All three members of Greenlee County’s Board of Supervisors have once again been appointed to steering committees for the National Association of Counties.
District 1 Supervisor David Gomez is on the Community, Economic and Workforce Development Steering Committee. District 2 Supervisor Ron Campbell is on the Agriculture and Rural Affairs Steering Committee and District 3 Supervisor Richard Lunt is on the Public Lands Steering Committee.
Greenlee County Administrator Derek Rapier said county residents are fortunate to have all of their supervisors on NACo steering committees and it’s definitely “not the norm.”
NACo is a highly influential group that tries to influence national legislation and policies that are beneficial at the county level. Conversely, it can also argue against legislation and policies, he said.
NACo, for example, was heavily involved in determining how funds from the American Rescue Plan Act can be spent, Rapier said.
NACo has 10 steering committees in total, each one made up of hundreds of county representatives from all over the country. The other seven committees deal with the environment and energy, finance and pensions, health, human services and education, justice and public safety, telecommunications and technology and transportation.
“NACo is one of the biggest voices on the Hill and part of the reason they’re so powerful is it’s members are local county officials who were elected by the same people who send people to Congress,” Rapier said.
Rapier described NACo as a “true melting pot” comprised of people from all over the country. When they get together, observers will see folks wearing cowboy hats and boots and others in three-piece suits and ties.
Lunt is one of six Arizonans on the Public Lands committee. He serves alongside people from Coconino, Yavapai, Gila, Navajo and Mohave counties.
Asked why he has sought to be involved in Washington, Lunt repeated one of his favorite phrases.
“The world is run by those who show up,” he said.
Being involved in NACo allows them to voice their opinions and those of their constituents and they chose the committees they thought were the most important ones, he said.
“We put our time where our values are,” Lunt said.
Dealing with the people in Phoenix and D.C. in person is crucial, he said.
“I try very hard to develop relationships with legislators and senators,” Lunt said. “I’ve always believed, and maybe I’m old fashioned, but I’ve always believed that it’s important to look someone in the eyes, especially when serious issues need to be addressed.”
He knows his efforts have worked when he gets phone calls asking for his opinion, Lunt said.
Campbell, who was in Prescott last week at the Arizona County Supervisors Association’s Legislative Summit, echoed many of the same sentiments as Lunt.
“It’s really good to be able to have one-on-one conversations with leaders at the national level on specific items impacting our county,” Campbell said. “But also, NACo as a whole has a very loud political voice and we know we’re being heard on a big stage. If we were speaking up for Greenlee County, some people might ask Greenlee County who?, but since we’re on steering committees we’re just a little bit louder.”
Campbell serves on the agriculture steering committee alongside Graham County Assessor Darlene Alder and representatives from Yuma and Santa Cruz counties. However, the fact so many of the other committee members are from all over the country is highly beneficial, he said.
The drought in the midwest might be different than the drought in Arizona, but “what’s worked for them might help us,” Campbell said.
Gomez said it’s also important to note that even though they are on specific committees, when he, Lunt and Campbell are at NACo’s conferences they can sit in on unrelated meetings they believe are also important.
Like his counterparts, he believes being involved in politics at a higher level is important.
“If you’re not at the table, you’re on the menu,” Gomez said.
In addition to advocating for their positions, Gomez said being involved in NACo also allows them to learn about different grant funding that’s available.
“If we’re not there and we don’t know, we’re not going to be to take advantage of the money that’s out there,” Gomez said.
There are seven Arizonans on the economic development steering committee, among them Graham County’s Danny Smith, and representatives from Santa Cruz, Navajo, Coconino, Maricopa and Apache counties.