Person County, N.C.
Why are you interested in serving as a NACo officer?
Ever since I attended my first NACo conference in Nashville, Tenn. nearly 10 years ago as a new commissioner, I knew immediately that I wanted to get involved in the organization. I am deeply grateful for everything I have learned through NACo, including many things I was able to bring back to my home county — Person County, N.C. I have seen firsthand how counties become stronger when we unite, so it’s my personal mission to encourage every commissioner across the county to get involved in NACo. I am seeking the position of second vice president as a way to give back to the organization and will work hard to grow and energize our membership.
Being from a deep purple state with vibrant communities in both rural and urban areas, my experience as president of the North Carolina Association of County Commissioners, taught me how to bring together commissioners with varied political views and interests toward a common purpose. I’m eager to put my skills and experience to work for NACo to find common ground and discover new opportunities for collaboration among all our nation’s counties.
In North Carolina we have taken the mantra that we are 100 counties but we are also one state. I think we’ve done well working with all 100 counties to move our association, issues and goals forward at our state legislature. So, I would like to apply that approach in NACo. Yes, we are 3,069 counties, but we are one nation. And the more we can work together and understand each other’s issues then we can move forward together as a nation.
What do you consider to have been your most important contribution to the National Association of Counties to date? What do you consider to have been your most important contribution to your state association of counties?
When I served as chair of the Rural Action Caucus, I worked closely with NACo’s current President Roy Charles Brooks, who was serving as the chair of the Large Urban County Caucus at the time. Together, we were able to identify common issues facing both urban and rural counties and collaborate on potential solutions. I also worked with fellow NACo members from rural counties and allied organizations to reauthorize the Farm Bill. As part of that effort, I traveled to Washington, D.C. to collaborate with other stakeholders to promote passage of the bill.
As NCACC president, I led an economic development initiative to achieve sustainable growth for all counties – large and small, rural and urban. The plan encouraged rural counties to join forces with urban counterparts to find opportunities to collaborate and promote growth across county lines. I firmly believe that by working together, rural and urban counties can innovate by leveraging their unique strengths.
As part of my presidential initiative, I established a task force to examine and provide recommendations to enhance the county role in economic development. The task force engaged in discussions with experts and county officials through a statewide listening tour and economic development symposium. Through this work, I learned that a lot of opportunities are possible if we combine the strengths of the rural and urban areas. Together, we can develop regional economic hubs in all stages of production, including design, manufacturing and distribution of products and services.
What do you consider to be the two or three most important challenges facing NACo in the near future on which the officers/Executive Committee/Board of Directors should focus? Why?
As second vice president, two main areas of focus I plan to address are activating NACo’s existing membership and recruiting new members. NACo’s strength and influence are inextricably linked to the level of engagement of our members. The more we can succeed in encouraging counties to participate actively in NACo, the more power we will have to advocate for our federal priorities and provide counties with the support they need to thrive. My plan is to reinforce the work NACo is already doing to enhance outreach to our existing members to educate them on the full range of the benefits NACo offers. I will also seek to mobilize existing members by asking them to share individual stories about how the organization helped them grow and deliver better services for their counties back home. The goal would be to use these first-hand, positive stories as an effective recruiting tool to entice new members to learn more about all that NACo has to offer.
What measures would you recommend to increase and retain NACo membership and to encourage broad participation in NACo by elected officials and employees of NACo member counties? What specific role would you be willing to assume to help build and sustain membership in NACo?
Counties benefit in many ways by working with NACo and other members across the country to solve common problems. Moreover, NACo provides valuable opportunities for education and training and networking, which allows individual counties to learn from their counterparts and share best practices. I am eager to build momentum for recruiting new NACo members and activating our existing members through personal stories from commissioners like me, who were able to take what they learned at NACo and apply it to our counties back home. By sharing our stories about how NACo involvement can help individual counties, we can help and grow and energize membership across the nation.
Through my personal experience, I can attest to the enormous benefits NACo brings to its members. I am eager to share what I learned through NACo and discuss what I was able to bring back to Person County. For example, several years ago I attended a NACo workshop that discussed options to reduce the risks and costs associated with county-paid cell phones. The workshop explored other options such as changing the cell phone policy from providing a county phone, to paying a stipend to county employees for cell phone use connected to their official duties.
I shared what I learned from NACo with my fellow board members back home, and we moved quickly to adopt the new policy. It saved the county money and eliminated the risk that county employees may be audited for using a county phone for personal use.