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Jan 10, 2020 09:30AM ● By Editor

By Interim Administrator Rena Rogers.  From Cook County MN - January 10, 2019

“Plan your work and work your plan.” – Margaret Thatcher


As I reflect on the coming year, my thoughts are filled with ideas, challenges and opportunities, knowing that there are infinite solutions for any given problem and that no one person has all the answers.

2020 will be a year of planning for Cook County government. Defining a collective vision and then identifying key objectives that support this vision will create the necessary foundation for long-term financial and facilities planning, budgets and service development.

This effort must be approached with intention and purpose: action without thoughtful planning and an understanding of impacts can lead to negative outcomes or benefits that are not sustainable. So, as the commissioners and management team work through the planning process, we will look for ways to engage the public. We want to better understand your ideas, hopes and concerns as undertake this process.

Undertaking this process does not mean that Cook County government will be on hold in 2020. Following are a few of the tasks that county departments hope to accomplish this year.

Department Goals for 2020

The Attorney’s Office, Administrator’s Office and others will be occupied with several critical contracts:

  • County labor contracts, which are up for negotiation this year
  • Cooperative law enforcement and road maintenance contracts with Grand Marais and Grand Portage, which need updating

2020 brings the US Census, which is more important than ever with a congressional seat on the line.  Additionally, the Auditor’s Office is ramping up for the first ever Presidential Primary in Minnesota. This will require training for both election workers and the public.

An effort will be launched to understand and document our current capital infrastructure, including the YMCA, to better understand our maintenance needs going forward. This information is critical to our long-term financial and short-term budget planning. 

Policies and ordinances are always under a cycle of review and revision. These fundamental documents provide consistency and fairness. Development of bylaws will be a key project for the board, which will also be engaged in hiring the next administrator.

The HR director is reviewing and updating our employee policies. She is also working on employee development initiatives and other strategies for employee retention and succession planning.

The 31st Annual Emergency Services Conference will be held April 24-25 at the Community Center. This annual event provides training opportunities for the dozens of volunteer emergency workers in our county.

Process and service improvement projects powered by technology include: 

  • Implementing new case management software for the Attorney’s Office to improve service without adding staff
  • Replacing the 911 system in the Dispatch Center, setting the stage for 911 texting
  • Streamlining our E-911 address sign process to improve communication and timeliness
  • Using our e-Permitting system to manage public event permitting
  • Implementing mobile software for the Assessor’s Office to expedite data entry
  • Creating custom GIS-based apps for department field work
  • Improving our live video streaming of meetings to include closed captioning and backups when the internet fails 

There are always tangible projects that directly benefit the public, including:

  • Increasing cell service
  • Repaving the Gunflint Trail between Trout Lake Road and Pine Mountain Road
  • Replacing the culvert on CSAH 1 in Schroeder
  • Upgrading the county website to increase accessibility and mobile access
  • Producing a new plat book and companion online versions

Public Health and Human Services is always working on long-term strategies to improve the quality of life in our community. This year’s goals include:

  • Continuing to address behavioral health service needs, including substance use disorder treatment coordination and behavioral health crisis response
  • Increasing capacity in public health staffing to address goals identified in the 2017-2022 Community Health Improvement Plan

Finally, the county will continue to lead discussions about changes in state assessment classifications related to short-term vacation rental, child care and housing initiatives. These efforts, along with those outlined above, are critical to developing a sustainable long-term plan for Cook County. We encourage you to take part.

Additional information about county programs and initiatives is available on the county website,

NOTE: A special thanks to the commissioners and department heads who submitted the information included in this article. 


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