Bannock County Commissioner Jeff Hough being sworn-in

Bannock County Commissioner Terrel "Ned" Tovey, right, swears-in Jeff Hough to the commission during a ceremony Monday morning at the Bannock County Courthouse.

POCATELLO — Developing a fiscally conservative budget, strengthening the skills of department leaders and introducing a revamped website are atop the list of priorities for a Bannock County commissioner sworn in Monday afternoon.

Bannock County Commissioner Jeff Hough, after he and several other county officials were formally sworn-in during a ceremony at the Bannock County Courthouse Monday morning, provided his list of goals during a phone interview with the Idaho State Journal.

“I am very honored and humbled to have the mandate from Bannock County voters to move forward,” Hough said. “It was definitely fun today and I am excited to get to work.”

Shortly after Hough was appointed this past July to fill a seat left open when Steve Brown resigned on June 5 to take another job, he used his background in economics to establish a team that specializes in financial analysis.

Specifically, the team analyzes and examines county projects with a fine-tooth comb to identify any savings opportunities and evaluate how much priority a project should receive. Last year, the team saved the county over $60,000, Hough told the Journal in October.

In 2021, Hough plans to incorporate this team and its tools during the budget development process to complete what he described as one of the most comprehensive reviews of county spending in recent history.

“We want to implement an extensive financial analysis during the upcoming budget cycle to try and evaluate projects and ensure we are completing ones that have the best return rate for our investment,” Hough said. “This all goes back to everybody having heartburn about our local property taxes. We want to return the investment from Bannock County citizens and we accomplish that by being more efficient and selective with the projects we undertake.”

One expenditure the county will surely look to incorporate into the fiscal year 2022 budget is a contribution to Bannock Development Corp., said Hough, adding that a positive outlook and the recent hire of MiaCate Kennedy I with her extensive background in the development sector largely contributed to the county’s decision to again work with the organization.

“We are reinvesting in Bannock Development Corp.,” Hough said. “We have heard many people say that economic development is a priority for them so we should have a big announcement soon about reinvesting in (Bannock Development Corp.) and supporting that organization.”

Ensuring that department leaders are well-equipped to complete their jobs and finding avenues to streamline efficiencies in multiple departments is the most important focal point for him as a commissioner in 2021, Hough said. Instead of a one-time leadership training course, Hough says the commission intends to implement a recurring process with various benchmarks and metrics that will serve as a blueprint for effecting positive change among county leaders.

“No. 1 on my list is to increase the leadership skills of all the department heads and leaders in the county,” Hough said. “With great leadership skills, then naturally we will be able to be more effective and efficient in our government.”

A prime example of improved leadership and greater efficiencies in the county, Hough said, is the turnaround time for the Bannock County Planning and Development department to issue building permits. A process that once took multiple months is now typically complete in three weeks, Hough said.

Moreover, a completely revamped Bannock County website should go live before the end of the second quarter, said Hough, adding that the changes are designed to ensure any user can find exactly what they want within three clicks or fewer.

Hough said he is looking forward to a full slate of events at the Portneuf Wellness Complex and Bannock County Event Center. Already, the For King & Country, Hairball and Megadeth with Lamb of God concerts have been rescheduled for 2021. A full list of upcoming events at the Wellness Complex and Event Center can be found online at: bannockcountyeventcenter.us/upcomingevents.

In addition to Hough, Sheriff Tony Manu, Prosecutor Steve Herzog and Commissioner Ernie Moser were also sworn-in Monday.

After a year marred by the coronavirus pandemic and one of the most divisive national elections in U.S. history, Moser is simply looking forward to getting back to his normal duties as a commissioner, he said Monday afternoon.

“With COVID-19 and this year’s national elections it seems like it’s been a while for us to just be able to go and do our jobs,” Moser said. “Bannock County is in great shape and headed in a positive direction, and I am just looking forward to just getting back to work.”