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Innovation is a Daily Goal for Olmsted County Employees

Picture-Collaborate & Innovation Words

Article written by Dale Ignatius, Director of Human Resources at Olmsted County

As another Labor Day passed, I was reminded of my maternal grandfather telling me about his work as a youth helping to string telegraph lines behind a train from Saint Paul, Minnesota to San Francisco, California. My paternal grandfather talked of his job as a horse harness maker for the Marshall Wells Company in Duluth, Minnesota and coming to realize that this trade would die as steam-powered cars passed by him on the muddy streets of Duluth.

Both of my grandfathers worked very hard in their professions, one becoming a Minnesota Power and Light Superintendent and the other a small business owner of a garage with a staff of 40 workers. 

Their successes were not without challenges. Both did their best to keep food on the table during the Great Depression of the 1930s and World War II. I admire their work ethic and ingenuity when faced with adversity. 

I recall being with one of my grandfathers when Neil Armstrong stepped onto the moon. He was proud of the tremendous accomplishments of American workers who he had seen progress from telegraph and horse harnesses to traveling to the moon. He told me “think what you will see in your lifetime.”

Today, the American worker’s productivity rivals every other worker around the world. Innovation, originality, inventiveness and creativity are hallmarks of the American workforce. 

Working for a local government, I personally see initiative and ingenuity daily. Olmsted County has been recognized and has received awards for many innovative programs. 

  • Last year, Olmsted County’s finance staff received an award for excellence in financial reporting from the Governmental Financial Officers Association of the United States and Canada. 
  • In 2011, our Highway Engineering and Design Division won awards from the Concrete Paving Association and the State of Minnesota Department of Transportation for paving and construction methods employed on County Highways 10 and 2. 
  • Olmsted County’s AAA bond rating for 2012 puts us in the top 1 percent of the country among county governmental organizations. This rating rewards local taxpayers with lower interest rates on County-levied bonds. 
  • Olmsted County’s Environmental Resources Department is mining the landfill ash from the Waste to Energy facility to recover metals for scrap and the household garbage to generate stream and electricity and lengthen the life of the landfill, ultimately helping to preserve the environment. 
  • Employee achievement awards promote health programs such as supporting breastfeeding in immigrant communities and foster work place wellness. 

These are just a few examples of how public employees are working not only harder, but also smarter and more creatively, to better serve the citizens of Olmsted County. 

In order to maximize services during budget cuts, the public employee unions collaborated with the County to cut labor costs. Employees voluntarily took furloughs, staffing levels were cut and hiring was frozen. Yet even in these tough times, we continue to seek ways to innovate. 

Through a Beacon Grant, Olmsted County’s Public Health Services is collaborating with the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology and Mayo Clinic on a health information project which will revolutionize how patient information will be utilized. Beacon is a federally funded grant program that provides communities with funding to build and strengthen their health information technology infrastructure and exchange capabilities. 

The saying "good enough for government work" originated in World War II, which meant a product or service could pass the most rigorous of standards. Over the years, the phrase has come to mean the opposite of its original intent, referring to poorly executed work. 

I can say from personal experience that Olmsted County’s employees daily demonstrate the World War II understanding of that phrase through innovative processes, partnerships with other governmental agencies, businesses and non-profit groups, and measure up to the highest standards and ethics in workmanship and service delivery. 

The Mission of Olmsted County is to provide the foundation of a great community by protecting and improving the health, safety, and general well being of Olmsted County residents, improving economic and environmental conditions, and promoting equality of opportunity. 

Olmsted County employees’ dedication is most eloquently summed up in the words of Hubert H. Humphrey who said, "The moral test of government is how it treats those who are in the dawn of life, the children; those who are in the twilight of life, the aged; and those who are in the shadow of life, the sick, the needy, and the handicapped."

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