The Idaho Association of Counties (IAC) hosted its 2023 Midwinter Legislative Conference at the Riverside Hotel in Boise from January 30 – February 2. The four-day conference brought Idaho’s county elected officials, county staff, affiliate agencies, and IAC Corporate Partners like Blue Cross of Idaho, Western States Cat, Enterprise Fleet Management, and more together for workshops, committee meetings, keynote speakers, panel discussions, and a guided tour of the Idaho State Capitol. The membership also had the opportunity to talk directly with Idaho’s legislators during Wednesday night’s Legislative Reception, which featured dinner and drinks.
The conference kicked off on Monday with the Courts and Clerks Meeting, the Legislative Committee Meeting, and the first IAC Mentoring Program Lunch. The new Mentoring Program was implemented to allow new county officials to pair up with a seasoned official to receive more personalized support and guidance as they navigate the nuances of county governance. The program also serves as a professional development opportunity for county officials who want to share their knowledge and develop into a dedicated resource for their peers.
Monday afternoon provided ample educational opportunities for attendees with concurrent workshops focusing on personnel management, Idaho’s negotiated rulemaking process, mental health, and more. The Transportation and Infrastructure Committee and the Public Lands Committee also held their meetings in the afternoon.
Tuesday morning featured several District Breakfast Meetings as well as concurrent workshops and a continental breakfast with exhibitors sponsored by Idaho’s State Insurance Fund (SIF). Tuesday morning’s General Session featured welcome remarks from Governor Brad Little. He addressed attendees about his priorities to keep Idahoans in Idaho by investing in the workforce and incentivizing residents to get specialized skills that are needed in the state. Governor Little also allowed time for questions and spoke with Twin Falls County Commissioners Don Hall and Jack Johnson, who both took the opportunity to raise concerns to the governor about county jails and spacing issues.
Following the Governor’s address, IAC held its installation ceremony for the board of directors at the conference. Chris Goetz, Clearwater County Sheriff, held his position as Immediate Past President, while Vic Pearson, Franklin County Prosecuting Attorney, accepted his new role of IAC President. Blaine County Treasurer John David Davidson was installed as the 1st Vice President, while Mark Bair, Bingham County Commissioner, was sworn in as 2nd Vice President.
“I would like to thank each of you, the IAC membership, for the honor of allowing me to serve as your president,” said IAC President Vic Pearson.
After a the ceremony and a Legislative Briefing from Seth Grigg, IAC’s executive director, Sara Westbrook, IAC’s director of government affairs, and Kelli Brassfield, IAC’s policy advisor, the Idaho Counties Risk Management Program (ICRMP) sponsored lunch was served. During the event, Jim McNall, a recently retired risk management specialist, was celebrated for his nearly 30 years with ICRMP.
The rest of Tuesday afternoon was packed with concurrent workshops on topics such as “The Who and How: Leading Effective Change,” “New Trends in Substance Abuse: What Teens are into Today,” “Ethics in the Real World,” and “Thriving Teams.” There was also a refreshment break sponsored by Idaho Power scheduled to allow ample time for attendees to connect with the various exhibitors and IAC’s Corporate Partners who were in attendance. Tuesday’s afternoon General Session featured a Legislative Panel Discussion moderated by Dr. Stephanie Witt of BSU’s School of Public Service. Panelists included Rep. Vander Woude, Rep. Jason Monks, Rep. Joe Palmer, Sen. Scott Grow, Sen. Todd Lakey, and Sen. Jim Guthrie.
On Wednesday morning, conference attendees interested in visiting the Capitol were shuttled from the Riverside Hotel to IAC’s downtown office to enjoy a continental breakfast and mingle before taking group tours of the Capitol building led by IAC’s policy staff. Concurrently, IAC Executive Director Seth Grigg was invited by Chairman Jason Monks to present to the House Revenue & Taxation Committee at the Capitol on the county budget process, county revenues and expenditures, and property tax administration that morning. The timing of the tours and of Grigg’s presentation allowed county elected officials to experience the legislative committee process firsthand.
After Wednesday morning’s Capitol tour, the GemPlan Lunch commenced, and Sara Westbrook, IAC director of government affairs, gave a presentation on “How a Bill Becomes a Law” to the membership while they enjoyed a hearty lunch. The lunch was followed by Wednesday’s General Session, which featured keynote speaker John Fudenberg, the executive director of the International Association of Coroners and Medical Examiners (IACME). Fudenberg gave a presentation on Mass Fatality Preparedness: Lessons Learned from the Mass Shooting in Las Vegas. Fudenberg was the Clark County Coroner in 2017 when the mass shooting occurred at the Route 91 Harvest Music Festival. The emotional presentation featured recorded footage from the press conference Fudenberg and local police gave during the incident, showed footage of festival attendees fighting to survive while taking cover and trying to care for others who had been wounded, and shared audio of police communications while they worked to subdue the shooter. As tragic as the incident footage was to witness, the message from Fudenberg and lessons from his first-hand experience were invaluable and will help county officials and emergency management to be even better prepared when tragedies strike.
The afternoon continued on a lighter note with the exhibitor door prize drawings, where vendors drew names of attendees who had completed their bingo cards by visiting all of the conference exhibitors. Attendees won a variety of prizes from blankets to gift baskets and amazon gift cards. The remainder of the afternoon was filled with roundtable discussions on legislative advocacy, property taxes, county infrastructure, and use of federal funds. The evening ended with the highly anticipated legislative reception that attracted policy makers from around the state.
“The Midwinter Legislative Conference provides our membership with a unique opportunity to meet our legislators, share our perspectives, and discuss timely issues relevant to counties,” said IAC President Vic Pearson. “Building relationships with our legislators is so important, as it allows us to position ourselves as a trusted resource for them on county issues.”
Thursday consisted of affiliate meetings and conferences, with the Idaho Association of County Assessors (IACA), the Idaho Association of County Recorders and Clerks (IACRC), County Commissioners, the Idaho Sheriffs Association (ISA), the Idaho Association of County Treasurers (IACT), The Idaho State Association of County Coroners (ISACC), and several others meeting within their respective groups.
“We were incredibly pleased with the record turnout for our conference, especially with the high turnover in Idaho’s elected officials this year,” said Grigg. “There’s nothing more invigorating than when we come together as a membership and see firsthand the extraordinary things we can accomplish on behalf of counties.”
To see the full photo album from the conference and download pictures, visit our flickr page.