Hancock County Planning Commission
Hancock County’s Mission to Stay Healthy in Every Way
Like most people at small nonprofits, Jim Fisher wears a lot of different hats. As senior planner for the Hancock County Planning Commission, he leads dozens of projects in town planning and land management for Hancock County, Maine.
As the most tech-savvy person in the organization, he also serves as the de facto IT department — not just for his two colleagues, but also for the mostly volunteer workforce of municipal governments throughout the county.
Planning a Healthy Hancock County
But for Jim, all of those jobs amount to one simple priority: "The thing that keeps me coming to work every day is the desire to create a healthier environment for the people who live and work in this area. Everything, for me, comes down to health."
That simple directive — building a healthier Hancock County — guides every aspect of Jim's work. For example, he helps manage the Down East Sunrise Trail, a 100-mile multi-use trail that Hancock County residents use to stay active. He's set up community gardens and farmer's markets designed to help people eat more healthy, local food.
And when he's guiding infrastructural decisions on everything from irrigation to waste disposal, the health of Hancock County and its denizens is always the first thing on his mind: "So even when I'm working on something as silly as an interpretive sign for tourists who are visiting the area, I'm trying to design it in a way that they'll get out [of their cars], walk around the park, and get to know the area."
Technology Needs to Be Healthy, Too
Being the most tech-savvy person on staff at the planning commission, Jim also spends a lot of time thinking about the health of Hancock County's computers. When a computer acts up, either at the commission itself or at one of the municipal government offices, Jim usually hears about it. "I'll get calls saying, 'I've got a funny message on my screen. Can you come down?'"
For a lot of small nonprofits, those funny messages can be big headaches. When an organization has a small or nonexistent budget for technology, there might not be anyone around to encourage safe practices for using the Internet.
It can get even worse when the workforce includes volunteers who don't have much time and are working on their own personal laptops. "They've made some mistakes," Jim says. "They've downloaded some things they shouldn't have."
How Norton Keeps Hancock County Safe
Jim says that he's experimented with various antivirus and Internet security tools, including some free options. But he's had the most success with Norton products from the Symantec donation program at TechSoup. According to Jim, using a known brand like Norton makes his job a lot easier: "I'm not a cybersecurity expert. I needed something that was recognized."
Although Jim is quick with the disclaimer that he's not a security professional, he's still embraced his role as the go-to security person for the county. Not only has he gotten his office equipped with up-to-date security software; he's also worked to educate his colleagues on Internet safety.
"In a networked world where files and things are flying around, you just have to be so careful about what you download," Jim says. And the small city government offices around the county are listening to him. Jim didn't join the planning commission so that he could get rid of viruses on people's computers. But as a planning expert who's passionate about helping people lead more healthy lives, he recognizes that having a secure tech infrastructure is a component of public health. That's why he doesn't just equip his colleagues with the best security and antivirus software; he also equips them with the knowledge they need to make healthy computing decisions.
This story originally appeared on the TechSoup Blog. It was written by Elliot Harmon, a writer and open web activist living in San Francisco.