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Commissioners attend state conference

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Edgecombe County Commissioners Viola Harris and Wayne Hines.

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From Contributed Reports

Monday, September 10, 2018

Hundreds of county commissioners, officials, and staff convened on Aug. 23-25 in Hickory for the 111th North Carolina Association of County Commissioners Annual Conference.

Edgecombe County Commissioners Viola Harris and Wayne Hines participated in the conference, which is the year’s premier event for counties. The conference provides a forum to conduct official association business and offers educational and networking opportunities for commissioners and county staff. The theme for the conference was “Reimagine Your County’s Possibilities,” to encourage counties to spark change and work toward imaginative solutions to common issues and challenges.

“Like every NCACC conference, workshops offered to us helped us gain knowledge concerning what’s happening in the General Assembly,” Harris said. “We were able to get a detailed account of how the six proposed amendments coming out of the General Assembly could affect our citizens. We were also able to participate in a round table concerning the pros and cons of regionalization of Departments of Social Services. It was a very interesting roundtable. The committee could not really give us any real “pros” and therefore I’m still against regionalization. I believe in local control because we know our citizens better than anyone.”

Noran Sanford, founder of GrowingChange, kicked off the event with a keynote speech about his organization in Scotland County. GrowingChange empowers at-risk youth through an innovative community based project to transform decommissioned prison facilities into sustainable farming and recreational sites.

Nationally acclaimed author and journalist Sam Quinones also addressed attendees to discuss his book, “Dreamland: The True Tale of America’s Opiate Epidemic.” He described how counties have long been at the forefront of a challenging process to rebuild communities that have been impacted by the opioid crisis.

“I would really like to see the empty women’s prison occupied with such a program.” Hines said. “It was very impressive what they are doing in Scotland County. We are right behind them in having the highest tax rate in the state. Perhaps a program like this would give Edgecombe County a push in the right direction because we have young men and young women on the wrong road and need our help. I believe we can Grow Change as well.”

During the Business Session of the conference, Surry County Commissioner Larry Phillips ascended to the role of president of the NCACC, and commissioners voted to elect Yadkin County Commissioner Kevin Austin to serve as president-elect and Martin County Commissioner Ronnie Smith to serve as first vice president. NCACC elected Brunswick County Commissioner Frank Williams to serve as the association’s next second vice president and  Durham County Commissioner Brenda Howerton became past president.

Several counties were recognized by the Local Government Federal Credit Union and N.C. Cooperative Extension Service for establishing innovative partnerships that improve services to citizens.

In addition, NCACC honored several individuals for their achievements in support of counties.

Harris was awarded a plaque in recognition of her achieving the Mentor Status because of the number of hours of leadership training she has achieved. Harris serves as the District 7 director on the NCACC Board of Directors.

“I believe leadership training is very important,” Harris said. “Although I’ve been able to achieve the title of vice chair or chairman on my board in no way diminishes what I’ve been able to accomplish and learn over the last 17 years of attending every conference or class offered at the Institute of Government. I was elected by the people to serve the people, I don’t really need a title.”

As part of the conference, NCACC teamed up with 4-H Youth Development, a service of NC Cooperative Extension, and the Boys & Girls Clubs of North Carolina to sponsor YouthVoice for the ninth consecutive year. YouthVoice brings together youth delegates ages 14-19 and county officials to promote dialogue between current county leaders and the next generation of leaders. It also helps educate youth delegates on the county’s role in their community and the complex art of governing.

“Commissioner Hines and I had the opportunity to have breakfast with our Youth Delegate Jamacia Moore, who is with Michaels Angels Girls Club in Tarboro,” Harris said. “It was her first opportunity to be among other youth from across the state and discuss what county officials really do for its constituents. Miss Moore had a chance to take part in a mock commissioners’ board and learn to create a budget.”

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