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NACo Second Vice President Candidate Platform Ray Jeffers; Commmisioner, Person County, N.C.

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I respectfully ask for your vote to become your next NACo 2nd vice president.  Ten years ago when I came to Nashville for my very first NACo conference, I knew immediately that I wanted to be involved in this incredible organization.  NACo has helped me personally grow as a public servant, and I am grateful that you have entrusted me to serve in several NACo leadership positions over the years.   I am running for NACo 2nd vice president because I want to give back to NACo and all our fellow members, who work hard every day on behalf of counties.  

I have had the honor to serve as vice chair and chair of NACo’s Rural Action Caucus.  I also spent four years serving on the NACo Board of Directors and continue to serve on the Board.   In addition, I have served as president of the North Carolina Association of County Commissioners and chaired various steering committees at our state association.   And, I am currently serving a third term as Person County commissioner in North Carolina.

 

Uniting to Make Progress

Through these experiences, I have developed valuable skills as a collaborator and unifier, which are necessary to bring together the varied views and interests throughout the country to make progress on the tough issues counties face.  Yes, we are 3,069 counties, parishes and boroughs, but we are one nation.  I have a strong record of finding opportunities to collaborate across county, state, and party lines and I’d like to bring that ability to NACo.  

In North Carolina we have taken the mantra that we are 100 counties but we are also one state. I took this approach leading my state association, which is rich in diversity, and was able to successfully advance our association’s issues and goals.  I am eager to work together, promote mutual understanding of each other’s issues, and mobilize all our members to move forward together as a nation.

 

Harnessing Rural-Urban Collaboration for Economic Development

As a rural candidate for NACo 2nd vice president, I offer a creative and constructive approach to economic development in both rural and urban counties.  Being from a small, rural community with about 40,000 people, I know firsthand the challenges rural counties face, like gaps in internet access and population decline.  But, I also know there is enormous potential for rural and urban counties to work together to leverage their unique strengths to promote economic growth for all.  

Person County is located within 60 miles of North Carolina’s capital city, Raleigh, and two other large urban areas.  Through rural-urban collaboration, there are promising opportunities to attract companies that need skilled workers and space to grow.  Space is something rural counties can offer to accommodate new facilities.  In neighboring urban areas, the population density offers a large workforce pool for companies to recruit talent.  Taking a holistic approach and working together with rural and urban counterparts can boost employment across county and state lines. 

As president of the North Carolina Association of County Commissioners, I established a task force on economic development and 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 rural and urban areas.  

I’d like to replicate this approach at NACo to uncover new opportunities to establish regional economic hubs in various industries and emerging sectors in all stages of production.  I reject the concept of the rural-urban divide because it pits counties and regions against one another.   Instead of focusing on our differences, I want to promote a new concept — the rural-urban combine.  Just as a harvesting combine helps farmers maximize productivity, we can build partnerships that combine the strength of rural and urban counterparts, enhancing our nation’s economic potential.  

 

Focusing on Farming

As your NACo 2nd vice president, I will also work hard to strengthen the agriculture industry, which represents a vital part of our economy.  I come from a state where agriculture dominates.  It is the largest sector in North Carolina, with an annual economic impact of $85 billion, and it is woven into the fabric of our communities.  It is also deeply personal to me.  It is part of my heritage and it is our family tradition.  

I grew up working on a tobacco farm, which was purchased by my great grandfather in 1919.  I am proud of the longevity of my family’s farm, which is approaching its 100-year anniversary.  From a young age, I embraced the farming lifestyle.  I served as president of the local chapter of Future Farmers of America and focused on agriculture education as part of my studies at North Carolina Agriculture & Technical University.  

In 2003, our family farm was at a crossroads and we had to look at new ways to continue farming.  Since then, I’ve taken on new projects to capitalize on the growing farm-to-table movement with niche farming and micro gardening.  With so many things affecting the agriculture industry today, it’s important for leaders to understand the way of life for our nation’s farmers.  I understand farming from a very personal perspective and this is what separates me from other candidates.

My personal experiences and insight as a member of a multi-generational farming family and rural commissioner make me an effective advocate for these issues.  I am passionate about farm preservation and strengthening the agriculture sector.  As your next NACo 2nd vice president, I will fight for federal policies that strengthen agriculture and sustain the American family farming tradition.    

 

Strengthening NACo Through Telling Its Story

In addition to promoting collaboration between rural and urban neighbors and advancing policies that support the agriculture industry, I will also prioritize efforts to retain and recruit NACo 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 enhance outreach to our existing members to increase awareness 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.  These first-hand, positive stories will help entice new members to become involved in NACo and improve our effectiveness in advocating for county priorities.  

Thank you for your consideration and I look forward to meeting you.  More information is available on my campaign website: www.jeffersfornaco.com.  I would be honored to have your support and respectfully ask for your vote for NACo 2nd vice president.

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