NACo membership affords county, district officials many ways to be involved
By Debbie Wise, AAC Board President, Randolph County Circuit Clerk
In late August, more than 50 county and district officials from across Arkansas traveled to Washington, D.C., for a conference at the White House. The conference was one in a series of such meetings the White House is holding with county representatives from each state.
We had an impressive roster of speakers — Deputy Assistant to the President and Director of Intergovernmental Affairs Douglas Hoelscher, Senior Government Affairs Officer for the U.S. Department of Transportation Chris Minton, Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue, Deputy Secretary for the U.S. Department of Education Mick Zais, Acting Director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy Jim Carroll, and White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders. Vice President Mike Pence paid us a surprise visit, and many in our group met with U.S. Sen. John Boozman.
The conference focused on issues such as upcoming federal legislation, the nation’s opioid crisis, developing infrastructure, and improving education. These are complicated issues. I was grateful to the National Association of Counties (NACo) for offering the group a federal policy briefing ahead of time. The briefing gave local officials valuable information they needed to ask informed questions of federal officials with whom we don’t normally get a chance to meet. And it armed us with the tools to better communicate our local needs to those officials.
This is just one reason I cherish my membership in NACo. In fact, all of Arkansas’ county and district officials are members of NACo. The AAC pays the membership dues for each county. So county and district officials can be as involved in NACo as they want to be — and I encourage you to be involved.
You don’t have to serve on the NACo Board of Directors, as I do. Several of our county and district officials, myself included, serve on various committees. Several also attend the Legislative and Annual conferences NACo hosts. We had an impressive group of more than 70 attend NACo’s Annual Conference in July — and I know they benefited greatly from the experience. They were able to network with their peers from all corners of the country, participate in professional development programs, attend informational workshops, and advocate for county issues.
Even if you can’t attend a NACo conference, you can make use of the various resources NACo provides on its website: www.naco.org. Among the things you’ll find there are advocacy tool kits, research materials such as sample ordinances, news to keep you informed about federal policies that affect local governments, and professional development opportunities such as webinars.
NACo unites our country’s 3,069 county governments. NACo gives us a collective voice with which to affect national policy, share solutions to our similar challenges, and exchange ideas that will help us better serve our communities. As a NACo member, you have an opportunity to invest in your county’s future. I hope you embrace that opportunity as I have.