IAC’s Premier Event Unites County Officials and State Legislators

12 Feb 2024, by Jessica Roth Share :

By Jessica Roth and Gracee Gorrell, IAC’s Communications Team

The Idaho Association of Counties (IAC) hosted its 2024 Midwinter Legislative Conference at the Boise Centre from January 29th to February 1st. The conference united county elected officials and county staff, local government entities, state employees, and Idaho’s legislators.

“The Midwinter Legislative Conference is IAC’s biggest event of the year, and this was the first time hosting it at the Boise Centre,” said Seth Grigg, IAC’s executive director. “We are so pleased with the turnout and have received great feedback from our membership about holding it downtown.”

This year’s conference included various sessions and workshops, and most were open to all attendees. These workshops offered a mix of topics geared toward counties, such as “Create, Manage, & Execute Your County’s Strategic Plan,” as well as more generalized subject matter like “The Secret Sauce of Healthy Teams.” The latter, presented by Dr. Jeremy Graves, Director of Professional Education at BSU, featured interactive exercises and allowed for peer engagement.

The event offered a rolling start for attendees on Monday with the Courts & Clerks Meeting beginning at 8:30 a.m., the invite-only IAC Mentoring Program Lunch starting at noon, and the IAC Legislative Committee gathering at 1:00 p.m. IAC’s Legislative Committee is tasked with formulating and promoting the IAC Legislative Package from the resolutions submitted from the IAC membership and vigorously opposing legislation detrimental to good county government.

“I’m pleased with the thoroughness and diligence of the Legislative Committee. We discuss each item line by line with respect to the direction of the IAC body and counties as a whole,” said Twin Falls County Commissioner Don Hall, who chairs the committee. “We also work collaboratively with community partners, such as state legislators, to draft policies that are beneficial to both counties and the state whenever possible.”

Monday afternoon carried on with concurrent workshops featuring tips on how to deal with difficult people, exploring IAC’s programs and services, and providing a deep dive into the operations of the United States customs and border protection.

The day wrapped with the Transportation & Infrastructure Committee Meeting, the Public Lands Committee Meeting, and several workshops. Workshop topics included “Federal and State Transportation Grants,” “Employee Performance Reviews,” and “Sustainability of the PERSI Trust Fund,” presented by LHTAC, ICRMP, and PERSI, respectively.

Several of the workshops offered at the conference provided attendees with credit toward completing their County Officials Institute (COI) certification. COI is a training program designed by IAC to equip county elected officials and county staff with the skills and knowledge to be an effective leader in county government.

“We strive to offer thoughtful and relevant curriculum through our workshops,” said Kristin Cundiff, IAC’s director of professional development and events. “Everyone who attends our conferences should be able to find a training that is valuable and helpful to them regardless of their role!”

Tuesday brought an early morning of Breakfast Meetings for Districts 2 and 5, the Justice & Public Safety Committee Meeting, and a continental breakfast with exhibitors sponsored by IAC’s Associate Partner NextEra Energy Resources. Conference attendees were invited to participate in a morning workshop prior to the Opening Session. Workshop topics focused on a county’s strategic plan, how to respond to a cybersecurity breach, and the Idaho Community Development Block Grant program. After the workshops, attendees enjoyed a networking and refreshment break with exhibitors sponsored by Idaho Power, another valued IAC Associate Partner.

The conference kicked into high gear at Tuesday morning’s General Session with opening remarks from Governor Little, who made an appearance to welcome attendees to Boise and share updates on his priorities and on issues impacting counties. He also allowed time for questions from county members while addressing concerns. Following the Governor’s address, a Legislative Briefing was provided by IAC policy staff members Seth Grigg, executive director, Sara Westbrook, director of government affairs, and Kelli Brassfield, policy advisor. President Pro Tempore Chuck Winder also addressed attendees and closed out Tuesday morning’s General Session.

The ICRMP Lunch was served soon after with words from ICRMP Executive Director Tim Osborne. ICRMP, IAC’s Premier Partner, is a member-owned self-insurance pool. ICRMP provides property and liability insurance coverage and risk management resources to Idaho local governments.

The Intergovernmental Affairs (IGA) Committee met after lunch and discussed current issues. “The IGA meeting was great. It’s always beneficial to hear from our legislators and share our thoughts on the issues they are working on,” said Bannock County Commissioner Jeff Hough, who chairs the committee. “The presentation by the Hidden Heroes was inspiring, and the update given by the Governor’s Office was insightful.” 

Also following lunch were workshops on topics ranging from strategic planning to housing affordability. The “Advancing Housing Affordability in Idaho Counties: Lessons Learned from the NACo Housing Task Force” was presented by Kevin Shrawder, NACo’s senior analyst for economic and government studies, Ada County Commissioner Rod Beck, and Valley County Commissioner Sherry Maupin who co-chairs the task force.

