Rabhi working to help county balance budget

Haley Hoard/Daily
Yousef Rabhi, a member of the Washtenaw County Board of Commissioners, poses for a portrait outside Angell Hall on Friday, April 15. Buy this photo

BY K.C. WASSMAN
Daily Staff Reporter
Published April 17, 2011

The transition from college student to politician was smoother than Yousef Rabhi expected.

After graduating from the University in December, Rabhi had less than a month’s reprieve before being inaugurated as a member of the Washtenaw County Board of Commissioners. At age 22, Rabhi is the youngest member of the 11-person board.

With four months under his belt, Rabhi said he feels comfortable on the board, in which he works with the other commissioners to balance the budget in addition to serving on multiple committees.

Rabhi said he was nervous when he first took office because he was worried he wouldn’t fit in on the board, but after a short amount of time, he realized the commissioners all share the common goal of improving Washtenaw County.

“I had different conceptions of what it was that happened between commissioners and how business got done,” Rabhi said. “After only a few days on the job, I realized that the commissioners are not scary or intimidating people and that they are just trying to make this community a better place for everyone.”

Rabhi added that his relatively young age has proven to be an advantage during his first term.

“Because I am brand new and have not had the same level of experience that many of my peers have, I can approach things with a slightly different perspective,” Rabhi said. “In many ways I think that the diversity of experience on the board allows for a well-functioning board.”

A "well-functioning" board is needed this year as Rabhi and the commissioners attempt to manage the county's $20.9 million budget shortfall. Rabhi said he knows the deficit will mean cutting programs, and therefore the board must look into making effective modifications and cost reductions.

“I see it as making our government more compact in order to make it run more efficiently by eliminating redundancies,” Rabhi said. “But of course you can’t find $20.9 million of redundancies, so some things are going to have to be cut.”

In addition to working on balancing the budget, Rabhi said his first four months in office have been focused on community outreach within his district. He added that he is planning to have weekly or bi-weekly coffee hours with his constituents starting in May.

As he becomes more acclimated to the board, Rabhi said he is enjoying his job because he feels he is making a difference in the community.

“As weeks become months, I feel increasingly certain that I made the right choice in running for office,” Rabhi said. “My voice is important and is being listened to.”