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The National Association of Counties (NACo) sponsored a County Research Day at their headquarters in Washington, D.C.  CCAWV decided to attend as we look to expand our research capabilities. If any group has expertise on conducting successful, wide-reaching research projects, it’s NACo’s research team.  Led by Dr. Emilia Istrate, they have compiled the exhaustively comprehensive NACo County Explorer tool (http://explorer.naco.org/). With data points on everything from PILT funding to demographic details to economic information and much, much more, the County Explorer is an incredibly valuable resource.  And we wanted to learn how they did it.

The day began with members of participating county organizations sharing ideas and challenges they faced in their states. This open exchange of ideas and insights was very helpful as we learned what our counterparts across the country were doing. After lunch with NACo’s always engaging Executive Director, Matt Chase, the research team took over. First up, we heard from Natalie Ortiz, a Senior Research Analyst, on the in-depth, months-long process the research team follows for every report and survey they produce. Next, we heard from Daniel Handy and Jonathan Harris, both Research Associates, on how NACo collects information for the County Explorer tool. Pooling both qualitative and quantitative data from multiple sources, and then organizing that information is a massive undertaking. Dr. Istrate closed out the day by explaining how to determine what types of research products work best for different types of audiences, and how to market your final product.

It was a very informative day, and we returned to West Virginia with a lot of new ideas. We look forward to rolling out some cool county research tools of our own very soon!

Election Day 2016…it’s almost here and what an election! 

A new President of the United States, a new Governor for the State, and a new Senate President as well! 

That’s some major leadership change…Trump or Hillary, Justice or Cole, and Senate President, well that will depend on whether the majority in the Senate remains Republican or switches to Democrat. 

November 8, 2016, will determine the future for our state in many ways and will help chart the course for CCAWV’s legislative strategies in the upcoming session.  Our CCAWV Legislative Committee will meet in November, following Election Day, to formulate our plans.

Local county leadership will also be decided in a big way….every constitutional office in the courthouse is on the ballot in 2016.  There are several retirements coming and the May primary resulted in more change. 

With a total of 57 county commission seats up for grabs; 12 incumbents won their primary in May and have no opposition in the general, 16 incumbents retired, 10 incumbents lost in the primary and 19 incumbent elections will be determined on November 8th.  

With at least a 46% turnover, the CCAWV Basic Training Program for newly elected County Commissioners is
EXTREMELY IMPORTANT! 

It is scheduled for November 30-December 2, 2016 at the Best

On September 18, 2017, members of the CCAWV Board and Legislative Committee gathered at Mardi Gras Casino in Cross Lanes, WV.  One of the primary goals of this meeting is to establish the 2017 Legislative Agenda for the association.  This year, the legislative committee has its work cut out, with a large number of legislative nominations from across the state to review.  Sunday’s entire meeting was devoted to reviewing and discussing these. CCAWV adopts nonpartisan issues that, we hope, will benefit some or all of the counties and hurt none. 

As Board and Legislative Committee members settled into the meeting room, Commissioner Kent Carper of Kanawha County provided a warm welcome to his county. Then the work began. The group reviewed forty-three nominated issues.  Many of these reflected problems counties face year after year – generating revenue, fighting to keep jail costs down, seeking legislative solutions to ongoing problems such as dilapidated buildings – and there was much discussion about strategies that have either worked or failed in the past.  Complicating the process of narrowing down our lengthy list to five key priorities was the fact that November’s election, regardless of the outcome, will bring a slew of new faces to the Capitol.  A new Governor, a new Senate President, and a House and Senate that could easily be either a Republican or Democrat majority spells uncertainty for everyone. 

As such, the group decided to keep our focus on nonpartisan, actionable priorities that will translate into tangible benefits for the citizens of West Virginia.

The next morning, the group began bright and early.  The Legislative Committee reported its recommendations to the Board, which voted to approve the agenda.  Jimmy Gianato, Director of the WV Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management, was able to join the group and provide an update on the long-term recovery process following the summer’s historic floods.  Vivian Parsons, CCAWV Executive Director, updated the group on what had been an extremely busy summer for the CCAWV staff. After receiving reports from CCAWV’s representatives to various boards, the group took a well-deserved lunch break as the meeting adjourned. 

