Constructive Partnerships with County Officials

County Historical Commission (CHC) annual reports gather data on the degree to which CHCs interact with county officials. Strong partnerships between CHCS and county officials are characterized by the qualities previously discussed in our partnership series--regular and frequent communication, exchange of goods and services, physical and financial support, and a healthy respect for shared and differing priorities.

A county commissioners court is a CHC’s most important partner, which warrants each CHC to revisit what actions are taken to cultivate and nourish this relationship. Below are some tips to help the CHC demonstrate its significance to county judges and commissioners.

Communicate with judge and commissioners

A CHC not only works in partnership with the commissioners court but also has statutory responsibilities to keep officials––judge and county commissioners––informed on CHC activities. Ongoing communication involves explaining CHC accomplishments and obstacles to the court. When describing projects, the CHC can request guidance to overcome challenges and address controversial issues.

Travis CHC communicates regularly with county officials and often appears before commissioners court; photo at right. 

Matagorda CHC keeps officials in the loop, providing a constant feed of information about CHC activities.

Waller CHC invites elected officials to attend CHC meetings, and provides quarterly reports documenting how CHC goals are met and county money is invested.

Take the time to provide ongoing updates about all aspects of CHC activity—projects completed and planning concerns. 

Promote CHC work

Anticipate that non-CHC judges and commissioner responsibilities will take precedence over CHC business and self-promote by doing CHC “homework” for them. Provide data that reflects CHC success, including positive community feedback. Ideally, you want public comments to convey that the CHC and its services are valued. Gathering this documentation is the best way to influence officials, especially those who may not have an interest in preservation. 

Carson CHC (at left) promotes its work to officials through formal presentations and onsite celebrations. 

Bee CHC provides commissioners court with "work product,” such as its historic property inventories and historic homes calendar. Appointees attend court and meet with officials to answer questions and explain details about CHC projects.

Wise CHC restored THC historical markers on the courthouse lawn, drawing attention of county officials to CHC efforts.

Promoting the specifics of CHC work provides a reminder of the positive impact CHC services and projects have on and for the county.

Know county officials

Knowing your county officials is just as important as knowing your community. Getting to know your county judge and commissioners on an individual basis informs the CHC on what is important to each official. Use this information to identify projects that appeal to the judge and/or commissioners, thus aligning priorities of officials with CHC pursuits. The more interested officials are in CHC projects, the more interested the officials will be in supporting the CHC. Attend commissioners court AND set up one-on-one meetings to discuss projects with each county official.

Tom Green CHC provides"orientation" to incoming county officials so that they understand the purpose and importance of CHC work; photo at right. 

Wheeler CHC visits monthly with the county judge to provide planning and activity updates, which helps to secure approval and funding from the county for CHC activities.

Sabine CHC has a rotating pool of appointees who attend commissioners court to present CHC work and solicit project ideas. CHC reports back on actions taken to address officials’ recommendations.

Find out what is important to each county official, prioritize preservation projects that reflect those ideas, and make sure officials know that the CHC is responsive to their interests. 

Provide educational opportunities

Once you know your officials, you can determine preservation topics of interest and in need of clarification. Increase the CHC’s value by giving officials a chance to broaden their knowledge base through educational opportunities. Design training specific to the officials’ role and/or invite them to the workshops developed for appointees and the public. Serving the court in this way increases the CHC’s value and the court’s understanding of a CHC’s stewardship responsibilities.

Tom Green CHC workshop addresses policies that impact decisions made by CHCs and officials.

Gonzales CHC and its judge hosted a Records Management and Digitization workshop for judges, district clerks, and CHC appointees from 20 surrounding counties, resulting in 54 participants. A Government Information Analyst with the Texas State Library and Archives Commission presented on “Implementing HB 1559 County Records Management Overview.” Director of the Texas Records Digitization Initiative for FamilySearch presented on “Free Records Preservation Opportunities for Texas Counties.”

Educating officials on preservation matters shows them the diversity and depth of responsibilities related to the stewardship of historic resources and how the CHC can help the county fulfill these responsibilities.

Include officials in CHC events

Inviting elected officials to CHC events helps them understand that the CHC has a role in the community that goes beyond completing individual preservation projects. Include county officials when you participate in activities that expand the CHC’s community presence. This interaction allows officials to be seen by constituents in positive environments and illustrates another way in which the CHC can serve the county.

Matagorda County officials (at right) attend a Texas Treasures Business award ceremony. 

Jim Hogg’s Ranching Heritage Day in April 2016 took place at the courthouse square and the historic Old Jail Museum. The beautiful courthouse courtroom venued a performance of old cowboy (Vaquero) songs and stories. By hosting this cultural heritage event at this location, we promoted and showcased the Old Historic Jail, courthouse, and courthouse square. Event was well attended by not only locals but also many from the surrounding area.

Use CHC activities to give county officials an opportunity to interact with the community in visible and positive ways.

Garner support for CHC

The above five actions cultivate healthy partnerships with county officials, making requests for additional support easier to deliver and justify. Officials are more likely to support the CHC when they know about ongoing CHC efforts, the variety of ways in which officials can contribute, and how their support will positively impact the public. CHCs that actively pursue relationships with officials are more likely to secure the support required for CHC success.

Take advantage of every occasion to showcase CHC accomplishments and highlight how the county benefits from CHC services!

 


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