2022 Candidate Platform: Greg Puckett
Mercer County, W.Va.
Eight years ago I was elected to my local County Commission. Since that time, I have worked innovative efforts to bring opportunities to my county, region, state, and country. Coming from a rural community in southern West Virginia, sometimes overcoming politics can be difficult to accomplish goals that have never been achieved before. As an advocate for change, I knew that leadership would be difficult, but with support from the National Association of Counties (NACo), I was able to find my voice and develop relationships needed to help strengthen communities. Although local partnerships are essential, I’ve realized that it’s those relationships you build along the way that can lead to comprehensive change.
That is why I want your vote for NACo’s 2nd Vice President!
When I announced my candidacy I knew that this road would be anything less than a challenge. During this time, I’ve had opportunities to meet and discuss important issues to your counties. While many were familiar to me, some seemed somewhat foreign to my way of thinking, but have allowed me to be educated through openly candid conversations giving me a greater understanding on how collectively our voices can be heard.
I’ve learned that we ALL have a passion unique to county government. Whether it’s dealing with drought in the West, devastation from tropical storms in the South, substance abuse and mental health issues in rural Appalachia, or food insecurities and the high cost of living north of the Arctic Circle - I know what resiliency looks like and I want to help share YOUR story with my own.
Currently, I serve as Chair of the Rural Action Caucus (RAC), member of NACo Board of Directors, and one of ten Commissioners on NACO’s Opioid Taskforce. I’m currently involved in the Economic Mobility Leadership Network, serve as Vice Chair of the Arts and Culture Committee, Vice Chair on Healthy Counties Committee, Vice Chair on the Juvenile Justice Subcommittee, member of the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) Subcommittee, and most important – an advocate for all things NACo.
For me, servitude isn’t something I’m interested in, it’s something I’m committed to in every aspect of my life.
Recently, I was asked about my platform, and why my position was “Committed to Change”, because, as respectfully suggested, my message was missing examples of what needs to change. Was she saying that we are not accomplishing our goals? Are we failing in some capacity? To her point, I would stress to the contrary, and that we are achieving more than any organization of our kind. So, while I regularly use CHANGE as a mantra to keep on point, I also mean that we must be adaptive to our environment and be able to politically mobilize in a way that is continually moving us forward; ever changing and modifying to serve our communities the best… however that may look to us.
For me, CHANGE is a broad term and very fluid. I believe that we should be committed to COMMUNITY and focused on HEALTH (both physical and through strengthening our mental health system). We should ADVOCATE for more opportunities and leverage our positions as leaders within counties, parishes, or boroughs to set a NARRATIVE for our nation to follow. All of this can be done in a GIVING environment with the ENERGY to do the work at hand.
So, when I see CHANGE, that’s what I believe, and that’s what I want people to believe in me.
To narrow that philosophy into three simple things that EVERY community can do, we must…
Clean up our communities and increase opportunities for economic mobility whether we are dealing with blight of our urban infrastructure, or dilapidated structures that litter our rural byways from decades of neglect. We must overcome the stigma associated with poverty and the impacts of mental health, and visually create the communities we wish to become. Sometimes the best way to build a community is by tearing down the devastation that has been left behind by industrial modernization and abandonment from within.
By assessing our needs and building capacity through renewed investment, we can create a flourishing system of engagement that will help reimagine our shared spaces and encourage leadership in community-based volunteerism efforts. This cultural shift will bring a renewed sense of pride and ownership that our communities desperately need.
Focus on solutions to overcome our mental health struggles and substance use disorders toward opioids and other drug related dependance that is killing our communities; quite literally. To overcome addiction, communities must focus on a myriad of solutions including investment in primary prevention and expand efforts across the continuum into effective treatment and recovery options. This includes expansion of local community-based coalitions, and other programs such as Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion (LEAD) and Quick Response Teams (QRT) to help mobilize communities with leaders that are dedicated to creating safer, healthier communities.
Invest in leadership. To advocate effectively at every level, we must lead by example and put ‘unity’ back in ‘community’. I’ve always believed that you must be willing to put in the effort to SHOW what you want to accomplish. Not just talk about it. Collectively, we must be present beyond a ribbon cutting and engage in a process of collaboration, without rhetoric, and beyond affiliation. This ability to harness leadership in a way that builds collaboration, rather than division, will truly create change. As local elected officials, we must set the example that builds an accord that is, at its core, transformational to the behavior within the new environment that we create.
Together, we have more than an opportunity to lead, we have an obligation to do so. With NACo, we are servants beyond our locally myopic visions. With your vote, I would be honored to serve in leadership with the National Association of Counties to collectively create a narrative of hope, strength and resiliency in how we CHANGE our communities.
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