When not participating in committees or workshops, attendees enjoyed networking breaks with the exhibitors and visiting the 25 booths to learn about each business’s services while filling out the exhibitor passports. Those who completed their passport were entered into exhibitor door prize drawings.

Tuesday ended with another General Session featuring Speaker of the House Mike Moyle, who addressed county issues and provided legislative updates. IAC’s policy staff wrapped up Tuesday afternoon’s General Session with a continuation of the Legislative Briefing.

It is always an honor to have Governor Brad Little take time out of his schedule to share a few words with us and allow us to ask our questions. This year we also had the pleasure of having Speaker of the House Mike Moyle and President Pro Tempore Chuck Winder join us to share their thoughts and insights on the current legislative session. Speaker Moyle and Pro Tem Winder allowed the body to ask them burning questions that were of importance to counties, and it was helpful to hear their stance on some tough issues,” said Vic Pearson, IAC president.

On Wednesday, conference attendees enjoyed a bustling morning at Idaho’s Capitol building. Participants were invited to explore the building and had the chance to sit in on the House and Senate floor sessions to experience the legislative process first hand. There were also hearings in the garden level, where IAC members provided testimony as needed. Gem County Assessor Hollie Ann Strang spoke on behalf of Idaho counties during one such hearing regarding property taxes. County clerks also met with Senate State Affairs Committee Chairman Jim Guthrie to discuss elections legislation. IAC’s day at the Capitol was commemorated on the sunny steps of the Idaho State Building, where dozens of county members and supporters gathered for a group photo.

Later that afternoon, attendees indulged in a buffet-style lunch sponsored by IAC’s Premier Partner GemPlan, who celebrated 20 years of operations. Idaho State Senator Todd Lakey gave a few words while attendees ate. GemPlan is a self-funded health care plan owned, operated, and controlled by counties for counties, their elected officials, employees, and dependents. 

Following lunch was a brief but impactful presentation by Kathy Ackerman, Idaho County Clerk. Ackerman educated attendees on the history and contributions of H. Sydney Duncombe, a professor of political science who served as director of the Bureau of Public Affairs Research for the University of Idaho and was the first director of the Idaho Division of Financial Management. He was also the primary author and is responsible for the publication of the “Handbook for County Elected Officials in Idaho.” The H. Sydney Duncombe Award For Excellence in County Government is IAC’s highest honor.

For the Keynote Presentation, comedian and author Larry Weaver took the stage and presented “Refresh. Renew. Refocus. Be Your Best Every Day!” Weaver shared relatable stories of marriage, family life, traveling for work, and his unexpected decision to depart from a career in accounting to comedy, to illustrate the importance of maintaining a positive outlook and healthy lifestyle, especially when faced with life’s unexpected challenges.

After Weaver’s presentation, attendees gathered for the exhibitor door prize drawings, where each business or organization was invited to say a few words, draw a name from the completed exhibitor passports, and present their gift to the selected winner. “We want to convey our sincere gratitude to our sponsors, exhibitors, and Corporate Partners whose time and contributions made a tremendous impact on the conference and elevated the experience for our members,” said Jessica Roth, IAC’s marketing and communications manager.

After saying goodbye to the exhibitors, attendees participated in various roundtable discussions focused on legislative committee chairs, employee retention, housing, and an update on federal issues. The evening ensued with one of the most notable events of the Midwinter Conference; the Legislative Reception. The reception provided an intimate atmosphere for Idaho’s legislators and county elected officials and staff to mingle and engage while enjoying libations and nibbles. The spread included a build-your-own charcuterie board station, carved meat stations, and other appetizerslike spring rolls and coconut shrimp. The night ended with District 4 and District 6 Pie & Ice Cream Socials. 

The final day of the conference consisted of affiliate meetings with the Idaho Association of County Assessors (IACA), Idaho Association of County Recorders and Clerks (IACRC), Idaho Sheriffs Association (ISA), Idaho Association of County Treasurers (IACT), Idaho Association of County Juvenile Justice Administrators (IACJJA), and IAC Misdemeanor Probation Administrators Association (IACMPAA). The Idaho State Association of County Coroners (ISACC) held their two-day Midwinter Conference on Thursday and Friday at the Riverside Hotel in Boise.

When asked his thoughts on the conference and the new location, Pearson said, “I’d like to thank Seth and his staff for hosting one of the best conferences in IAC history, and I’d like to express my gratitude to everyone who attended and represented their counties,” said Pearson. “I believe we live in the best state in the Union and it is because of our members and all they do for their communities.”

To see the full photo album from the conference and download pictures, visit our Flickr Page.