January can be unusually quiet in Washington, DC. Well, at least the security lines are quiet. There’s no waiting in line, standing outside in the elements, whether that be snow or rain. But that can’t be said for floor action that is before our members of Congress.

From that perspective, the first week of January was a busy one. And it was the week in which the National Council of County Association Executives (NCCAE) and Presidents flew into the nation’s capital to meet, convene and learn.

Eric Johnson, our Executive Director, and myself, your current WSAC President, arrived on the evening of the 6th of January and were quickly meeting with our two US Senators and staff the following day. It was a great opportunity, in a much more relaxed time, to share the WSAC Federal Priorities and those of the National Association of Counties (NACo). We managed to meet with the remainder of our delegation on Thursday and Friday.

The priorities, adopted by WSAC membership at our annual meeting, really seemed to resonate with our representatives in DC. While there were differing opinions about the likelihood of any type of surface transportation or infrastructure bill, a majority thought something would happen during this Congress.

With the recent refunding of SRS/PILT, the conversation shifted from asking for support to talking about long-term, sustainable funding. More so than last year, the delegation seemed to pick up on the idea, but we will have to continue to emphasize it when those of us attend the NACo Legislative Conference in March.

Another topic that seemed to resonate was that of the Medicaid inmate exclusion. Regardless of which idea might stick – that of benefit suspension or maintaining benefits, there was an appreciation that one is innocent until proven guilty and therefore, shouldn’t lose benefits prior to conviction. Again, another conversation to continue in March.

On Wednesday and Thursday, the Presidents and NCCAE members left the confines of the city and headed to Mount Vernon and the George Washington Leadership Institute at the presidential library. There we had the opportunity to absorb information about Washington’s enduring relevance through his integration of leadership, management, and strategy. It also highlighted his credibility and communication styles as a leader and presented us with the chance to walk a bit in Washington’s boots by reviewing two scenarios that he faced as Commander-in-Chief of the Continental Army and as the first President of the United States in an interactive, video-based exhibit. You can learn more here.

I have to say that I left that session inspired and needing to learn more about our Founding Father. Without his approach to questions and thoughtful leadership, our country would not be where we are or what we are today.

All in all, thanks for what you all do. Your involvement on a state and federal level makes a difference. There is no better way to illustrate that counties matter than to put shoe leather to the pavement and be engaged.

Robert Gelder 
WSAC President
Kitsap County Commissioner