New NACo leader wants partnership
This month, Don Stapley, county supervisor for Maricopa County, Ariz., will be named president of the Washington-based National Association of Counties (NACo). As former chair of the organization’s Large Urban County Caucus, Stapley brought attention to critical county issues, including health care and transportation. American City & County talked with Stapley about the need for “green” government and his upcoming presidency during a crucial era of change for county leaders.
Q: Why is a federal/local partnership important and how do you plan to bring county issues to the attention of federal leaders?
A: We represent the same voters. My two U.S. Senators represent the entire state of Arizona, which is about 6.5 million. My county makes up about 4.5 million. So, two-thirds of the state [is] in my county. So, when they make a decision, it really impacts my county directly in a lot of ways. Our focus has been, during this presidential primary, trying to restore the federal partnership with local government, in particular counties. We resonated with the candidates, and I know that the two candidates both understand the issue. And, the issue is, shifting back to a policy approach as opposed to a political approach. We would be a part of the solution and at the table in formulating federal laws and policies.
Q: What other interests do you plan to bring to NACo’s attention this year?
A: I feel very fortunate because the year that I’m going to be president is, I think, going to be the most exciting year in 100 years. I can’t think of a time when there’ve been more technological advances, more opportunities for county government to change, improve, and to adapt to these new technologies. We also see a lot of change in other governments, including, and most importantly, the federal government. Green initiatives [are] the main focus as we partner with manufacturers and other major vendors and major stakeholders in the private sector. But, secondarily, we’re going to work very hard this year to bring together a civil dialogue on illegal immigration and the need for immigration reform in our laws at the federal level. Unfortunately, counties, cities and states are struggling with this all across the country in varying degrees because of the inability of Congress and the administration to come together with any common sense solutions. If we continue to [try to] solve [this problem] at the local political arena instead of solving it at the federal level, we’re going to continue to damage the economy across the country, [including] agriculture, which is a touch point with NACo because we’re largely an organization of rural counties. We’ve got to stop the anger and the uncivilized rhetoric and get back to a civil dialogue and come up with some solutions.