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Minnesota takes the stage as Mary Jo McGuire steps into NACo presidency


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Mary Ann Barton

County News Editor & Senior Writer

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Key Takeaways

Nearly 100 Minnesotans climbed on stage to support Ramsey County Commissioner Mary Jo McGuire as she was sworn in as NACo’s new president. And to the relief of the Austin Convention Center staff, the stage supported the crowd, the likes of which an Annual Business Meeting had never seen. 

Wise County, Texas Judge J.D. Clark won the slot as NACo’s new second vice president, after fellow candidate Roane County, Tenn. Commissioner Ron Berry, conceded the race before the election in a gracious speech before NACo members. He was later reelected South region representative and Cascade County, Mont. Commissioner Joe Briggs was reelected West region representative.

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Rounding out the 2023-2024 executive committee is First Vice President James Gore, a Sonoma County, Calif. supervisor and Immediate Past President Denise Winfrey, a Will County, Ill. Board member.

McGuire presented Winfrey with several parting gifts to commemorate her year as president, including a photo of Winfrey with President Joe Biden, published in County News. 

McGuire took to the lectern surrounded by friends, family and many members of the Minnesota delegation waving red bandannas. She was sworn in by former NACo president and fellow Minnesotan Colleen Landkamer, a former Blue Earth County commissioner and now a state director for the USDA’s Rural Development program. 

McGuire has been a county commissioner for 11 years after serving 16 years in the Minnesota Legislature in the House and Senate.

Growing up, McGuire, said in her acceptance speech, she and her five siblings each got a chance to speak around the dinner table for three minutes, thanks to a timer her parents used to give everyone a chance to share their day.

“My family still does the timer to this day even though there’s almost 40 of us now,” she said. “Sharing stories and listening to each other has held us together as a family through both good and tough times.”

“In many ways, I see the same thing happening here at NACo,” McGuire said. “I come to NACo meetings and I see colleagues from all different places and backgrounds listening carefully to each other, making sure that everyone’s voice is heard and working together to find practical solutions.”

“Listening and learning together is part of the culture of NACo and I’m excited to share the spotlight for this year, which reflects this culture: 'Forward Together: Connect, Inspire and Lead.'

“As we move forward together, now is the time for county leaders to connect, inspire and lead,” she said. “Connect and build bridges, inspire engagement and lead intergovernmental partnerships.”

“When we connect and build relationships, we grow our leadership skills and build a strong network of support,” she noted. “Together, we have unlimited potential to advance excellence and trust in county government. Second, inspire engagement — everyone has a voice and everyone’s voice matters. 

“Together, county officials can lead by listening to and engaging with residents including those who are most difficult to reach,” she said. “We can continuously improve and build residents’ trust in us as their public partners.

“Third, lead in intergovernmental partnerships,” she said. “From the flexibility of the American Rescue Plan to the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, counties have been leading. It’s clear that when we lead, our residents benefit.”

As we work with all levels of government, we lead by example on how to get the work done,” she said. “Our focus on working together and our common-sense solutions is our strength and a breath of needed fresh air in politics.

“Each of you brings your own strength to this organization, and I’m so excited to see what we’ll do to move forward together this year at NACo,” she said. “Let’s find ways to invite new colleagues into this work, let’s support programs and services our members need and want and let’s build relationships with policy makers to get our priorities over the finish line.

“Let’s gather around our own timers, listen to each other and lean forward together,” McGuire said. “It’s been an honor to be NACo’s first vice president and I am so very excited to now serve as your president. Thank you for putting your trust in me. I look forward to working with all of you.”


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