Last week, I joined several others from Brunswick County at the annual N.C. Association of County Commissioners conference in Greensboro.
Those of us who made the trip attended numerous educational workshops and networked and shared ideas with commissioners from other counties. Some of those in attendance also completed the ethics training required of commissioners (Commissioner Pat Sykes and I completed the ethics training in February).
Additionally, voting delegates at the conference selected future NCACC leaders who will represent all 100 counties on the state level.
Workshops I attended included:
- Unearthing Economic Opportunity Through Natural Resources: This session focused on economic development opportunities through natural resources, such as the production of shale gas and helium. According to one of the presenters, 14 counties in North Carolina have the potential for shale gas. Another presenter said that shale gas is cleaner and cheaper than coal. The session also touched briefly on the pros and cons of fracking. Additionally, one of the presenters discussed other types of alternative energy, including wind energy, and referenced a study in which a significant percentage of respondents indicated they would be less likely to rent a beach property if offshore windmills were visible from the beach house. I hope to obtain a copy of this study in the near future.
- Global Opportunities for Local Economic Development: The general focus of this session was exporting. One item mentioned in this session was the importance of developing policies that make it feasible for local companies to market their goods globally.
- Lessons in History: North Carolina at the Crossroads: This session reviewed the economic and social changes that have affected North Carolina in recent decades, including the declining role of agriculture and manufacturing in our economy, and how those changes have impacted our state. This session was important to me because I believe a clear understanding of where we have been provides a necessary context for developing effective strategies for the future.
- Developing a Culture of Innovation: In this session we discussed how to create something that is rarely found in governmental bodies at any level: a culture of innovation. Terry Bledsoe, the Chief Information Officer for Catawba County, walked through key requirements to create a culture of innovation in a local government. Maurice Ferrell from the UNC School of Government provided a different but equally important view of how to create an innovative culture within a governmental entity. In my view, this is important for a number of reasons. We all want our governmental staffs to be innovative when it comes to increasing effectiveness and efficiency. We want them to be innovative when it comes to utilizing new technology to improve customer service and increase transparency. More often than not, this requires a change in the way people think.
This year, I had the opportunity to represent Brunswick County as our voting delegate at the NCACC conference business meeting. This is important, because those who vote on our statewide leaders select the people who will be the face and voice of counties at the statewide level. Our state leaders often speak to legislative and Congressional leaders on behalf of the association.
The NCACC leaders for the next year are:
- President: Ray Jeffers of Person County. Ray served as President-Elect for the past year, and the President-Elect automatically assumes the presidency.
- President-Elect: Ronnie Beale of Macon County. Ronnie served as 1st Vice President for the past year, and he ran unopposed for President-Elect this year.
- 1st Vice President: Glen Webb of Pitt County. Glenn served as 2nd Vice President for the past year, and he ran unopposed for 1st Vice President this year.
- 2nd Vice President: Fred McClure of Davidson County. Fred won the only contested race, a three-way contest. I supported Fred, and I believe he will serve us well.
What you get out of events such as this conference depends on your mindset and motivation going into them. I believe everyone from Brunswick County who attended this conference did so with the desire and goal of learning about new ways to improve our county. Most of the workshops and general session speakers provided valuable information, as did time spent talking with commissioners from other counties. It was also important to be present and ensure that our county’s voice was heard at the business meeting where our new leaders were selected.