Oaths of office have been taken and with the New Year less than a week old, this is a good time to congratulate the newly elected or appointed governmental leaders around the county.
Bob Benton took office Monday as Hood River County Board of Commissioners, after being elected Nov. 2 to succeed Chuck Thomsen.
Joining him on the county board is Karen Joplin, appointed Monday from a large and well-qualified field of applicants. (See page A1 for details.)
Joplin will serve out the term vacated by former commissioner Barbara Briggs, who stepped down to concentrate on her family and business.
A new mayor and three city council members formally took office Monday in Cascade Locks. Mayor George Fischer succeeds one-term mayor Brad Lorang; also newly sworn are councilors Tom Cramblett (back for a second stint), Don Haight and Eva Zerfing.
Hood River's own Greg Walden, re-elected in November, has recently been at the center of considerable potential change in Washington D.C. Walden, chair of the House Majority Transition Team, was tasked with crafting a series of reforms that would make the House operate with more openness and transparency.
Hood River City Council member-elect Brian McNamara will be sworn in Jan. 10, which is also a big day for two Hood River men headed to the state Legislature: Chuck Thomsen, elected to the Senate, and Mark Johnson, elected to the House.
For these legislators-in-waiting, there has been precious little actual waiting: meetings with constituents, legislative committee orientations and the details of setting up work spaces and temporary residences in Salem kept both men busy during the holiday break.
Meanwhile, the Port of Hood River is preparing to appoint someone to succeed Kathy Watson, who stepped down last week. The Port Commission is scheduled to interview applicants on Jan. 14.
Whatever level of government - city, county, port, state or federal - these newly elected or appointed public servants have huge responsibilities. Statewide, agencies and programs will face funding cutbacks, and those tough choices at the state and federal levels will weigh upon local budgets as well.
As all these officials well know, the strange and sporadic holiday schedule is behind us, and the New Year brings plenty of hard work in the overall challenge of meeting public needs with declining or unstable resources.
That said, the people we elect need help from citizens. They can serve us best when we inform ourselves and get involved.
We help when we share our ideas and insights as taxpayers, and when we participate in government and community groups and projects with schools, nonprofits and other organizations.
Individuals are the starting points for the increasingly important volunteer programs and public-private partnerships in our communities.
But when it comes to crucial funding choices and policy decisions, the responsibility rests with our elected officials. We firmly believe these public servants, new as well as returning, collectively possess both a concern for serving the public and a desire to work cooperatively. We wish them all well in their endeavors throughout 2011 and beyond.