Letters to the Editor

August 2, 2005

Commissioner Gray talks about work of national counties


To the editor:

I have been actively involved in NACO (National Association of Counties) since 1997 and have served on the Human Services and Education Steering Committee all that time. I am also currently serving as vice chairman of the Aging Subcommittee. These committees meet three times a year, at the NACO Legislative Conference in March in Washington, D.C., at the NACO Annual Conference and Exposition and at the Workforce Development Conference in November which is also held in different locations. Throughout the year, members of the committee are also given constant legislative updates and directives by our NACO Legislative Director, Marilina Sanz via e-mail and conference calls.

NACO is very involved in key legislative issues that are extremely critical to county government. We were instrumental in saving the CDBG (Community Development Block Grant) program through intensive lobbying. This saved Clayton County a $2.3 million annual allotment for 2005-2006. CDBG provided funding to build the North Clayton Senior Center, the Rainbow House Advocacy Center and renovations to Securus House Battered Women's Shelter. It will also provide funding for the Public Health facility on Battle Creek Road and the new Alzheimer's Support Center. These are just a small sample of projects that this funding has provided since 1997 and which NACO has successfully saved.

Other key legislative issues on the NACO agenda for this year are getting the re-authorization of TEA-21 passed and signed, securing re-authorization of the Workforce Investment Act, extending the deadlines for complying with the Help America Vote Act and continuing to negotiate with the telecommunications industry over telecom taxes.

NACO is also actively involved in fighting the methamphetamine epidemic, increasing training and technical assistance to counties on health, criminal justice and homeland security; developing as cash recovery/cash containment program for counties; and promoting partnerships between counties and local CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates) programs for children. Judge Glenda Hatchett, national CASA spokesperson was the closing session keynote speaker and brought renewed awareness and enthusiasm to this most worthwhile program. CASA is very active and effective in Clayton County.

These are still just a small sample of the issues addressed by this national association. This does not include other benefits such as grants that are available in many areas for research, training, assistance and implementation in county government.

During the 2005 NACO Conference I attended, several educational workshops which include "The Loss of Federal Entitlement Benefits for the Mentally Ill in County Jail," "Developing Healthy Communities for an Aging America," "From Vacant Lots to New Development," "How to Cash in On Problem Properties," "Methamphetamine and Your County: A Town Hall Meeting to Address a National Epidemic."

Due to time overlapping, other workshops that I was only able to visit briefly and sign up to receive subsequent information include, "Creating Juvenile Detention Alternatives: Achieving Breakthroughs in Your Juvenile Justice System," "Increasing Access to Surety Bonding for Small, Minority and Women Contractors," "Cash Recovery/Cash Containment - Finding Money for Tough Budget Times."

These workshops as well as training and workshops through ACCG (Association of County Commissioners of Georgia) have been invaluable in helping me to address, establish and implement actions and activities in my role as commissioner.

The benefits of being actively involved in NACO's initiatives, meetings and training have proven to be invaluable to me as I progress in my public service role as a county official.

There is still a lot of work to be done in improving and enhancing Clayton County and I believe that in working together with NACO, ACCG (where I am currently third vice president and immediate past chairman of the Health and Human Services Steering Committee), as well as my public servant peers, constituents, business leaders, much can and will be accomplished. I am proud of the work I have done on behalf of Clayton County thus far, and I look forward to being a part of the positive things to come.

Virginia Burton Gray

Clayton County Commissioner