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Douglas County is not "Anyplace, USA" yet

by Jacques Etchegoyhen

It has been interesting to reach the milestone of 40 years of age, middle-aged, as it if often called, just prior to the cessation of one millennium and the beginning of another. In many ways, the timing seems so appropriate because our community is posed so similarly. Douglas County is no longer the youthful, brash, agrarian-based place that it once was. Yet it has not aged into an “anyplace” USA that so many western communities have become. We’ve not yet become mired in the mediocrity that has been so accepted in our society, producing nothing but lawsuits, conference calls and e-mail. We must guard against becoming a community without identity, a community with uncaring and unresponsive neighborhoods. We must continue to support an environment that encourages individuals and neighborhoods to give of themselves for the benefit of the entire community.

Certainly, we must be audacious enough to demand this and more from our county and ourselves. Having worked for a ranching family, whose roots extend back to six years before Nevada became a state, has only enhanced my resolve that this is a special placenot solely because of the natural setting but because of the people. The sense of place that comes with having the first Caucasian settlement in Nevada and the oldest agricultural region in the state permeates even newcomers like myself. These roots enhance our ability to create a healthy community, which has the desire to create anew and the will to save the best of the old. A community embodied by the Ranchos Fire Rescue volunteers’ slogan of “neighbors helping neighbors.” A place with a countywide identity, yet a commitment to the uniqueness of each individual community neighborhood.

The county recently earmarked $50,000 to work with the Town of Minden to create a specific plan, working with the existing buildings downtown and encouraging new activity that matches the “rhythm” that already exists. I believe this will help create a synergistic partnership between the county and the town that will be replicated throughout the countyoften. Unlike far too many federal entities, who commonly use the “one size fits all” approach, our county government is trying to create an environment in which each community can enhance its existing character. A recent editorial in a Reno paper called us “a fiercely independent” county. No kidding! The opening line of “I’m from the government and I’m here to help you” is not an endearing introduction in Douglas County. We’ve taken a different approach. In our design standards manual, chapters were left open so that the towns can frame their own future. I know the concept of allowing the towns this flexibility to choose, this freedom, seems all too common-sensical. But I think our founding fathers were definitely on the right track when they created a flexible union of states, not a national oligarchy. In the deepest recesses, I believe this freedom to choose will genuinely help us from becoming mired in the mediocrity that is all too commonly the result of the “one size fits all” approach.

Jacques Etchegoyhen writes a regular Commissioners’ Corner column for The Record-Courier.