." Bless these young, soon-to-be citizens who are learning how to make a difference and care about our government and our community.

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