Over the past three years, Clackamas County commissioners have made some decisions that revealed sharp divisions among our residents.

In a county that encompasses communities as diverse as Portland and Molalla, Wilsonville and Mt. Hood, some disagreement is inevitable.

Passionate and varied opinions are essential in the public process. They are also best paired with candor, self-restraint and a willingness to trust. The rules we learned in school—treat each other fairly, be honest and communicate openly—really can help communities and elected leaders work better together.

The two of us have disagreed on big issues, but we have also worked together. It hasn’t always been easy. One afternoon we were so frustrated with each other we held a special meeting to talk things through. Neither wanted to speak. So we just sat there for a while not saying anything. Then we talked for over an hour. Afterward, we secured unanimous board approval for a program to help families fleeing domestic violence get temporary restraining orders more quickly and safely.

Here are some examples of good results we have achieved through teamwork, which show it’s possible for Clackamas County residents to disagree and still work together:

n We teamed up to secure a preliminary commitment for $8.27 million to help construct the Sunrise System road improvements, which will support job creation in the Clackamas Industrial Area.

n We built broad, bipartisan support from law enforcement officials, nonprofits, faith groups and the business community to win approval for a Family Justice Center, a program to stop domestic violence.

n We have resolved controversy over how to allocate wastewater rates fairly within Clackamas County Service District 1, first by winning an interim agreement and most recently, by securing a long-term one.

n We won unanimous board support for a strategy to ensure the county delivers excellent, accessible service to our constituents regardless of their heritage, language or sexual orientation.

As a new Board of County Commissioners convenes in 2013, it is essential that they, and all leaders around Clackamas County work together to seek common ground.

It will not be easy after the bruising election season: It will require real communication. That will mean saying things that other people may not want to hear and not saying some things that would be satisfying. It will mean being candid about what one really needs and then honoring that trust.

The two of us come from different perspectives, and we are headed in different directions. But we are committed to working together to strengthen our county.

With three new commissioners taking office in January differing perspectives are natural, yet, we are part of one county. The same passion and engagement that fuels our robust debates makes us strong when we work as a team. We hope this spirit of collaboration continues to move our county forward, together.

Ann Lininger is a Clackamas County commissioner who did not to run for re-election. Paul Savas is a county commissioner whose term ends in 2014.

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