Board of Supervisors Chair
Loudoun County, Va.
Why are you interested in serving as a NACo officer?
As the COVID-19 pandemic becomes an ongoing endemic, my background makes me uniquely qualified to address the issues we will confront as a nation for many years in the wake of this historic challenge. A mental health/substance dependence crisis, or what I am referring to as the second pandemic, is likely to sweep our nation with immeasurable, long-term health impacts in the coming years. As a mental health/substance abuse therapist for over two decades, I have seen firsthand the lasting harm untreated mental health issues can have on individuals and families. National policy will be significantly shaped by this “invisible” health crisis over the next three to five years, and NACo will need to engage on this issue during that timeframe.
Secondly, as the Chair At-Large of a County with Urban, Suburban and Rural Policy Areas, I have in-depth, practical working knowledge of the diverse needs and challenges facing almost every county in the nation. For example, supply chain disruptions have clarified for us the importance of supporting the farming and agriculture economies in our rural counties. At the same time, as local elected governing bodies have worked to sustain service delivery, enduring, equitable distribution of services to communities of color and poor communities has become a major issue for our Urban/Suburban counties.
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?
In just seven years as an elected official, I have become very involved in the National Association of Counties. To date, I would count my most important involvement as being a founding member of the NACo Economic Mobility Leadership Network (EMLN). In fact, the new Sister City relationship between Loudoun County, Virginia and Homes County, Mississippi, and supported by NACo, has been key and very important as NACo has contended with economic and health equity throughout the nation.
In 2019, NACo asked me to testify before a Congressional Committee of the U.S. House of Representatives regarding how counties should conduct their 2020 census and how the Federal Government could support the efforts of the nation’s Urban, Suburban, Rural and Frontier counties in completing the most accurate census counts possible.
Finally, I have tried to incorporate my passion regarding the importance of treating mental health as we do every other health condition: de-stigmatizing the diseases of mental health and substance abuse. I have participated as an expert panelist or facilitator at numerous VACo and NACo conferences on the subject. In addition, in my state (commonwealth) organizations, I have been actively involved in writing legislation, serving and having leadership roles on various committee assignments.
- First Term in Office January 2016 - December 2019
- 2016-2019 National Association of Counties Health and Human Services, member
- Loudoun County joins NACo Heath County initiative
- Loudoun County joins NACo Stepping Up initiative
- Loudoun County joins NACo Women in Government
- Loudoun County joins NACo Women in Leadership
- 2018 Founding member NACo Economic Mobility Leadership Network
- 2016 Virginia Association of Counties Board of Directors
- 2016 Virginia Association of Counties Health and Human Services Committee, member
- 2017 Virginia Association of Counties Health and Human Services Committee, member
- 2019 Virginia Association of Counties Health and Human Services Committee, Vice Chair
- Second Term in Office January 2020 - Present
- 2020 Virginia Association of Counties Board of Directors
- 2020 Virginia Association of Counties Health and Human Services Committee, Chair
- 2021 National Association of Counties Healthy Counties Committee, Chair
- 2021 Behavioral Health Subcommittee of the National Association of Counties Health Steering Committee, Chair
- 2021 National Association of Counties Health Steering Committee, member
- NACo appointee to the Bipartisan Policy Center Public Heath Forward Task Force
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?
A. Counties are being inundated with unfunded mandates. Although I agree with some of these — increased funding for education, for example — federal and state governments need to ensure they can fully fund their own priorities without requiring counties to “match” federal/state program mandates. Many counties, especially smaller or rural counties with limited budgets, have neither the population nor the inclination to incur the added expenses of such programs and often simply cannot afford these federal/state budget mandates.
B. Across the nation, many state legislatures are introducing legislation to usurp power from local governing bodies. These initiatives include critical curtailments in areas such as taxing authority, zoning/land use issues, election management and the voting process. Many state legislatures are now aggressively attempting to legislate items that have historically been the purview of local governments. I believe local elected bodies, comprising elected officials closest to those they represent, should retain control of local issues without interference from state bodies.
C. Over the past two years, local elected officials have been required to not only perform our many “regular duties,” but also to manage a 100-year pandemic and all its related community trauma. I never imagined a time when I would know the running count of my constituents who were hospitalized or died as a result of COVID-19. This, of course, touches on another aspect of our growing mental health crisis. Just as we have cared for our constituents, we must increasingly recognize the mental health toll these past two years have exacted on our local elected officials. Local elected officials cannot care for our constituents if we do not have the appropriate coping mechanisms, tools and resources to respond to our own mental health needs.
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?
Although Loudoun County has always been a member of NACo, our elected officials have largely not attended NACo conferences or been significantly involved in NACo activities. Shortly after taking office, I realized how beneficial NACo and the Virginia Association of Counties are in accomplishing many of our collective goals. NACo not only offers networking opportunities and support from other local elected officials, it provides invaluable materials, information and resources to foster better governance. I believe if county staff and elected officials more fully understood the obvious benefits of NACo and their state associations, they would be much more likely not only to become financial members, but also actively engaged participants in all NACo programs. Some ideas to increase membership are:
a. Offer a one-time membership discount to smaller counties that are not members.
b. Hold a NACo cohort meeting in an underrepresented area.
c. Offer to send a NACo representative or expert to an inactive county for consultations with the local elected bodies.
d. Have NACo officers and board members dedicate themselves to reach out and visit inactive/non-member counties.Hero 1