2019 Second Vice President Candidate Christian Leinbach
Berks County, Pa.
Why are you interested in serving as a NACo officer?
I attended my first NACo Annual Conference in 2008 in Kansas City. I was so impressed with the networking opportunities and the workshop sessions that I was hooked on NACo. It was also in Kansas City that I participated in the first meeting of what is today the Northeast NACo Regional Caucus. That meeting was the early planning to mirror the Western Interstate Region (WIR) in the Northeast, and this effort helped lead NACo to create the four Regional Caucuses that exist today. In 2009 I was invited to participate in the NACo County Leadership Institute (CLI) program at NYU. This was an amazing opportunity for professional development and to make lifelong friendships. I still am in contact with several CLI classmates today. From my ongoing involvement in NACo, I appreciate the many ways our staff and members work to advocate for the benefit of county government, offer opportunities to develop as county officials and learn from the experiences of each other every day. I wholeheartedly endorse NACo’s mission and would be proud to lead our members in Washington and across the country.
But I also have another reason for wanting to serve as a NACo officer, because I have come to view county government very differently during my service as a commissioner. Early in my term, I used to think that it was a stepping stone to higher office, but I have come to appreciate that county government IS the higher office. It is the level of government that still works as it was intended and interacts with residents every day. As a NACo officer, I want to help strengthen county government and ultimately help us do a better job telling the wonderful story of what county government does for our county residents every day.
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?
One could argue, and I do, that it’s not the big things that really make lasting change in an organization. I believe it is the sum total of the small, daily, positive actions and decisions that define any organization. I’ve had the privilege to play a role with a great team of people to help make NACo stronger. This began in 2008 in Kansas City at the NACo Annual Conference when a group of county leaders from the Northeast started plans to form a Northeast Caucus. It continued by being elected by the members of CCAP to serve on the NACo board starting in March of 2012. And it continues now in working with the NACo Executive Committee since my election as Northeast Region Representative in March of 2014. It’s the little things that in the end make a big difference. My involvement on the NACo Membership Committee and winning the 2013 NACo Membership Recruiter of the Year Award reflected my strongly held belief that we cannot lead our counties alone — we need the valuable support that only our state associations and NACo provide. NACo membership also provides a synergy that a county cannot achieve on its own. That is why I continue to promote the value of NACo membership. I’ve joined NACo colleagues on the Hill to testify about the proposed Waters of the U.S. regulation. I spoke at a press conference on the Hill regarding the Cadillac Tax. I’ve met with administration officials to discuss transportation initiatives and the problems with ICE detainers. I’ve participated in NACo sponsored forums on the Hill to address mental illness in our county jails. These are all efforts I have had the opportunity to be part of with my NACo colleagues. Because of these efforts and many more like it I believe NACo is now the most effective local government association in Washington D.C.
At the state level, my response would be the same. “No man (or woman) is an island.” Success is the sum of multiple efforts of multiple people. During my tenure as president of CCAP, I was able to promote several changes that our board and in some cases our membership voted to support.
For instance, I helped move Veterans Affairs from a task force to a committee and to move our Academy for Excellence Committee (CCAP’s certificate training program for county officials) to a Board level Committee. I also helped establish our current Elections Task Force, and I helped put in place an electronic voting system for the Association’s policy resolutions that allowed every CCAP member in the Commonwealth a chance to vote on resolutions and have a voice in our policy process. CCAP, like NACo, is one of the most effective associations in Pennsylvania.
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?
1. Doing a better job helping county leaders tell the story of what they are doing every day to improve the lives of their county citizens. Unless someone has a reason to use a county service, most individuals are not aware of all that counties do. We need to help NACo members engage and inform residents about how counties interact with their lives every day and empower them as county leaders who are connected to constituents, their state association, NACo and all levels of government.
2. Strengthening the system of Federalism that treats county government as a critical part of the policy making effort in D.C. Too often our federal leaders forget or do not understand the role counties play, and without county knowledge or input in the decision-making process, the changes they make often affect our ability to deliver critical programs and services, and worse, have unintended consequences for those we serve. Counties must have a seat at the table because we understand best the needs of citizens at the local level and can be a valuable partner to making government across all levels as effective and efficient as possible.
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?
1. I think one of the key steps took place last year when Kim Hall was hired, and we moved away from a focus on programs to save counties money to a focus based on determining what counties want and need. The Value of Advocacy is the clear #1 need and value provided by NACo.
2. I believe that we must continue to make certain that our membership retention efforts are always the priority. That means connecting with newly elected officials in these counties as soon as they win their elections. It also means regularly surveying members to see how NACo is meeting their needs because that is job #1 of our organization. It’s much easier to retain members than it is to bring on new members.
3. If we will work to further empower current NACo member counties to better tell their story to their elected officials, media and to their constituents, we will establish NACo as the “partner” every county official needs.
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