Sonoma County, Calif.
Why are you interested in serving as a NACo officer?
My interest in serving as a NACo officer is rooted in my work as an Officer and Immediate Past President of the California State Association of Counties (CSAC) and leadership positions within NACo and organizations with a broader, national focus, including service as:
- Chair, NACo Programs and Services Committee
- Former Chair, NACo Resilient Counties Advisory Board
- Member, NACo Board, LUCC and RAC
- Appointee, Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) National Advisory Council
- Former Member, Resilient America Roundtable for the National Academies of Science, Engineering & Medicine
While my experience in these positions provides the foundation to serve the full county membership on a broader platform as NACo 2nd Vice President, the bigger reason guiding my interest to run is rooted in collaboration, service and my belief that the future of NACo, and our contributions to it, must be led through each of our engagement and ground truth, and by bringing urban, rural and suburban counties together.
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?
It has been my honor to serve in a variety of capacities with NACo: Chairing NACo’s Program and Services Committee, serving as a member of NACo’s Board, LUCC and RAC, and, as an extension of my work with NACo, as an appointee to FEMA’s National Advisory Council. When I reflect on the one contribution I feel is most important to-date, one particular service experience comes to mind: I leveraged my experience locally as a County Supervisor in a fire-scarred district to serve as the Chair of NACo’s Resilient Counties Advisory Board. While learning from many of you, this role brought me the perspective, drive and determination to bring communities together to confront a myriad of challenges wrought by an increasing number of natural disasters in recent years: drought and wildfires in the West, tornadoes in the Midwest, and hurricanes in the South. In the wake of the 2017 Sonoma County fire siege in my home district located in rural/suburban Northern California, I engaged and empowered residents to lead historic recovery and rebuilding efforts through real-time information sharing and collaborative problem solving. That approach, hand-in-hand with those impacted, helped forge progress and facilitate recovery as efficiently and effectively as possible.
In my interactions with my fellow NACo Board and Committee Members, these experiences proved to be powerful models in an era where natural disasters and unforeseen circumstances play a greater role in disaster recovery and response. But stepping back and reflecting on this work, it brought something bigger to light: cohesion and collaboration — by bringing leaders together and forging past geopolitical divides to work for the common good and helping the constituents we serve. These models moved beyond resiliency to include work on broadband, homelessness, mental health and housing. This led to my most important contributions to my role statewide as President of my state association.
While serving as President of the California State Association of Counties, we led a cross-sector coalition representing statewide associations, policymakers, community groups, private sector and many other stakeholders to secure an historic $6 billion investment in broadband infrastructure. The coalition worked for months to support the package, the most significant investment in public broadband infrastructure in the country. This investment benefits rural and urban residents across the state by connecting millions of families and businesses and prioritizing unserved and underserved residents. With tenacious leadership, and a drive for forward progress, we leaned into the issue and worked successfully with stakeholders to reach this remarkable achievement.
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?
How to best leverage once-in-a-generation ARPA funds in our communities and enhance future NACo advocacy, and the need for resources and support to inform local investments. It’s also imperative to capture successful local investments that drive community recovery. NACo is critically positioned to do both and to reset the federal landscape to reduce overly regulated and restrictive federal programs such as rental assistance and disaster mitigation in exchange for greater flexibility with proven outcomes.
This pandemic response has brought direct funding to Counties from the Federal Government (ARPA, CARES, etc.). This kind of direct assistance, along with local control and program flexibility, is the support counties need to be prepared and enhance the safety net to care for our communities during these tumultuous times. It is essential that NACo – through its Officers and Membership – lead the way to advocate for additional federal resources and support to care for the most vulnerable residents; promote our communities; and, just as important, establish a path to economic recovery to rebuild from the impacts of the pandemic, fires, disasters and other major challenges we continue to face every single day. Vital funding from the Federal Government like Rental Assistance and Disaster Mitigation, will yield greater results and faster response if we work to streamline and improve existing processes which have proven to be ineffective and inadequate to address today’s challenging environment. Too often, federal funding becomes mired in bureaucracy, impeding our ability to effectively meet the needs of our communities. ARPA and CARES are a departure in providing substantially more flexibility, recognizing the uniqueness among the nation’s 3,069 counties. This is a huge opportunity to show the federal government the incredible work each of us is doing to rebuild and transform our communities, the value of having flexibility to leverage funding to make a bigger impact.
Second, as the adage goes, “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” FEMA validates this in their studies showing $6 in value for every $1 spent on disaster mitigation. As a former Chair of NACo’s Resilient Counties Advisory Board and coming from a county that has experienced eight major disasters in fouryears, I know this to be true. A pre-pandemic NACo report showed that a full one-third of all the counties nationwide had experienced at least one Presidentially Declared Disaster in the past three years. NACo must lead the way with a proactive and preemptive approach to make sure that we establish strong collaboration and partnerships to help galvanize the Federal, State, and Local investments into disaster preparedness and mitigation. I commit to using our experience, our relationships and my role as a member of FEMA’s National Advisory Council to relentlessly champion the required funding, technical assistance, regulatory streamlining and other vital resources to address these chaotic times.
Counties are at the forefront of the Mental Health and Substance Abuse crisis. Our responsibility of Health and Human Services, and our role as the safety net provider for our most vulnerable populations, compels us to take action when no one else can or will. These issues exacerbate our stewardship of homeless services, jail populations, and hospitals, among others. I commit to continuing NACo’s strong leadership in making sure that the County/Federal (and State when appropriate) nexus and partnership for health and human services programs is strengthened and leveraged to the highest extent possible with preventative and effective wraparound services to better serve residents coping with their illness to live better with the appropriate treatment and care. This includes taking on the complexities of mental health and addiction in our jails, on our streets, and among our youth. We must continue to learn from each other about what works and advocate for each community to have the resources, flexibility, and authority to tackle these challenges in a way to fits their values and priorities.
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?
NACo’s greatest strength is its members. Counties represent exactly the same communities as the President and Congress. That’s powerful and the greater the county engagement in NACo, the stronger NACo’s voice will be. Increasing and retaining NACo membership could be accomplished through two efforts: communicating the advocacy/resources/network of NACo to those not active; and 1:1 direct contact of county leaders. Communicating the advocacy/resources/network of NACo throughout the country by using social media, celebrating local innovation, etc.
I’m a strong believer of direct communication and sustained follow up. NACo is highly effective in the services it provides to member counties. To increase and retain membership, I would work with NACo’s Leadership and the Membership Standing Committee to identify a list of priority counties and engage with those county leaders directly. Despite my responsibilities at home, if elected as NACo 2nd Vice President, I’ll bring the same energy, enthusiasm and commitment to getting things done as I do for my county as a member of the Board of Supervisors.Hero 1