Carberry reflects on his first month in office

BY BEN MARKS | FEBRUARY 02, 2015 5:00 AM

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Busy with meetings, budget planning, and moving in, recently elected Johnson County Supervisor Mike Carberry said his first month as supervisor has been hectic.

“I’ve barely gotten moved into the office,” he said. “I brought a couple things to decorate, but I have a lot more things I have [to do]. I want to set up my file system, but I’m so busy with the budgeting process that there’s a lot of things I haven’t gotten to yet.”

However, taking a moment to relax in his sunlight-filled office, behind his large stained oak desk, he said the job is going well overall, and one of nicer things about his role is having an actual office to work in.

“For the past 10 years, I’ve worked out of my house, mostly my kitchen table,” he said. “I have an office in my house, but it wasn’t very good lighting. I have so much natural light here, which I love.”

Although this is Carberry’s first time as supervisor, he has been heavily involved in politics and environmental activism for the past decade, including being the head of the Johnson County Democrats and Al Gore’s 2000 presidential campaign.

“Those are the sorts of things that prepared me for doing the work I’m doing as a supervisor,” he said. “All the political work that I’ve done as an activist and then as a professional environmental advocate.”

In addition, Carberry has attended almost every supervisor meeting for the past year, taking notes and examining agendas. He said he first considered running almost 10 years ago.

“Mike’s been one of those people who has been paying attention for a long time,” Supervisor Rod Sullivan said. “I think he first talked to me about running for office when I first decided to run, which was more than 10 years ago. So he didn’t have to learn everything, although the learning curve is steep, and there’s a lot to pick up.”

Despite the time spent preparing, however, Carberry agreed, saying there were things that he just couldn’t prepare for.

Certain duties, such as the budget, Supervisor Janelle Rettig said, have a steeper learning curve than others, and said the research Carberry has done can definitely help, but no amount of preparing will eliminate it completely.

“I was a big student of county government,” Rettig said. “I had studied everything I had thought, and then you get there, and you think they’re speaking a foreign language. It takes you at least a year to feel comfortable.”

One aspect of the job, which Carberry said surprised him, was the familiarity the community had with him.

“People are saying, ‘Hi, Mike’ to me who I don’t even know,” he said. “I pay attention to politics, but not everyone does, so it’s surprising how many people now know who I am.”

“The best thing about being a supervisor is getting out into the community and listening to people,” he said. “I’m talking to citizens of Johnson County, what’s on their mind, what are their issues.”

Carberry said his current goal is to help manage the growth of the county through the next 20 years and to balance rapidly growing towns while also maintaining natural spaces.

“One of the things that’s great about being a supervisor is it incorporates a lot of the things I was already going to be doing, but now I just get to do it at more of an official capacity,” he said.

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