John Herzog has been thrown into the fire. The newest member of the Curry County Board of Commissioners started the job Jan. 4 and has had four meetings that ran more than 20 hours combined.
He laughed last week as he thought about his first two weeks on the job.
“It would be easier to go cut a cord of wood, split it, load it and unload it than these meetings,” he said. “I’ll relate it to this, ‘It’s like drinking from a fire hydrant.’”
Herzog, who had a long career as a UPS driver in Curry County and spent the last six years as the housing manager for the Good Samaritan Society said he was long interested in county government and decided early in 2020 to make his first run for elected office.
“I’m a Christian,” he said. “I asked the Lord if He wanted me to do this? I’ve always had a little interest. So, I told the Lord, ‘I’ll try this and if You want me to do it, I’ll know in November.”
Herzog was one of three people to run for the seat in the nonpartisan election. In the primary, Herzog finished first in a three-person race, but because he did not receive 50 percent of the vote, he was forced to a runoff in November.
That race, against incumbent Sue Gold, was not as close as Herzog received 53 percent of the vote to win the election.
In his first two weeks on the job, Herzog has tried to be the peacemaker between board Chair Court Boice and Commissioner Chris Paasch. Herzog said he hopes to unite the board for the benefit of the county.
“I just want to serve and bring some continuity and some unity to the board,” he said. “I grew up here and married my high school sweetheart here.”
Herzog, who jokes he didn’t even know where the courthouse bathrooms were when he was sworn in, admits he has a lot to learn about Curry County government. But he said he is eager to get the knowledge and benefit the community he loves.
While this is his first foray into politics and government, he has served on boards before and understands the role he is filling. He said it is important for commissioners to move on as soon as votes are made, even when they are on the losing side of a vote.
“One thing we have to do as a board of commissioners is show that solidarity, even if you vote against something,” he said. “If you’re outnumbered, still at the end of the day you support the decision of the board. That’s key.”
Hertzog said he has heard some say he is partial to Boice, but he disagrees. While Boice did support him during his election, he said he votes how he feels on each issue.
“I will vote my heart, and my decisions will be made according to what I feel is the best way to go at that time,” he said.
One big controversy Herzog stepped into was a discussion about removing the position of director of operations. Herzog said he ran with that goal in mind, but now he is slowing down.
“I’m not saying I won’t vote for change, but right now I want to keep the status quo while I learn,” he said.
Despite some of the controversy, Herzog said he is happy to be on the board. He said he hopes to be available to the people and to find ways to improve their lives.
“County government is one of the purest forms of government,” he said. “People can come in and make public comment on any issue.”
As Curry County moves ahead, Herzog said the biggest issue is overcoming COVID-19. And he knows from personal experience.
Late last year, Herzog and his wife both were diagnosed with COVID. While his symptoms were minor, he watched his wife struggle for a month.
He also wants to focus on the budget and just get to know the departments he helps oversee.
“I want to familiarize myself with my liaison appointments and those folks,” he said. “We’re on lots of different advisory committees and stuff throughout the county.”
He said being a commissioner is his only job, and he plans to work full-time to help Curry County excel. Right now, that means working with Boice and Paasch and coming in every day ready to cooperate.
“I love them both,” he said of his fellow commissioners. “They are both professing Christians, so that’s part of it. We don’t have to agree on everything all the time, but we do have to get along.”