County News

Brooks takes the lead

NACo Immediate Past President Bryan Desloge of Leon County, Fla. (left), Second Vice President Mary Ann Borgeson, of Douglas County, Neb., President Roy Charles Brooks of Tarrant County, Texas and First Vice President Greg Cox of San Diego County, Calif. pause for a photo July 24 at the association’s Annual Conference in Franklin County, Ohio. Photo by David Hathcox

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Thousands attend 2017 Annual Conference in Franklin County, Ohio

Tarrant County, Texas Commissioner Roy Charles Brooks took over the reins as NACo’s new president at the 2017 Annual Business Meeting in Franklin County, Ohio July 24. Douglas County, Neb. Commissioner Mary Ann Borgeson won the slot as the association’s new second vice president, rounding out the 2017-2018 executive team of Brooks, Second Vice President Greg Cox, San Diego County, Calif. supervisor, and Immediate Past President Bryan Desloge, Leon County, Fla. commissioner.

In his acceptance speech, Brooks spotlighted poverty and economic opportunity as the twin pillars of his presidential initiative with a special focus on multigenerational poverty. “Counties put people first, but poverty can push them to the end of the line. That’s why I’m pleased to announce NACo’s new presidential initiative, Serving the Underserved.”

Brooks identified three main components for his initiative: raising awareness of the role counties play in breaking the cycle of poverty; advocating for federal policies that support efforts to expand economic opportunity; and providing new tools to help counties combat poverty.

He also spoke of his recent battle with cancer and how it has strengthened his resolve to lead NACo to the next level.

“Over the past two years, I have been through the fight of my life. And I’ve emerged stronger, ready to take on any challenge. I draw strength from all of you. I draw strength from my community. I draw strength from my faith. I draw strength from my family and loved ones. And I draw strength from NACo’s mission to unite America’s counties, parishes and boroughs behind a common mission: to achieve healthy, vibrant, safe counties across America.”

Delegates approved changes to the American County Platform, NACo’s official policy record, and adopted more than 100 new or recently-vetted policy positions ranging from support for federal designation of local election systems as critical infrastructure to opposing federal legislation that sets mandatory requirements on local water infrastructure procurement decisions.

In other business meeting news: Delegates adopted a change to the bylaws that redistributes the number of votes allotted to NACo member counties.

A Cabinet member, NASA officials, media personalities and a prominent mountaineer keynoted the conference’s two general sessions, July 22 and July 24. Attendees heard from Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue; Piper Kerman, whose memoir Orange Is the New Black was the basis for the Netflix hit of the same name; Emmy-award winner and Fox Business Network show host Lou Dobbs; NASA’s director of the Marshall Space Flight Center, Todd May; and Marla E. Pérez-Davis, deputy director of NASA’s John H. Glenn Research Center in Cleveland. Rounding out the keynoters was Ed Viesturs, the only American to climb all 14 of the world’s 8,000-foot mountains.

Kicking off formal programming, July 22, was the semi-annual technology event — this year dubbed the Tech Town Hall. The four-hour session, jointly sponsored by NACo and the Public Technology Institute, featured talks by Gen. John R. Allen (retired) on foreign cyber threats to America’s computer systems, especially its elections systems, and Bill McInnis, president of Bandura Systems, a computer security service. 

The Tech Town Hall was one of several extended sessions this conference. The conference hosted the third in a series of NACo Town Halls on the opioid crisis; a Healthy Counties Early Childhood Summit; and a Resilient Counties Forum.

The traditional NextGen Community Service Project, sponsored by Next Generation NACo Network, targeted the Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, Ohio. Volunteers filled 350 backpacks with age-appropriate toys, games and books destined for child patients and their caregivers at the hospital.

At least half a dozen mobile tours were offered at the conference, with most sold-out before the conference began. For example, conference attendees had their pick of tours featuring the Farber Factory, Nationwide Children’s Hospital, Nationwide’s cybersecurity center, Ohio State University agriculture tour, the National Veterans Museum and the Rickenbacker Inland Port.

Award winners are feted at the annual Awards Luncheon, which spotlights the 21 Best of Category Achievement Award winners. The NACo Achievement Awards program, now in its 48th year, is a non-competitive awards program, which recognizes innovative concepts that improve county governments. Also honored was Commissioner Randy Maluchnik, Carver County, Minn. who received the County Leadership in the Arts award from Americans for the Arts.

In other award presentations: Turiq Bruce and Quentin Bruce from Leon County, Fla., were Presidential Scholarship award winners. David Davenport and CH2M Hill sponsor the scholarships, which are awarded each year to college-bound students in the home county of the out-going NACo president.

NACo’s 2018 Annual Conference will be hosted by Davidson County, Tenn. and held in Nashville, July 13–16. 

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About Bev Schlotterbeck (Full Bio)

Consulting Editor, County News

As executive editor, Bev manages and directs the editorial and production process for County News, NACo's official bi-weekly membership newspaper. She also oversees the County News website and emailed newsletter, CN Alerts. She has spent many years in the communications field, working as a reporter, editor and public relations director.