Mike Gaughan, of Lawrence, has served as Douglas County Commissioner for nearly 10 years, starting April 6, 2009. His last commission meeting will be Wednesday, Jan. 9. Gaughan said his proudest achievements as a commissioner include: investment in mental health, establishment of the Sustainability and Energy Savings Reinvestment Fund, foundation of the Criminal Justice Coordinating Council and opening of the Dwayne Peaslee Technical Training Center.
Here’s what he had to say about these initiatives:
- Mental health — When I joined the commission, the county's investment in community mental health was about $1.8 million for the 2009 budget year. As I leave the commission, that commitment will be approaching $10 million annually. During those 10 years we stepped in to help fund gaps the Legislature created. We added WRAP (Working to Recognize Alternative Possibilities) workers to support youth in our schools, funded a behavioral health court, and more recently have partnered with providers in the community to lay the foundation for the behavioral health campus that will be funded by the November 2018 ballot measure.
- Sustainability— I'm also very proud of the Sustainability and Energy Savings Reinvestment Fund that we created in 2011. The goal is to promote sustainability and reduce our energy use across county facilities by funding the upfront additional costs of choosing an energy-saving alternative over standard replacement equipment or materials. The fund is then repaid by capturing the savings from the energy we're not buying, and then reinvested in the next project. The fund has been used to finance 29 sustainability projects. State Representative Eileen Horn was our Sustainability Director at the time and did the heavy lifting to bring that fund to life, and it has been a game changer for energy use across our facilities.
- Criminal Justice — More recently, I'm glad that we established the Criminal Justice Coordinating Council and funded positions responsible for analyzing data and coordinating projects that will update and improve our local criminal justice system. In the Council's short life, we have already established Douglas County as a community to look towards for inspiration about how to improve communication, data collection and analysis, and to connect people to services and appropriate levels of supervision, when appropriate. But none of that is really possible without the leaders and team members of the agencies, departments, courts and community partners who were already willing partners - and many of whom are recognized as resources to their counterparts in other communities across Kansas and around the country. So while I'm proud of establishing the Council, we were really able to hit the ground running because of those who came to the table.
- Peaslee Tech— Watching the doors of the Peaslee Tech Center open was a milestone as well. Enrollment at the Peaslee Tech Center continues to grow. I'm glad the County could play a part in ensuring Douglas County residents have access to a whole range of workforce training opportunities.
While serving as commissioner, Gaughan also provided consulting services through his company GPS Impact for causes, candidates and projects that he is passionate about. He plans to continue that work on a full-time basis when his commission term ends, and he's looking forward to spending more time with his family. “My wife and son, who will be turning 11 this weekend, have been very patient with me over these 10 years as I've tried— and often failed — to balance time on commission projects and at my 'day job' with family life. Too often, they were the ones who were shortchanged. So I am really looking forward to being all in on my family time.”