counties_workTelling “the county story” is one of the ongoing challenges county officials across the country face day in and day out. Citizens seem to have a grasp for what their cities provide, but county services are more difficult for many people to get their arms around. Yet county services play an integral role in the quality of life we enjoy in our communities. And being an elected county official is a difficult, time-consuming and often unappreciated position. 

To help tell the count story, the National Association of Counties (NACo), in conjunction with the private firm iCivics, has created this fun and challenging online game called “Counties Work”that allows you to run your own county. It’s part of NACo’s  initiative to raise awareness and understanding of counties.

In this game, you play the role of an elected county leader starting your first term. You help set your county budget, raise or lower taxes, and work with your constituents. It doesn’t take long to play a four-year term (or more, if you are lucky enough to be re-elected). 

I gave this game a shot earlier today. While it is geared for students, it isn’t easy. It’s fun, but challenging. In just a short time, you really begin to get an understanding about the variety of services and programs counties provide. 

During the game, citizens are constantly coming forward with issues and requests: inspect our bridges, create a community garden, upgrade our records system; create a discount prescription drug program… Some requests were just downright ridiculous or costly and I denied them – which made the constituents quite unhappy. 

And then there were the emergencies – stop lights went out in town, a bomb scare was reported at the county library… I had to ensure that they were remedied. In my hurry to alert the Public Works Department about the stop light emergency, I forgot which building to go to and went to the Records Department. Again, my constituents weren’t happy. 

Throughout the game, you can watch your approval rating climb or drop during your term. This can be a source of satisfaction or panic as the months and years quickly pass by. 

It was exhausting watching my character run back and forth across town to respond to citizen requests and complaints. And if I didn’t get there in time, the character would disappear and my approval rating would drop. 

I won’t even say what happened with the county budget under my direction. 

The bottom line is I didn’t get re-elected. One term and out. This county supervisor stuff is hard work. But I’m not ready to give up. After catching my breath, I’m going to give it another shot. I recommend that you do as well. It’s a fun learning experience for people of all ages. 

You can play the game by clicking here.