Conferences offer networking, education 


A delegation of New Hanover County commissioners is prepared to attend the first of two annual conferences this summer.

Vice Chair Beth Dawson and Commissioners Jonathan Barfield Jr. and Thomas Wolfe will join more than 2,000 elected and appointed county officials from across the country in New Orleans from July 11–14 for networking and educational sessions at the National Association of Counties 79th Annual Conference and Exposition.

Brian Namey, National Association of Counties spokesperson, said the conference is an opportunity for county leaders to swap strategies and solutions to common issues in county government.

“County officials often face similar challenges in their communities and this is the biggest opportunity of the year for peer-to-peer exchanges of information. They’re sharing with each other what works, what doesn’t work, ideas for best practices,” Namey said during a July 7 phone interview.

Barfield said that is one of the reasons he attends the conference annually.

“It’s a great opportunity, No. 1, to network with other commissioners across the country, to understand best practices and trends that are happening in county governments,” Barfield said during a July 8 phone interview.

Barfield said he also looks forward to the speakers, which in the past have included journalist and former politician Joe Scarborough and U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder.

Barfield has attended the conference every year since he was elected in 2008. The theme of his first conference was government transparency, and he said the experience of bringing that message home by live streaming meetings and releasing newsletters more frequently helped him learn a lesson about effective leadership.

“These things are geared to make you more effective in your role as a leader. Leadership is an art. It’s a skill. Just because you have the title of a county commissioner … does not make you a leader,” Barfield said.

The theme of the 2014 conference is resiliency, helping county governments better adapt to challenges and thrive under difficult circumstances.

Dawson, Barfield and Wolfe are also registered for the North Carolina Association of County Commissioners Annual Conference in Asheville Aug. 14–17.

The usual bimonthly meeting schedule on the first and third Monday of each month was pared down to monthly meetings in July and August to accommodate conference travels in addition to vacations and a decrease in agenda items at the beginning of the new fiscal year.

The next New Hanover County Commission meeting will take place July 21 at 4 p.m.



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