Local leaders meet with governor to discuss common priorities

The group of county commissioners and local officials discussed school construction challenges, internet access, and other issues facing local communities across the state

Busses line up behind Needham B. Broughton High School in Raleigh after the first day of the new school year for Wake County schools, Monday, August 28, 2017. (Eamon Queeney / North State Journal)

RALEIGH — The Executive Committee of the North Carolina Association of County Commissioners (NCACC) and officials from the North Carolina League of Municipalities gathered in Raleigh Monday for a joint meeting with Gov. Roy Cooper to discuss local government issues. The meeting focused on the need for school construction funding and access to high-speed internet and mental health care, which are among the stated priorities of the NCACC.

“We are grateful for the productive meeting we had with Gov. Cooper and his staff and we look forward to working together to advance our shared goals on key issues facing local governments,” said NCACC President Brenda Howerton.

In addition, Howerton discussed her initiative for the coming year, “100 Counties: Helping Our Children Thrive.” The NCACC announced they will work with the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) on the initiative, which will begin this fall with regional convening events on the state of child welfare. It will also include a summit in the spring to discuss education, health, safety and skills development for children throughout the 100 counties.

The group also reportedly discussed the need for local governments to have sufficient flexibility and options for raising revenue. During the meeting Cooper acknowledged the important role local governments play in policymaking and expressed his appreciation for the advice he received as a legislator from other members of the General Assembly who had prior experience as local officials.

“Government closest to the people governs best,” said Cooper.

Members of NCACC’s Executive Committee and NCACC officials in attendance included Howerton, Durham County commissioner, NCACC president; Larry Phillips, Surry County commissioner, NCACC president-elect; Kevin Austin, Yadkin County commissioner, NCACC first vice president; Ronnie Smith, Martin County commissioner, NCACC second vice president; Fred McClure, Davidson County commissioner, NCACC past president; Kevin Leonard, executive director; and Johanna Reese, director of government relations. Cooper was joined by Jordan Whichard, director of intergovernmental affairs; Jenni Owen, director of policy; and Charlie Perusse, budget director.