SIDNEY — Julie Ehemann joined elected and appointed county officials from across the country at the National Association of Counties’ (NACo) Western Interstate Region (WIR) conference in conjunction with NACo’s Rural Action Caucus (RAC) Symposium in Anchorage, Alaska, May 17-20. The conference brought together nationally renowned experts, state and federal policy leaders and county officials from across the country.
NACo’s Rural Action Caucus (RAC) is a key component of NACo. RAC is the voice for America’s rural counties before Congress and the Administration. Nearly two-thirds of the nation’s 3,069 counties are designated as rural, with a combined population of 60 million.
WIR serves as counties’ advocate for public policy issues affecting the West. WIR is affiliated with NACo and dedicated to the promotion of Western interests within NACo. These interests include public lands issues such as land use and conservation, community stability and economic development and the promotion of the traditional Western way of life.
WIR’s membership consists of the state associations of counties in 15 Western states.
With critical legislative and regulatory issues being debated in the nation’s capital, county leaders discussed issues of importance currently.
These issues included:
• Investing American Rescue Plan Act funds to drive recovery in our communities · Successfully implementing the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law · Increasing broadband connectivity and bridging the urban/rural digital divide · Connecting residents to crisis care and implementing the 988 suicide lifeline in rural communities
• Supporting and investing in America’s tourism economy, and
• Conservation and land-use planning around military installations through the U.S. Department of Defense’s REPI program
“As a member of the Rural Action Caucus, I see how we can work together to address the unique challenges our residents face. It’s also important for Shelby County to have a role in shaping key federal policies that affect us every day,” said Ehemann. “Much of the information presented at the conference will help our efforts at home. It was particularly helpful to receive updates on some federal initiatives that require action at the local level including the 988 Suicide Hotline and accessing infrastructure programs.”
Ehemann also serves on the NACo Board of Directors which met during the conference. The Directors meeting included officials from the White House Office of Intergovernmental Affairs as the groups continue to foster a partnership to deliver services to communities.
RAC 2021-2022 Chair Greg Puckett, Mercer County, West Virginia, commissioner said, “Rural counties face unique challenges, particularly as we work to recover from the coronavirus pandemic. The RAC Symposium allows fellow rural leaders to connect and share lessons learned and best practices in supporting our communities.”
WIR 2022-2023 President Daniel Joyce, Malheur Country, Oregon, judge, said, “America’s western counties face challenges and opportunities that are unique to our region. WIR brings us together to learn from our peers and develop tailored solutions to fit our needs. WIR gives us the tools we need to deliver critical services at home and to better advocate for our needs in Washington.”
Featured speakers included Governor of Alaska Mike Dunleavy, U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski, U.S. Economic Development Administration Assistant Secretary Alejandra Castillo, USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service Chief Terry Cosby and University of Alaska President Pat Pitney.
For more information about WIR, visit www.naco.org/WIR.
For more information on RAC, visit www.naco.org/RAC.