County doesn’t need to be micro-managed

SHEBOYGAN COUNTY’S GOVERNMENT SEEMS to be working quite well, if performance is any guide.

The county’s spending and taxing record over the past decade and a half is among the best, if not the best, among the state’s 72 counties.

That’s due in large part to the committee oversight system utilized by the County Board, with different committees responsible for each of the county’s departments - its operations, budgets, policies and more.

It’s an orderly system that has, for the most part, worked well for the county – and for taxpayers – for generations.

Yet an effort to clarify it in the board’s operating rules adopted at the board’s biennial reorganization meeting last month drew fire from several superviors.

At issue was a clarification that any questions or requests for information from any of the county’s departments “beyond that provided by the department” be directed through the appropriate oversight liaison committee or the county administrator instead of directly to employees or managers.

Supervisor Fay Uraynar characterized the clarification as “a limitation of our (supervisors’) freedom of speech.”

She also termed it an example of the county’s “silo thinking” and claimed that companies in the private sector instead “encourage … cross-functional teams.”

On both points, she missed the mark.

The board’s rules do not in any way prevent any supervisor from seeking answers to questions – they simply prescribe a manageable procedure for doing so.

They also do not preclude any supervisor from attending any County Board committee meeting to gather information or seek answers, or from stating their opinions or making their feelings known at any public meeting or in any other public forum they choose.

Uraynar is correct that private sector companies encourage cross-functional teams, but misses an important point – those teams typically function not to examine the minutiae of day-to-day operations in different departments but to oversee the big picture, corporate direction, goals and the like.

It is hard to believe that an entity like the Kohler Co. would tolerate the head of its hospitality division, for example, directly questioning a foundry foreman about his operations or procedures. There are channels to follows, procedures to be adhered to in order to assure everything operates smoothly and efficiently. The same should hold true for the county.

Sheboygan County is a $125 million operation, with 19 departments, more than 800 employees and more than 200 programs. It can not and will not operate efficiently and economically with 25 County Board supervisors attempting to micro-manage all of those departments, employees and operations.

The committee system allows each department and employee to function with a clearly-defined chain of command, while allowing supervisors to efficiently and effectively manage all of the areas of county government without becoming overwhelmed or overburdened.

If the present system works – and every indication is that it has and continues to do so – there is no reason to change.

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