The National Association of Counties has a great foundation and strong leadership. I hope, with your support, to be a part of furthering the association as 2nd vice president. Since announcing my candidacy last October, I’ve attended conferences and peer exchanges that have given me the opportunity to share my platform and ideas with other commissioners nationwide. In addition, I have learned that while we may be different in size, we are all facing similar problems and we must continue to work together to find solutions. Specifically, we must do more for our veterans, drive economic prosperity, defeat the opioid epidemic and ensure mental health services for those in need.
As a mother of three children and owner of a home healthcare company, I understand the importance of providing health equity in our communities. Our biggest challenge has been adequate funding for the opioid epidemic. The Nation’s current opioid crisis knows no boundaries. It is affecting all our communities, large and small, rural and urban, and, more importantly, it’s affecting all our people – young and old, all races and ethnicities, and all social income brackets. NACo must continue to play a vital role in working with county leaders to conduct research, develop data, share information, and assist counties in finding and advocating for common-sense solutions to end an epidemic that is killing 115 Americans each day. We must work together with our federal and state partners to pass rational legislation addressing the epidemic: reduce the availability of prescription and illegal opioids; increase federal funding directed at our local communities; implement effective diversion and treatment programs and other criminal justice reforms directed at nonviolent offenders addicted to drugs; and expand insurance coverage for addiction treatment including greater access to mental health and substance abuse services.
At a recent Health Equity Peer Exchange in Louisville, KY, a small group of county officials discussed challenges faced when trying to provide affordable healthcare services, housing, and other programs designed to aid underserved communities. We shared some solutions – training programs, additional funding for law enforcement, and other programs to help identify and assist individuals with mental health issues within our communities. We also discussed the importance of eliminating the stigma of homelessness and the “look” of public assistance housing. As elected officials, we must work harder and develop more effective strategies to build trust with our community partners to eliminate the increasing health inequality and cycle of poverty afflicting our counties.
My brother is a veteran and for me this is personal. We must continue to advocate for increased care, education and job placement for our veterans. Our veterans sacrifice their lives for us to maintain our freedoms and keep us safe at home. We must do more for them when they return from their service. As county leaders, we must work with Congress to ensure our veterans receive the best quality health care America has to offer. We need to let our veterans know assistance is always available, they need not despair or face their struggles alone.
More than ever, veterans are struggling to find a job. We must encourage government at all levels and the private sector to improve job placement services and programs for our veterans. Finally, the Post-9/11 GI bill provides up to 36 months of education benefits to eligible veterans depending on time served. This benefit is generally insufficient to allow a veteran to obtain an undergraduate or graduate degree without incurring additional costs or debt. We must encourage Congress to expand the Post-9/11 GI Bill’s postsecondary education benefits to ensure our veterans can get the degrees they desire and the jobs they seek.
As a native Floridian, with roots in farming and agriculture, NACo must continue to be the lead organization in restoring full funding for payment in lieu of taxes (PILT) and Secure Rural Schools (SRS) funding for our western states. More than 62 percent of counties receive PILT funding for more than 653 million acres of federal lands. While attending the WIR conference in Sun Valley, Idaho, I was able to see firsthand the natural beauty associated with protecting and preserving federal lands for public use. However, such federal ownership of public lands and other spaces comes at a price that is felt mostly at the local level. Therefore, I will continue to advocate strongly for increased federal funding for PILT.
Florida shares many things with our sister states. We have large, medium and small-sized counties, our economy thrives on agriculture, tourism and trade. We are one of the most diverse states in the nation. When I served as president of the Florida Association of Counties, I stood with and fought for the needs of all our counties, regardless of its impact to my home county of Broward — I will do the same as a leader of NACo.
I intend on working to continue NACo’s success. I understand the importance of unity, and standing with you, my fellow commissioners, is what allows our organization to be the most recognized and most effective local government organization in Washington, DC. Do not hesitate to contact me and get to know me more before we celebrate in Nashville. I believe in my platform and I hope you will too.
I ask for your vote to be your next 2nd vice president. Allow me to rock for you.