I attended the National Association of Counties Legislative Conference in Washington DC March 1-5 2014.
National Association of Black Counties (NABCO) is a broadly-membered confederation of county officials across the country.
I have been speaking with former Lane County Commissioner Bobby Green responding to his criticism of the lack of diversity in applicants that our recent search for County Administrator produced. While the national search Lane County conducted produced the best qualified county administrator with impeccable credentials and references (see story here) I have taken former Commissioner Green’s concerns very seriously. I regarded the meetings of NABCO at the Legislative Conference as an opportunity to find ways to diversify future searches by the Board of Commissioners or by the County Administrator.
I have not been disappointed by contacts that I have made in Washington this past week.
On March 3, Monday, it snowed heavily in Washington DC. My first agenda item at the conference was to attend the 9 am meeting of NABCO. It was a panel discussion with a large group of students from the Washington area to address questions about involvement in public service and address health issue education, particularly surrounding sexually transmitted diseases.
When I entered the room only two people were there, the NABCO administrator and another young woman. I asked if I had the wrong room, and they told me that I was in the right place but the start of the meeting was delayed because the panelists and the audience had been held up by the blizzard.
It worked out ok for me though. The second woman in the room was Paige Hendrix, assistant to Multnomah County Commissioner Loretta Smith. Commissioner Smith and Ms. Hendrix are both deeply involved in the diversity efforts of Multnomah County. While we waited for the panelists and students to arrive Ms. Hendrix and I engaged in a 45-minute discussion about recruiting qualified applicants from communities of color.
She gave me a host of contacts and set the stage for a discussion between Commissioner Smith and I later in the conference covering the subject.
Toward the end of our discussion the group of students arrived and filed into the meeting room. There were a hundred or so.
As it turns out the entire group of panelists had not yet arrived, so I was asked to sit in on the panel to respond to questions about public service. I was honored to do so. The students were very attentive and eager to learn.
While it wasn’t the way I had planned to spend time at the conference it turned out to be a fantastic opportunity for me to not only pass along knowledge but to gain insights into how I can become more effective in my elective roles.
We spent the morning discussing avenues high school and college students could prepare themselves for work in public policy or elective office. It was pleasing to me to see tomorrow’s leaders listening and learning.