By The Hon. Bryan Desloge
2017 brings new faces to all levels of government, and thousands of leaders are beginning new roles in county government. To those leaving county government, thank you for your service. To those beginning or continuing county service, we look forward to your participation in the National Association of Counties (NACo) in the coming year.
For many of you, this may be your first time holding public office. More than a decade ago, I was in the same position when I was first elected to the Leon County, Fla. Board of Commissioners.
In my early days as a commissioner, just as my state association proved to be invaluable, I quickly learned that NACo was also tremendously helpful. Through unique services, resources and programs, NACo empowered me to be a more effective county leader, and I know NACo will equip you to better serve your county. Here’s a quick snapshot of what we’re doing at the national level to keep counties healthy, vibrant and safe.
Washington, D.C. may seem distant and unrelated to your day-to-day responsibilities, but decisions made by the White House, Congress and federal courts have major, cascading impacts on our ability to lead our communities and pursue a better future. Federal legislation, regulations and unfunded mandates can significantly affect county budgets and our residents’ lives.
NACo adeptly represents our nation’s 3,069 counties, parishes and boroughs in our intergovernmental system and offers resources to keep county officials informed and engaged on issues important to our residents. County News, your print and online newspaper, connects you to counties across the nation. Policy briefs, reports and other resources can be found at www.NACo.org/advocacy.
NACo also gives its members the opportunity to be directly involved in the federal policy process. More than 1,300 members serve on NACo committees, boards and caucuses that address a wide variety of issues.
Through our 10 policy steering committees, members set NACo’s agenda and legislative priorities. In 2016, our members testified before Congress on key legislative and regulatory issues facing counties and represented counties on more than 50 federal task forces and advisory groups.
NACo is truly elevating county voices in Washington, D.C., and I encourage you to get involved by joining a policy committee.
For many county leaders, serving on the county board is a part-time job with full-time responsibilities. That’s why NACo provides easily accessible, online resources that will save you time and energy.
NACo’s award-winning County Explorer gives you access to county-specific data right at your fingertips. This interactive online tool, with more than 900 data sets, grows every month with new research and updates. It also provides county-specific profiles for issues such as endangered species and transportation, and state-specific profiles for issues like tax-exempt municipal bonds.
We maintain a grants clearinghouse with hundreds of federal grant opportunities for counties. This online, one-stop shop enables NACo members to search for grants by category, eligibility, funder type and state.
Lastly, you’ll be making difficult decisions every day, and NACo understands how important it is to have accurate information readily available. NACo offers a large collection of research publications, reports and webinars online for free. NACo is here to help you and your county thrive.
Budget constraints are an issue in every county, and NACo provides programs designed to save your county and residents money. Here are some examples:
- U.S. Communities Cooperative Purchasing Alliance — Leveraging the purchasing power of more than 70,000 public sector entities.
- Nationwide Deferred Compensation and other employee benefits — Helping more than 1.5 million county employees and retirees save more than $15 billion extra for retirement.
- Live Healthy U.S. Counties — NACo member counties have achieved $650 million in savings on prescription drug, health and dental services for county residents.
I encourage you to leverage your NACo membership to benefit your communities and residents.
I also hope you’ll join us for NACo’s Legislative Conference (www.NACo.org/Leg) in Washington, D.C. Feb. 25 – March 1. With a new administration and new Congress, there are countless new opportunities for counties to advance our policy priorities at the federal level. Together, we can build stronger counties and a stronger America.
The Hon. Bryan Desloge is the president of the National Association of Counties and a Leon County, Fla. commissioner. For more information, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.