We’d like to thank Kanawha County for being a wonderful host county! And a big thank you to all of our Board and Legislative Committee members who take time from their busy schedules to attend our meetings. We look forward to an exciting 2017 legislative session!

Wow…summer is over and the Fall Board Meeting is just around the corner.  Time to start thinking about the county legislative issues for 2017.  Regional meetings will be held in December this year due to elections in November and a delayed legislative session that will begin on February 8th.   Speaking of elections, good luck to all those commissioners seeking reelection!  I wish you successful returns and a smooth election process.

Our Annual CCAWV meeting, held in Canaan Valley this year, went great.  Attendance was good and the agenda feedback was excellent.  Congratulations to Mercer County Commissioner Greg Puckett, recipient of the 2016 James Booton CCAWV Rising Star Award!  Greg is an active CCAWV Legislative Committee member and represents West Virginia on the NACo Opioid Task Force!  To those unable to attend, we missed you!  It was a great exchange of issues, ideas, and solutions, some of the best yet!

It is often the toughest times that produce the best ideas…one such idea was the creation of a county disaster resource hub by the association and we’ll be sharing more about that with you soon!  We are also working on Long Term Recovery training and held our first workshop on August 26th.  Additional efforts are in the works, stay tuned.  Happy Fall, Y’all!

CCAWV partnered with the West Virginia Association of Counties to bring a one-day workshop to flood-affected counties. In the weeks since the flooding, many different agencies have stepped in and offered aid. There have been a number of frustrations that have been voiced repeatedly throughout the recovery process.

We hoped our workshop would ease some of the challenges that commissioners and emergency management professionals have been struggling with.  Working with Price Waterhouse Cooper’s long-term disaster recovery team, we assembled a day of sessions designed to provide important updates, and allow attendees to develop a realistic plan of what’s next.

General James Hoyer and Jimmy Gianato first presented an update on how the state of West Virginia is handling the crisis along with FEMA. General Hoyer outlined five key “lines of effort” his team was focusing on:  housing; public health; critical infrastructure; debris removal; and long-term economic recovery and community development. They plan to hold further meetings with affected communities on site, where they can get the best and most up-to-date information from the residents and business owners themselves.

Following the state of the state update, Price Waterhouse Cooper’s long-term disaster recovery team discussed recovery framework and best practices.  Led by Director Chuck Banks, Principal Riz Shah, and Managing Director Guarav Menon, they explored the question, “What is the outcome of a ‘good’ recovery?”  Many of the points they focused on overlapped with General Hoyer’s lines of effort:  A growing population, a revitalized economy, resilient infrastructure, and enhanced quality of life were the key goals they identified for a community striving not just to recover, but to thrive after a major disaster. Their team has assisted communities all across the country after major disasters, and they found that truly invested stakeholders with clear lines of communication were the most successful at rebuilding and even thriving. Much of their strategy involved identifying key players within the community – citizens, business leaders, county and city officials, representatives from schools and faith communities – and developing a clear, transparent plan of how to move forward.

They stressed the importance of establishing a communications plan and PR strategy, and conducting community outreach and engagement efforts. Keeping people informed and involved can be challenging, and they had easy, low-cost suggestions (for example, maintaining a database of volunteers to call upon when you move from project to project). As communities get further into the recovery process, it’s easy to feel hope and excitement dwindle. The PWC team suggested starting with small, visible wins to encourage people to keep with the process.

We finished the day out with a presentation about a successful case study. A massive tornado decimated the small, rural town of Greensburg, Kansas a number of years ago. The entire town – Main Street, the school, all the businesses and homes, and even the courthouse – was laid to waste. Only three days after the horrific event, the people of the town came together, meeting under a large, improvised tent, to discuss Greensburg’s future.  Many people were doubtful that rebuilding was even a possibility. The majority decided to press on, and with time, dedication, and careful use of scant resources, they are now a thriving rural community.
 
Our association is dedicated to helping affected counties find ways to move forward, and we plan to continue providing support in any ways we can find. We’d like to thank everyone who came out and attended the workshop, and our presenters! Together, we will move forward!

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