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Nashville hosts NACo's 83rd Annual Conference

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Affordable housing forum, land use planning workshop highlight annual conference

It’s the place of legends: The Grand Ole Opry. Hank Williams. Loretta Lynn. Earl Scruggs. Patsy Cline. Dolly Parton. Hank Williams, Jr. The Carter Family. Johnny Cash. Brad Paisley. Tim McGraw. Lady Antebellum. It’s Nashville in Davidson County, Tenn. and for four days and nights it will be the site of NACo’s 83rd Annual Conference starting July 13.

Marian Wright Edelman, founder and president of the Children’s Defense Fund, and Eddie George, legendary NFL running back for the Tennessee Titans, will headline the general sessions.

Edelman has been an advocate for disadvantaged Americans for her entire professional life. She has received over 100 honorary degrees and many awards, including the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian award, and the Robert F. Kennedy Lifetime Achievement Award for her writings such as Prayers for Our Children; I Can Make a Difference: A Treasury to Inspire Our Children; and The Sea Is So Wide and My Boat Is So Small: Charting a Course for the Next Generation.

George has carved a special niche for himself in the professional sports arena. He is only the second NFL running back to rush for 10,000 yards while never missing a start. In addition to the Heisman Trophy, George won several NFL Rookie of the Year awards in 1996, and was the Tennessee Titans’ starting tailback until 2003.

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He has also become a celebrated actor. His most notable contribution to theater is his recent role as Billy Flynn in Broadway’s Chicago. He has also appeared in several films:   The Best Man Holiday, 7-10 Split and Into the Sun and television roles: Shooters, NCIS: Los Angeles and HBO’s Ballers.

On top of his acting career, he has added several businesses to his resume, the latest being the Edward George Wealth Management Group.

Participants who arrive July 12 before the official start of the conference, have an exciting array of mobile workshops that explore local solutions to issues ranging from preserving  affordable housing to rebuilding cultural assets after a disaster to recreation opportunities for local waterfronts.

The Smarter Counties Forum (formerly Tech Hall) also kicks off on Thursday. It will explore how technological innovation can tackle some of counties most intractable problems in the human services arena.

Policy steering committee meetings  take over Friday’s  agenda. Members of NACo’s 10 steering  committees will be briefed by administration and federal agency officials as they deliberate new policy positions that will guide the association’s advocacy efforts.

Saturday sees the first general session featuring Eddie George, legendary NFL running back, and also several high-value, specialized sessions that spotlight county communications strategies; ways to impact the social causes of health in a county; address substance use disorders; and make the fiscal case for juvenile justice reform.

Sunday, July 15, ramps up workshop offerings and features the Affordable Housing Forum, a must-go session for counties grappling with a tight, expensive real estate market for their employees and their residents.

Land use planning for large-scale solar arrays is the focus of one workshop, while another looks at emerging strategies in addressing poverty. Other sample workshop topics include  evidence-based policy decisionmaking, women and retirement, and growing local economies from within.

NACo’s Annual Business meeting is also held during the Annual Conference. This year four candidates have announced their intention to run for the second  vice president slot (see pages 8-11). The election on July 16 is preceded by votes on NACo’s Policy Platform and resolutions.

Another general session closes out the day’s formal activities with a presentation from Marian Wright Edelman and a bound-to-be entertaining singer/songwriter panel, discussing how they create their tunes and performing as well.  Tom Douglas has written number one hits recorded by Tim McGraw, Lady Antebellum, Keith Urban and Miranda Lambert. His songs have been nominated for many awards, including the Grammy’s, CMA Awards, the Oscars and the Golden Globes. In 2014, he was inducted into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame.

 Natalie Hemby has become one of country music’s defining songwriters, having written six number one singles and earning a Grammy nomination. She has written songs for Little Big Town, Sheryl Crow, Blake Shelton, Carrie Underwood, Toby Keith, Lee Ann Womack and Miranda Lambert.

Tim Nichols is one of the country music industry’s most respected members. His number one songs have won countless awards, including a Grammy, and his music appeals to multiple generations of country music fans and artists. His top songs have been recorded by Tim McGraw, Ronnie Milsap, Patty Loveless, Faith Hill, Reba McEntire and Alan Jackson.

Bookending the conference are two fun-filled celebrations: the Opening Reception which will highlight the tastes and sounds from Tennessee’s counties, and the Closing Celebration at the world-famous Grand Ole Opry House.

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