Rod Sullivan, Supervisor, Johnson County, Iowa

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July 12, 2018

Sullivan’s Salvos     7/17/18

In this edition:

*RIP Bob Ray
*Solon Beef Days
*Johnson County Fair
*Staff Recommendations
*Your Favorite Books!
*Did You Know?

*RIP Bob Ray
         Bob Ray served as the Governor of Iowa from 1969-1983. Those were my formative years. In a way, he will always be my definition of a Governor. By now you have read all the tributes – I will simply add that Bob Ray was a good man!

         Interestingly, Governor Ray’s wife Billie was my landlord for a couple of years in the early 1990s at the Broadway Condos in SE Iowa City. I wish I had some great story to tell, but I never met her. I was satisfied with her as a landlord, and she was satisfied with me as a tenant.

         RIP, Governor Ray. May your sense of fairness, compassion, wisdom, and progressive vision serve as an influence on those who seek to hold the office now and in the future!

*Solon Beef Days
The 47th annual Solon Beef Days runs Friday and Saturday July 20 & 21 in Solon. Steaks, rides, entertainment, a parade, and the now-legendary hay bale toss are just a few of the items on tap.

         I say this every year, and it is because it comes from a place of pride: I can honestly say that I have been to roughly 42 of the 47 Beef Days. I wear it like a badge of honor! Make this the year to start your own streak!

         For all the details, including a full schedule of events, see:

*Johnson County Fair
         The Johnson County Fair is changing things this year! Unlike the typical Monday-Thursday schedule, the 2018 Fair runs from Sunday, July 22 through Wednesday, July 25. Regardless of the dates, this is a great opportunity for the whole family to take a step back toward our agricultural roots!

         I love the way the Johnson County Ag Association manages the County Fair. I am particularly fond of the fact that there is never an entry fee, and parking is free. In many counties, you would pay $10 to park and $5/head admission, if not more. That is $30 minimum for a family of four before you have even done anything!

Yes, it is typically hot out there. But that is why they sell ice cream! So, please stop out and enjoy the Fair. You’ll be glad you did!

For the full daily lineup of events, see:

*Staff Recommendations
One of the most delicate balances for any elected official is the balance between following staff recommendations and following the wishes of individual members of the public. 

On one hand, it is absolutely vital that elected officials trust their staff people. We hire people to be experts. If we are not willing to heed expert advice, why employ an expert? 

On the flip side, we all have instances where we disagree. If elected officials blindly follow staff recommendations, things will not go well. Elected officials are charged with weighing staff expertise versus public opinion and other mitigating circumstances.

         So, how does an elected official strike a healthy balance? In my mind, the most important factor is hiring good people. If elected officials have less than 99% confidence in key staff, there will be trouble. Second-guessing hurts everyone involved.

         Part of the measure of a really good staff person is her ability to accept things when elected officials overrule or disagree with her. I always appreciate it when staff people turn things around on elected officials, and let them own the decision. For example:

         “Here is the situation. Here are your adopted policies that may/may not be applicable. Here is my recommendation. Here is why I recommend it. If you choose to accept my recommendation, here are the possible ramifications. If you choose not to accept my recommendation, here are the possible ramifications. Let me know what you decide, and I’ll begin implementing it right away.”

         We are very fortunate in Johnson County, as we have some EXTREMELY good staff people. Many run through the decision making process just as I laid it out above. I follow their lead most of the time. When I do not follow their advice, we discuss the reasons why, and there are no hard feelings. (At least, I HOPE there are no hard feelings!) There are ways to disagree without throwing staff under the bus; as Elected Officials, we should act accordingly most of the time.

         There is no magic number when it comes to following staff recommendations, but it probably shouldn’t be 100%. If so, one must question the ability of the elected official to think independently. A more important factor is the dialogue that occurs around these decisions. Elected officials and staff should both be able to articulate their positions clearly. 

         Pay attention to the interactions between professional staff and elected officials. These relationships are the key to how well your government will operate.

*Your Favorite Books!
         In the last edition of Salvos, I asked for your favorite books. And you responded! A couple of people (Paul Deaton of Big Grove Township and Lisa Green Douglass of Madison Township) actually gave me more than I can print! (Email me if you want their lists.)

Most people offered some sort of caveats – “This is my current favorite,” or “This is my favorite fiction.” I expected this from UNESCO City of Literature Executive Director John Kenyon; picking a favorite book for John would be akin to picking his favorite son! But most respondents offered some type of caveats. I think this demonstrates just how seriously people in our county take their literature!

So, here are a few selections from a few Salvos readers. Enjoy!

Peter Hanson: “Grapes of Wrath”, by John Steinbeck

Sally Jablonski: Children- “My Side of the Mountain” by George; Adults – “The Book of Joy” by Dalai Lama and Bishop Tutu

Sherman Johnson: "Ishmael" by Daniel Quinn

Joe Nugent: “The Quiet American” by Graham Greene

Jim Walters: Melville's “Moby Dick” 

Eric Johnson: non-fiction - "Born to Run: A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen"; Fiction - "The Long Walk" by Stephen King

Janet Lessner: George Saunders' “Lincoln in the Bardo”

Scott McDonough: “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn”

Rebecca Reiter: '"Grapes of Wrath" and "Animal Farm"

Jenny Britton: "The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down" and "The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks"

John Kenyon: "The End of Vandalism" by Tom Drury

Peter Fisher: “Catch 22” by Joseph Heller, “The Milagro Beanfield War” by John Nichols, and “Straight Man” by Richard Russo

Linda Levey:Richard Russo “The Bridge of Sighs”; Gordon Woods “The Americanization of Benjamin Franklin”.

*DID YOU KNOW? The Johnson County Fair is put on every year by the Johnson County Ag Association.

Anyone interested in learning more about County government should take a look at the County website- 

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As always, feel free to contact me at 354-7199 or I look forward to serving you!



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