Local governments ‘solve issues that directly impact people’s lives,’ Colorado county manager says

Profiles in Power highlights public officials nationwide who are improving their communities through their dedication, enthusiasm, creativity, and experience.

This week’s profile is Noel Bernal, county manager of Adams County, Colorado, which includes parts of Denver.

Public career highlights and education: My time serving small communities is a career highlight. Small communities are most resource constrained and struggle to attract highly qualified professionals. They still deal with technical problems that mid to large communities have already solved for. Rural communities have physical, social and economic infrastructure challenges that have been exacerbated as we shift to a more urbanized society. Some of the projects I worked on have had lasting effects for those communities. One example is making remedial improvements to a wastewater treatment plant, and another is helping address long-standing flood control issues.

What I like best about public service: We get to solve issues that directly impact people’s lives by being in the level of government that is best positioned to do so. A lot of the issues we’re facing today at the macro level still need to be implemented with local considerations in mind.

The best advice I’ve received: A mentor once shared that I didn’t wear that “chip on my shoulder well” anymore. This was a humbling experience. We can sometimes find internal motivation in things that are not healthy or hold on to things that we have overcome but fail to recognize. There was a time in my career where I felt I had something to prove because of my background as a migrant, and other personal challenges I had to overcome. It’s important to reflect and recognize our successes.

People might be interested to know that: I eat like teenager. I’m playing with fire nowadays as I keep hearing from friends that my age will catch up to me. The risk-taker in me is pushing the boundaries.

One thing I wish more people knew about county government: I wish more people felt empowered and knew how much of an impact their voice can have in their respective communities. There are citizen programs designed for the public to better understand how to navigate local processes. The level of knowledge and understanding is something we need to continually do more of to build healthy communities. For example, we unfortunately do not have as much interest as we would like for our various boards and commissions.

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