Ford County officials, leaders and department heads gave their insight on the county at the State of the County Address held at Boot Hill Casino and Resort Conference Center Wednesday.

The common theme among officials was the open communication throughout every department.

"It starts from the leadership down," Ford County Commissioner Chris Boys said in a video that was played to the audience. "There is a lot more communication with the department heads and elected's as well as with our partnerships with USD 443, the city and Dodge City Community College."

Ford County Administrator J.D. Gilbert added, "Change is hard. We have a new county administrator, assistant county administrator and the transition has been made easier for me by everyone.

"We have a new team, a new family and we are doing well to have an open, clear and respectful positive return on investment for the tax payers of Ford County.

"We are ready to respond to emergencies such as the tornado, the ice storm or the wildfires and our partnerships are key.

"I talk to Cherise (Tieben, Dodge City city manager) once a week to ensure we are all working together.

"We are better than we were in 2016, with our leadership, budget and our culture and we will be even better in 2018."

Some of the changes discussed were the new radio system for police, fire, sheriff, road and bridge and others throughout the county as well the new facility move for Ford County Communications from the government center to the radio tower near 14th Avenue.

Ford County Clerk Debbie Cox demonstrated the new voting machines that are touch screen-based that once the selections are made, a print out ballot is printed out and tallied electronically from the printout.

Ford County Fire Chief Boyd discussed the March wildfire and some new training tactics that came from it.

"We were tested to the max with the March fire," Boyd said. "We have made changes and will be going forward.

"We had more than 200 people in the fire with 90 working at one time.

"We have also trained close to 400 people throughout the community with our hands-only CPR classes."

Ford County Sheriff Bill Carr discussed personnel changes throughout the jail as well as the sheriff's office and named employee mental health as a major objective.

"We have a zero tolerance policy with deaths by suicide for employees," Carr said. "We are working closely with the police department, Compass Behavioral Health, Ford County Fire and EMS through a Tower Foundation grant for first responders to get the help they need with depression and PTSD as well as other mental health issues."

Commissioner Ken Snook spoke briefly about how proud he is of the fire department, sheriff's office and road and bridge.

One issue that was brought up by both Gilbert and Ford County Chairman Shawn Tasset was agriculture in Ford County.

"Farming has been tough for me and a lot of people in the county," Tasset said. "There are indicators that things are improving but it's still tough.

"We have people that are diligently working to improve the markets, create new markets and are being very innovative and proactive and thinking outside the box."

Gilbert added, "We have to find innovative approaches to everything, it's better for the tax payer.

"We have to have better forecasting, vendors and work closer with our department heads with budgets and draft budgets."

To contact the writer email vmarshall@dodgeglobe.com