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A conversation with Richard Oden
This is the third of an occasional series of conversations with local leaders, movers and shakers. Richard Oden has been the Chairman of the Board of Commissioners for Rockdale County since January 2009.

What's been your greatest obstacle coming in?
Actually, my greatest obstacle coming in has been me. Coming in from the private sector, I want things done today. I've got to learn, and am learning, that government takes process, takes time to implement things. I'm not used to a resolution, first read, second read, planning meetings. I'm used to talking to the CEO and they say I want this project done and you've got one week to get it done.
But this is one of the best teams in the universe, even though we've been running short handed. When we become full staffed, Rockdale County will become even better, more efficient. Our residents are more involved. We have our differences, yes, but we're a perfect community.
The challenge I face is my business approach, listening to my staff, listening to my team, listening to the other commissioners, and coming up with a mutual agreement that benefits the greater community.
When you have change, you're going to take hits.

What would you like to see in place by the end of this year?
By the end of this year, what I'm expecting is total internal customer service. Better communication with our department heads, giving each other internally better customer service. When one department head requests something of another department, that department becomes a customer. Working on those strategies, setting specific and realistic goals, has been our focus for this year.
We are succeeding in that area because I'm seeing results. As we're meeting our department heads, I'm seeing communication across the board, sharing, and I'm excited about that. By the end of this year, we will have successfully achieved our inside out customer service.

What were some of the results from the retreat the Board of Commissioners recently took?
We walked away from there setting in place a vision statement. We took the vision statement we had and began to tweak it so we could understand the direction.
We are putting together the final touches on the vision so that we all have buy-in. The leadership has buy-in, the leaders of our departments are now buying in, so we become a greater team.
There's other areas we will be working on going forward. We've kept the values previously identified. We'll come back and form our mission statement.
Then we'll set in place our core competencies as an agency, and each department will identify those core competencies. And that's what we'll begin to use as an evaluation and measuring tool.
When HR comes on board and they formulate the consolidated list of competencies for the entire agency, then we will have continuity and consistency among all the competency skills that will be part of our measuring tool in our evaluation process going forward.
So we will be able to track and measure our performance and we will be a performance driven, performance based agency.

Did you anticipate the public reaction to the HOST rollback and recent personnel decisions?
Yes. The responsibility of putting the right players on the field is the responsibility of the leader, the coach. There are some who may disagree with the decision making process and some may agree with the decision making process, but at the end of the day, the coach decides who goes on that field for the betterment of the team and the good of the community.
I anticipated all these reactions. What we have done has been proactive. We have stood before the public, to keep the public informed.
Keep in mind the public has one quarter of the information, whereas we in government have four quarters of information. It is our responsibly in government to give as much of those four quarters of information in a language that the common citizen can understand and digest. That's where the challenge of communications comes in.
What the general public sees right now is that it's a bad situation; it's either a tax increase, fire everybody, or cut services.
We can't have it both ways. By law, we have to be available Monday through Friday. You can't shut government down; we have to be accessible to the community.
Do we have positions that need to be eliminated? There are positions that could be reduced, but we already froze positions so we haven't been hiring.
There is work to do. Could we eliminate one or two positions? Maybe we could. Will that impact the services? Maybe that will.

One of the things discussed at the retreat was the chain of command versus employees taking initiative to solve problems. Do you feel the environment is in place to encourage taking initiative for county employees?
Absolutely, the environment is set for that kind of forward movement. When you're empowering people to be the best they can be individually, absolutely the environment is in place.
Rockdale County has some of the best employees in the state of Georgia. We just want to empower them and encourage them.
I predict we'll be recognized globally as a place to live, to work, and to play. We are perfectly positioned with a premier community with a high quality lifestyle that encourages responsibility, integrity and global economic development.
That's where we're headed.