Update: Delegates at NACo's Annual Business meeting on July 24 elected Douglas County, Neb. Commissioner Mary Ann Borgeson as the association's second vice president. She joins the new executive team of President Roy Charles Brooks, Tarrant County, Texas commissioner; First Vice President Greg Cox, San Diego County, Calif. supervisor; and Immediate Past President Bryan Desloge, Leon County, Fla. commissioner.
A vibrant, forward-looking, resident-centric county greeted NACo members attending the 2017 Annual Conference and Exposition in Franklin County, Ohio, which ended today July 24 with the election of a new leadership team and a stronger commitment to the conference’s theme: Counties Unite America.
The conference drew 1,500 county officials and guests to Columbus, home of the Ohio state capital and the Columbus Clippers, a minor-league affiliate of the Cleveland Indians, owned by Franklin County.
At the general sessions attendees heard from USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue on the Trump Administration’s plans for rural America, and Piper Kerman, whose autobiographical book, Orange Is the New Black, inspired the popular Netflix series of the same name.
Another popular media-associated personality, Lou Dobbs, spoke at the closing general session. Dobbs anchors the Lou Dobbs Tonight show on the Fox Business Network. A self-described independent populist, he is known for his opposition to NAFTA and support for immigration enforcement.
Moving far, far away from earth, NASA Marshall Space Flight Center Director Todd May and NASA John H. Glenn Research Deputy Director Maria E. Perez-Davis, PhD, engaged in a conversation about the future of space travel, and back on earth, but still closer to space, Ed Viesturs, the only American mountaineer to have climbed the world’s 14 highest peaks without supplemental oxygen, talked about his strategies to manage risk in extreme environments.
Several special, high-level discussions were undertaken at the conference that reflected the broad scope of county interests. The CIO Forum and Tech Town Hall updated professional staff and county leaders on the threats and promise of emerging information technologies such as artificial intelligence and Big Data. The opioid crisis took center stage at a town hall and special exhibit showcasing examples of solutions used to fight the epidemic.
One of several summits examined early childhood policies and practices that promote healthy development. Another reviewed the progress of NACo’s Stepping Up project that assists counties in diverting persons with mental illness from their jails and into treatment. A third took a full day on the topic of resilient counties, paying special attention to financing disaster management, resource recycling and infrastructure needs.
An increasingly popular function at NACo conferences is the mobile tour, where conference attendees go off-site to get an up-close look at interesting projects, programs or economic engines for the region. This year, most mobile tours were sold-out weeks before the conference began. Here’s a sample: Nationwide Children’s Hospital Campus, Cybersecurity and Tier IV Data Center, Farber Factory Tour, Scioto Mile and National Veterans Museum Presentation Tour and the Rickenbacker Inland Port.
Another popular conference feature, the annual NextGen service project, now in its fifth year, saw volunteers fill 365 backpacks with toiletries, games and puzzles for teens and children admitted to the Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus.