Perhaps the most foreign government to Americans these days is one that is closest to us — that of the county.
Many folks aren’t aware who their local officials are. They may not be aware that here in Madison County we are represented by three county commissioners (the executive of sorts), seven councilpersons (budget), the auditor (budget and taxes), the treasurer (control funds), the assessor (property), the coroner (forensics), the surveyor (land), the recorder (record-keeping), the sheriff and a plethora of smaller township trustees and boards.
This government apparatus — our elected officials — matters. It is likely your councilperson lives within several miles of you. These folks aren’t “bean-counters” or “bureaucrats.” They are your neighbors, relatives, family and friends. They are us. They take a role in public administration because they want to provide for our communities and make sure Madison County is a great place to live. Is there a bad apple in the bunch occasionally? Sure, but this is consistent with every other group in society. That doesn’t mean everyone employed in government is lazy, corrupt or on the public dole. They are people just like you and I.
If you ask the average person what part of the American government owns and maintains over 40 percent of the roadways and spends over $68 billion on health care services the answer might be a questioning shrug. Which unit of government spends a combined $472 billion on law enforcement, education, construction and human services? The United States employs over 3 million people in this unit of government. This unit is the county.
While most of the focus of government centers on Washington, D.C., and national politics, our county offices are working day in and day out. This makes county government more important than our national offices in terms of individual repercussion. Law enforcement, health care, transportation, elections and education are all handled by county government.