County commissioners, county officials and staff, state leaders and others gathered in Catawba County for the North Carolina Association of County Commissioners’ (NCACC) 111th annual Conference.
The conference, which is the year’s premier event for counties, provides a forum to conduct official Association business and offers educational and networking opportunities for commissioners and county staff. The theme for the conference was “Reimagine Your County’s Possibilities,” to encourage counties to spark change and work toward imaginative solutions to common issues and challenges. NCACC partnered with Catawba County to host the event.
Noran Sanford, founder of GrowingChange, kicked off the event with a keynote speech about his organization in Scotland County. GrowingChange empowers at-risk youth through an innovative community based project to transform decommissioned prison facilities into sustainable farming and recreational sites.
Nationally-acclaimed author and journalist Sam Quinones also addressed attendees to discuss his book, “Dreamland: The True Tale of America’s Opiate Epidemic.” He described how counties have long been at the forefront of a challenging process to rebuild communities that have been impacted by the opioid crisis.
During the business session of the conference, Larry Phillips, Surry County commissioner, ascended to the role of president of the NCACC, and commissioners voted to elect Kevin Austin, Yadkin County commissioner to serve as president elect, and Ronnie Smith, Martin County commissioner to serve as first vice president. NCACC elected Frank Williams, Brunswick County commissioner, to serve as the association’s second vice president, and Brenda Howerton, Durham County commissioner became past president.
Phillips announced his presidential initiative, which seeks to leverage a strategic partnership between NCACC, the UNC School of Government, and the City & County Management Association to identify critical areas of leadership training needs for county professional staff and develop succession planning for key department positions to cultivate the next generation of county leaders.
“We must make a strategic commitment to equip the next generation of leaders with the concepts of exercising leadership while closing existing leadership gaps,” said Phillips.
Several counties were recognized by the Local Government Federal Credit Union and N.C. Cooperative Extension Service for establishing innovative partnerships that improve services to citizens. NCACC also honored the following four individuals for their achievements in support of counties.
• Ann Holton, 16-year Pamlico County commissioner and chair of the NCACC Joint Risk Management Board of Trustees, and Patricia Roesler, 42-year NCACC veteran and manager of Elected Official Programming, Center for Public Leadership and Governance at UNC School of Government, were both honored with the NCACC Hall of Fame Award for their longstanding commitment and exceptional service to counties.
• Gloria Whisenhunt, Forsyth County commissioner, and Trevor Fuller, Mecklenburg County commissioner, were recognized with the Outstanding County Commissioner Award for their leadership as Co-Chairs of NCACC’s Legislative Goals Committee.
• Robert Ingram, chairman of the North Carolina GlaxoSmithKline Foundation Board of Directors, was awarded Friend of the Counties for leading the foundation to undertake several grant programs that have benefited county organizations across our state.
As part of the conference, NCACC teamed up with 4-H Youth Development (a service of NC Cooperative Extension) and Boys & Girls Clubs of North Carolina to sponsor YouthVoice for the ninth consecutive year. YouthVoice brings together youth delegates ages 14-19 and county officials to promote dialogue between current county leaders and the next generation of leaders. It also helps educate youth delegates on the county’s role in their community and the complex art of governing.