Longtime political and government participant Betty Johnson is running for a seat on the Waldo County Commission because she believes residents need to know more about what the county does.

Johnson, a retired nurse and part-time graphic designer who, until recently, owned and operated Hobbledehoy Toys in downtown Belfast, said she, like many residents, was not aware of all of the issues of county government, which has had the effect of making it harder to campaign for the office.

The former Lincolnville selectwoman has served on a number of committees in the town, including the Appeals Board, the budget committee, a charter commission and the water resources committee, and worked on the Lincolnville comprehensive plan.

Johnson has been active with the Democratic Party over the years as an officer of the state and county Democratic committees. She was a national delegate three times, traveling to Denver, Boston and Chicago to represent the Democratic electorate. This election season, she has hosted and staffed the campaign headquarters of the Waldo County Democrats out of the former Hobbledehoy storefront on Main Street in Belfast.

This year’s bid is Johnson’s second shot at the County Commission — she ran unsuccessfully in 2002. Looking back at her campaign notes from that race, raising awareness about the workings of county government was an issue she felt strongly about then, too.

This election will be the third time Johnson’s name has appeared next to Donald Berry’s on the ballot. Johnson and Berry competed for a seat in the state Legislature twice; Berry won both contests. Johnson said the contests had nothing to do with her feelings toward Berry, they just happened to have competed for the same seats on several occasions.

She went on to say that the acting commissioners had done some good work, but information about it had been hard to come by. As an example, she mentioned the county’s prescription drug discount program, which Johnson called “excellent, but not well understood or publicized.”

“Other counties have much more awareness than we do,” she said. “People seem to know a little more about their county governments.”

“You can’t say that the county’s doing nothing, they are [doing things]. But you have to find a way to get the information out. Very few people attend budget hearings. Year after year it’s the same way. How do you get people to attend and be part of the process?”

Some of the attention, as far as Johnson is concerned, has been negative. She mentioned the recent friction between neighbors and county officials over a proposed building that would house the Sheriff’s Office and Emergency Management Agency. Johnson said she believed the neighbors were treated disrespectfully and heard the same from people in other towns.

“That became quite a public issue throughout the county,” she said.

That particular issue is not something Johnson wants to dwell on, but she said future interactions with the community should be more in the spirit of cooperation.

“Working together works,” she said Oct. 18 at the headquarters of the Waldo County Democrats — a campaign button-stamping machine nearby. “I saw this slogan and I liked it.”

Asked about other areas she would focus on, Johnson said, “A big thing is to continue to try to be fiscally responsible and keep our taxes and expenses down, and I think there has been a good effort on that.”

Johnson said she hoped to focus on both long- and short-term goals of county government. “And I wonder if that’s been emphasized enough,” she said. “I could be wrong, but I just think we need to be aware of that.”

“We need to be searching for ways to help our communities, because it’s not getting easier for the towns at all,” she said, adding that there might be government programs that would benefit multiple towns if they applied jointly — programs for which individual towns would not be eligible.

“There’s ways to work things that benefit more people, and certainly if you get a grant that provides aid, it’s going to cut down on taxes somehow,” she said.

In preparing for her election bid, Johnson attended the most recent meeting of the Maine County Commissioners Association as the guest of a commissioner from another county. She said the experience gave her a good feel for the work of county government.

Her efforts to get the same information from Waldo County were less fruitful, she said.

“I may not have approached it right, but I couldn’t find out that much information,” she said. “If I can’t, I’m sure others can’t, too.”