Brittney Raby – Staff Writer
To better work on behalf of the citizens of Macon County, county leadership spent last week in Washington D.C. for the annual National Association of County Officials (NACo) conference. Macon County Commissioners Ronnie Beale, Kevin Corbin, Jim Tate and County Manager Derek Roland were afforded the opportunity to meet with national leaders to discuss issues directly affecting Maconians.
“In my opinion, the trip to Washington DC to the NACo conference is one of the most important items that we do as a commissioner,” said Commissioner Tate. “Part of the art of being successful in politics for Macon County is having the ability to establish relationships with all levels of government and our federal government is a tremendous portion of that due to the quantity of land that they own in Macon County and the massive federal funds that flow through our local government to benefit our citizens. It is difficult to describe the importance of having and maintaining a first name relationship with our senators and congressmen, especially when we need something for Macon County that our federal government controls.”
Commission Chair Kevin Corbin noted that the NACo conference gave Macon leaders the opportunity to meet with federal legislators making decisions that impact county government face to face. “Someone is making decisions for counties at the federal level and someone is always influencing them. If you don’t get involved, you miss your opportunity to be heard,” said Corbin. “Because of our personal relationships, we’re able to get in and personally meet with both Senator [Thom] Tillis and [Richard] Burr and Congressman [Mark] Meadows instead of
While meeting with Macon County’s federal representatives, Corbin said that issues such as the amount of money the county receives for being comprised of nearly 50 percent National Forest was discussed. “We had nice long meetings with each and locked up several issues like Payment in Lieu of Taxes [PILT],” said Corbin. “Thom Tillis agreed to introduce legislation that would permanently protect our PILT. That means $400,000 a year to Macon County alone.”
In addition to the correspondence on the federal level, Macon commissioners were able to see how county governments across the nation are run and build contacts that could help the county in the future.
“The actual conference is also a fantastic way to network with commissioners from all across our great country,” said Tate. “I was able to have some very insightful conversations about leadership, solid waste, public safety, recreation and general politics with other commissioners and experts from other states, as well as from commissioners from North Carolina. NACo is a very powerful and influential organization at the federal level, and in fact, all 100 N.C. counties have recognized this importance and are members of this association.”
With such a strong state presence at the conference, the North Carolina delegation has a larger impact on decisions made on the state level. “As a commissioner, I know the importance of having contacts at the state and federal level,” said Corbin. “It is a very important once-a-year meeting that has both federal and state influences. You see with NC having 100 percent of its counties active, we have one of the most influential States at the Conference behind California, New York, and Florida.”
Beale, who currently serves on the North Carolina Association of County Commissioners board as Past President announced his intention to seek the NACo seat on the NCACC board this summer. The seat becomes vacant in July and if elected, Beale will give Macon County a voice on the national level.
“If successful this will give us a strong voice at the federal level on subjects that affect Macon County such as medicaid reform, mental health, education funding,veterans’ funding and other important items,” said Beale. “By being a NACo board member, it gives you the ability to help local citizens navigate the federal bureaucracy by having much better access to these federal departments. This position will be voted on by the N.C. delegation to the National NACo convention in July.”
NCACC President Glen Webb, is excited about Beale’s willingness to continue serving Macon County and North Carolina at the next level.
“I think this is a natural evolution of Commissioner Beale’s service to North Carolina,” said Webb. “He will bring not only his love of North Carolina to the National Association, but also a deep knowledge of the issues facing over 3,000 counties, parishes, and boroughs across the United States.”