Each year, County News asks the outgoing NACo president to reflect on the highlights of her or his term. Following are the thoughts of outgoing NACo President Valerie Brown, Sonoma County, Calif. supervisor.
How would you describe your year as NACo president?
Exhilarating, challenging, thought-provoking and rewarding. The opportunity to be in a leadership position of such an outstanding organization has broadened my understanding of our diverse country, the counties, parishes and boroughs responsibilities and the place of local government in the global economy. It has strengthened my resolve that the best form of government is county government and those that have chosen public service have made great sacrifices to place their constituencies first.
What was the most challenging part of your role as president?
TIME. Knowing my role as president was only for 365 days, I was committed to filling each day with new experiences, traveling to State Association conferences, frequent trips to our U.S. capital, and returning to my own district with a demanding schedule, plus being chair of the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors. The most frequently asked question was, "how do you do it all?"… I experienced a chronic case of fatigue, and felt blessed and rewarded every day because of the people I met and the places I visited.
What did you find most interesting or exciting?
Finding that although we wear the same hat (counties-parishes-boroughs) we are very different in meeting the demands of those we serve. I loved the exhilaration of talking to elected officials all over the world, being shown parts of the country I had only dreamed of visiting and learning new innovations, and best practices in dealing with fundamental problems of leadership during tough economic times.
What advice would you give your successor?
Make the most of every day; the time flies by! The federal agenda frequently omits the role we play in government. Bringing congressional members and the White House into an understanding is tedious, time consuming and at times frustrating — but essential if we are to receive the funds and policy development that works for the programs we provide and the people we serve.
What’s next for Valerie Brown?
I am passionate about healthy communities and as a board member of ICLEI USA will continue to advocate for energy efficiency and climate protection locally and globally. Making sure that health care reform is implemented with little cost to local government is another key focus of mine. I look forward to the presidency of Glen Whitley and furthering the positions that our members of NACo have developed through their work on steering and standing committees.
Any final thoughts?
Don’t spend a moment of time regretting what you could have done….Just do it…the rewards are so sweet….