On August 29 2017, Wood County Commissioners Dr. Ted Bowlus, Doris Herringshaw, and Craig LaHote gathered in Washington D.C., along with 77 other Ohio County Commissioners. This is the ﬁrst time in the history of the United States that County Commissioners were invited to Washington DC to meet with federal government oﬃcials. The purpose of this gathering at the nation’s capital was for Ohio’s County Commissioners to open up the lines of communication between local and federal governments, and also for the Commissioners to learn more about how the federal government operates. Individual invitations eventually will be issued to each of the fifty states’ County Commissioners. Ohio is the fourth state to receive such an invitation.
The State Commissioners’ gathering is unique because invitations usually are issued to Governors and Mayors. However, this time, County Commissioners are being invited as part of an eﬀort to give the event a more locally oriented grassroots eﬀect.
Along with the other Ohio Commissioners, Bowlus, LaHote and Herringshaw had the opportunity to tour the White House. After the tour, they listened to speeches given by Vice President Mike Pence and Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue, as well as Kellyanne Conway, Special Counsel to President Donald Trump.
Vice President Pence spoke to the Commissioners and urged them to share information openly with the appropriate federal oﬃcials, to streamline county projects so that they are eﬀective and don’t lose momentum. Pence also stated emphatically that tax code reform, not necessarily cuts, are a priority of this administration. He said that the administration will discontinue some government agencies in an eﬀort to decrease red tape, spending, and redundancies.
Secretary of Agriculture Perdue opened his talk with a discussion of Lake Erie’s algae bloom. He also addressed other causes of Lake Erie contamination, such as contaminated sediment, geese droppings, sewage, and farm runoﬀ contribution. In addition, Perdue spoke about the trade deﬁcit and how manipulation of currency skews the deﬁcit. He wound up his talk with an in-depth discussion of opiates in relation to commercial use and how to prevent illegal usage.
The Commissioners also heard from Deputy Chiefs of Staﬀ, and various assistant Secretaries of various federal departments, and met and networked with representatives from 10 to 15 federal agencies. However, meetings with other federal oﬃcials, including HUD Secretary Ben Carson, were unfortunately canceled due to the need for those individuals to respond to the damage caused by hurricane Harvey in Texas.
Other topics presented at the event included NASA’s Glenn Research Center in Ohio, and the opiate crisis, which is especially important to Ohioans because the state is leading in numbers of overdose deaths. Additional funds to ﬁght the opiate crisis were discussed, including the funding of programs to support addiction recovery and safe measures to prevent over-prescribing by physicians and dentists.
According to Commissioner Ted Bowlus, “This Washington D.C. meeting was an exceptional opportunity to network with other Commissioners, but especially to open a conduit of communication with federal oﬃcials to solve local community problems.”