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Durham County Commissioners Participate in 2017 NACo Annual Conference

Post Date:07/28/2017


Durham, NC – Durham County Commissioners Chair Wendy Jacobs, Brenda Howerton and Ellen Reckhow joined 1,500 county leaders from across the nation in Ohio’s capital city, Columbus, for the National Association of Counties (NACo) Annual Conference, held July 21-24. North Carolina was represented by more counties than any other state, with a delegation of nearly 130 people.


Chair Wendy Jacobs noted, “Attending the NACo conference is an important part of my job representing the best interests of the people of Durham as a county commissioner and in my role as chair of our board. At the conference there are numerous opportunities to get the latest information on federal programs and policies, but to also be able to give feedback to federal officials about how these programs and policies are impacting us directly at the local level”.

Attendees heard from a number of well-known speakers including USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue on plans for rural America, and Piper Kerman, whose autobiographical book, Orange Is the New Black, inspired the popular Netflix series of the same name. Ed Viesturs, the only American mountaineer to climb the world’s 14 highest peaks without supplemental oxygen, also addressed conference attendees.


North Carolina county officials participated in the state’s caucus meeting, held Saturday afternoon, during which Person County Commissioner Ray Jeffers and Washington County Commissioner Tracey Johnson were elected to serve on NACo’s Board of Directors. The North Carolina delegation also participated in the NACo Business Meeting, where Tarrant County, Texas Commissioner Roy Charles Brooks was sworn in as NACo’s 2017-18 President. He announced appointments including the following from North Carolina:


  • NCACC President Elect and Durham County Commissioner Brenda Howerton (Vice Chair, Justice & Public Safety Steering Committee)
  • Catawba County Commissioner Kitty Barnes (Chair, Environment, Energy & Land Use Steering Committee)
  • Guilford County Commissioner Kay Cashion (Vice Chair, Justice & Public Safety Steering Committee)
  • Mecklenburg County Commissioner George Dunlap (At-Large Board Appointment)
  • Edgecombe County Commissioner Viola Harris (Vice Chair, NACo Membership Standing Committee for the South Region)
  • Orange County Commissioner Renee Price (Chair, Community, Economic & Workforce Development Steering Committee)

The conference also featured educational sessions on topics of importance to county officials and county taxpayers, such as improving your county’s drinking water quality, learning how to communicate with citizens during a crisis and a luncheon on the importance of investing in systems that support young children and their families.


Regarding the workshops, Chair Jacobs said, “One of the highlights of the conference was attending the Early Childhood Summit. The new NACo president Roy Brooks will be focusing on early childhood education as a way to break the cycle of poverty in our country and this completely aligns with the work we are doing in Durham County Government around universal access to pre-K education and the critical 0-8 years of childhood.”

According to Commissioner Howerton, “The conference provided lots of workshops in areas that we as elected officials deal with in our counties.  I started out with Healthy Cities and Counties Challenges that provided an opportunity to develop practical, evidence-based strategies to: Improve health, promote wellness, and increase health equality by building on existing community interventions and research capabilities.”


Commissioner Ellen Reckhow remarked, “At the NACo Transportation Steering Committee Meeting, I learned that the City of Columbus won the Smart Cities Challenge and has received $50 million to help reinvent mobility. They plan to pilot the use of autonomous vehicles by using connected autonomous vehicles to shuttle people in a commercial district along with many other projects that make better use of technology to enhance mobility. The prediction is that in five years autonomous vehicles will be in more general use on our roadways." 


The National Association of Counties (NACo) is the only national organization that represents county governments in the United States. Founded in 1935, NACo assists America’s 3,069 counties in pursuing excellence in public service to produce healthy, vibrant, safe and resilient counties. NACo promotes sound public policies, fosters county solutions and innovation, promotes intergovernmental and public-private collaboration and provides value-added services to save counties and taxpayers money.