Douglas County is a wonderful place. Majestic mountains, beautiful farmlands, and brilliant blue Lake Tahoe surround us. More amazing than the geography are the people. We have excellent, dedicated law enforcement officers who keep us safe. Our county and town governments have hard-working, effective employees. Service clubs and non-profit organizations accomplish far beyond what their resources suggest. Our businesses are exemplary in community giving. The Chambers of Commerce and Business Council provide excellent support for businesses.
Over and over again Douglas County’s people have accomplished hard things. To spotlight just a few representative successes:
• Backpack Buddies provides food for children in need on weekends when there are no school meals. Started in 2009, Backpack Buddies has served as many as 330 children weekly. Backpack Buddies has coordinated with Carson Valley Food Closet to further ensure children are not going hungry.
• Lisa Granahan, Douglas County Economic Vitality Manager since 2010, provides information to government entities and assistance to the business community in the valley and at the lake. Her efforts have helped existing businesses thrive and attracted new businesses, including 87 new businesses in Gardnerville alone. Her efforts have strengthened our county’s economy.
• Through the hard labor of volunteers, Carson Valley Trails Association in 27 years has created over 50 miles of trails for our recreation and health. Tahoe Rim Trail Association has created 16 miles of trails in Douglas County.
• The Good Neighbor program, organized in 2017 by Sgt. Bernadette Smith of the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office, ensures the safety of home-bound, isolated elderly persons through volunteers trained to recognize elder abuse and neglect. The program has reached out to over 300 seniors and assisted 236 seniors through 79 friendly volunteers.
These successes are remarkable. Despite our successes, we have hard work ahead of us. We face significant, complex, urgent challenges:
Growth is increasing while the Growth Management Ordinance and the Transfer of Development Rights program are dated and not fully functioning as planned, threatening our rural community.
Water is a critical issue. Some current information suggests a trend of water usage exceeding aquifer replenishment each year.
Traffic on Highway 395 is dangerously and frustratingly congested.
Hiring is a challenge for the sheriff’s office, the school district and local businesses, which are all having trouble getting enough employees to serve our communities, in part because housing is unattainable with starting salaries.
These and other problems require critically thinking county commissioners, who do the hard work of deep analysis, setting forth in their decisions foundational findings that will withstand judicial scrutiny and will successfully manage the challenges at hand. We need commissioners who face our challenges with a mindset of strength, not fear. We need commissioners who respect, value, and welcome input from all individuals and organizations who have a part in the success of our county. We need commissioners who carefully consider the decisions of the advisory boards. We need commissioners dedicated to supporting a vibrant, healthy community.
We can do hard things in Douglas County.
Sharla Hales is a former trustee of the Douglas County School Board and a Minden resident.