County leaders convene at national conference

PRINCE GEORGE’S COUNTY, Md.— Shelby County Commissioner Julie Ehemann joined more than 2,000 county leaders July 9-12 in Prince George’s County, Maryland, and virtually for the National Association of Counties (NACo) Annual Conference, the first in-person meeting since before the pandemic began.

“I have always found value in attending the annual NACo conference. NACo is the conduit for counties to have a voice at the federal level, so I want to be sure our issues are being heard,” said Ehemann.

NACo Immediate Past President Gary Moore highlighted the year’s accomplishments, including several significant federal policy victories, particularly the passage of the American Rescue Plan Act which includes $65.1 billion in direct, flexible aid to every county in America, as well as other crucial investments in local communities. NACo members elected DeKalb County, Georgia, Commissioner Larry Johnson president and celebrated the leadership of county officials on the front lines of the pandemic throughout the past year.

After 18 months of bold leadership, county appointed and elected officials convened to discuss strategies to drive recovery in our communities, as well as federal policy and legislation on a wide range of key issues. More than three dozen educational workshops and meetings explored topics including infrastructure, broadband accessibility, affordable housing, technology, reducing the number of mentally ill individuals in jails, economic development, disaster preparedness and recovery and other topics important to counties across the county.

As a member of the NACo Board of Directors and vice chair for the Agriculture and Rural Affairs Committee, Ehemann participated in several meetings getting updates from USDA and the United Soybean Association. Also, as a member of the Rural Action Caucus, she and other members delved into issues including Cyber-security and Broadband infrastructure.

“A lot of our discussion centered on how counties are allowed to use the American Recovery Act Funds. Locally, we want to ensure the funds provide long-term impact to our community. It was helpful to hear from other communities on how they want to address local issues, and to be able to ask representatives of the Federal Government if our goals fit the guidelines,” stated Ehemann.

Notable speakers included Vice President Kamala Harris, Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi, U.S. Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell, U.S. Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg, U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Marcia Fudge, U.S. Representative Garrett Graves (R-La.), IRS Commissioner Charles Rettig Small Business Administration Administrator Isabella Casillas Guzman, Deputy Secretary of the U.S. Treasury Department Wally Adeyemo, Deputy Secretary of the U.S. Department of Commerce Don Graves and United States Forest Service Chief Vicki Christiansen.