The 2019 NACo Western Interstate Region (WIR) Conference was held May 15-17 in Spokane, Washington. This Conference brings together county officials from across the nation to focus on pressing issues facing counties and our residents. Each year the conference is hosted by a county within the fifteen Western states—Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawai’i, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oregon, South Dakota, Utah, Washington and Wyoming—and provides attendees with the opportunity to interact with federal, state, and regional policymakers, participate in educational sessions, and take home tools to address challenges.
During the WIR Annual Business Meeting, Commissioner Greg Chilcott, Ravalli County, was elected 1stVice President for the upcoming year. NACo kept him very busy during the conference introducing speakers and other tasks to help ensure the conference ran smoothly (NACo puts their people to work like MACo does to ours).
Other featured speakers/presenters at the event included Hon. James Hubbard, Undersecretary for Natural Resources and Environment, U.S. Department of Agriculture; Hon. Kim Wyman, Secretary of State, the State of Washington; Colonel Derek M. Salmi Commander, 92d Air Refueling Wing, Fairchild Air Force Base, Washington; Jim Ogsbury, Executive Director, Western Governors Association; Hon. Kirk Pearson Washington State Director, USDA-Rural Development; John R. Graham Region 10 Director, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services; Hon. Roger Millar Secretary of Transportation, the State of Washington; and Hon. Joe Balash Assistant Secretary for Land and Minerals Management, U.S. Bureau of the Interior.
There were a couple of mobile workshops for attendees that included exploring the Grand Coulee Dam, and visiting the A to Z Forestry Project in the Colville National Forest. The conference also had various educational sessions:
- Assessing Trends in Affordable Housing, Natural Disasters & More;
- Collaborative Forest Restoration: Actively Improving Federal lands Through Dialogue & Action;
- Strategies for Better Serving People with Mental Illnesses Involved in the Justice System;
- Supporting Young Children in Under-served Communities;
- Engaging with Federal Partners to Grow a Sustainable Outdoor Recreation Economy; Untapped Resources: Grow Your County’s Economic Development;
- Opioid Addiction in Rural America: Levering Federal, State and Local Partnerships to Solve One of Our Nation’s Most Pressing Issues;
- How Counties Take the Lead in Serving Veterans; Powering Local Economies and Forging the Future of a Smart, Resilient Grid; and
- Federal Agency Partner Session with the U.S. Department of the Interior and the U.S. Forest Service.
The pertinent WIR-related NACo committees also convened: Agriculture and Rural Affairs Policy Steering Committee; and the Public Lands Policy Steering Committee & Energy, Environment and Land Use (EELU) Policy Steering Committee Meeting had a joint meeting.
Finally, the WIR conference would not be complete without a meeting of the Public Lands Trust Fund Trustees and of course the WIR Board of Directors and NACo Board meetings.
Attendees from Montana included (in no particular order):
- WIR 1st Vice President, Commissioner Greg Chilcott, Ravalli County
- WIR Board Member and NACo Public Lands Member (Payments Subcommittee Chair), Commissioner Todd Devlin, Prairie County
- NACo Board Member, NACo Telecommunications & Technology Steering Committee Vice Chair, Information Technology Standing Committee Vice Chair, Commissioner Joe Briggs, Cascade County
- NACo Board Member and Community, NACo Economic & Workforce Development Steering Committee Member, Commissioner Mike McGinley, Beaverhead County
- NACo Public Lands Steering Committee Member, Commissioner Jim Hart, Madison County
- NACo Transportation Steering Committee Member, Commissioner John Ostlund, Yellowstone County
- NACo Health Steering Committee Member, Commissioner Andy Hunthausen, Lewis & Clark County
- Commissioner Susan Good Geise, Lewis & Clark County
- Commissioner Jim McCormick, Lewis & Clark County
- Commissioner Scott MacFarlane, Gallatin County
- MACo Executive Director, Eric Bryson
- MACo Deputy Director, Jason Rittal
- Gallatin County Administrator, Jim Doar.
Thank you everyone for representing Montana at the WIR Conference! (Not all attendees are accounted for in the below photo.)