White House hosts Virginia supervisors

Board of supervisors members from throughout Virginia were invited to a Tuesday conference at the White House that aimed to connect local governments to their federal counterparts.

The Virginia County Supervisors White House Conference was planned by the White House Office of Intergovernmental Affairs in conjunction with the National Association of Counties and the Virginia Association of Counties.

About 235 supervisors attended; Warren County was represented by supervisors Dan Murray, Tom Sayre and Tony Carter.

Shenandoah County Supervisor Conrad Helsley stated in an email that board members from his county were unable to attend due to their regular 7 p.m. meeting.

Topics discussed at the conference included the opioid crises, expanding broadband internet services to rural areas and more.

Carter said this is the first time to his knowledge in his 17 years as a supervisor that such an attempt has been made to bridge the gap between local and federal levels of government. This is important, he said, because in order to have a well-functioning country all aspects of government need to work together.

“I think it’s positive that they’re reaching out to the local level because that’s where a lot of things happen,” Carter said.

Murray said he wishes “the state had the same level of support for the counties that the feds just showed.”

The conference included multiple speakers including counselor to the president Kellyanne Conway, Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Ben Carson, representatives from the department of transportation and more.

“What I think they were trying to do is find out what was needed in the localities. They were saying that it is so important to hear back from local leaders,” Sayre said. “They wanted to hear, they wanted to know, so they could do their job better.”

Sayre said he was the only local supervisor to attend a breakfast hosted by the National Association of Counties, where he was notified that no questions were off limits.  So, Sayre said he later inquired of an undersecretary with the U.S. Department of Transportation about how the county could get an overpass at Rockland Road due to trains frequently blocking the road.

“He said it was a good question…he said I want to exchange business cards with you and we’ll see what we can do to help,” Sayre said.

Murray said he asked why veterans are paying for prescriptions “when our contract with the government when we took the oath of office was free medical for life if you retired.”

Carter noted that no local governmental issues were discussed among the three supervisors.

“It was just normal chit-chat, no issues, nothing like that…there was no devious things going on,” he said.

Carter added that he and Murray drove together the day of the event, while Sayre went the night before and stayed at his daughter’s house. Carter said he and Murray did not plan on filing for any mileage reimbursement.

Sayre said he would request reimbursement for cheap “early bird” parking, one meal and mileage. That mileage will be just from Warren County to the D.C. parking garage and back. He said County Administrator Doug Stanley confirmed that those were all legal reasons to get reimbursed.

The three supervisors agreed that it was a worthwhile event to attend and appreciated the federal government reaching out to localities.

“It is reaching out to your front line people, to people that live in the communities and represent the communities. And it’s given us the ability to make a contact and get information without a million phone calls,” Murray said.

President Donald Trump’s administration plans for such an event to be held with county representatives from each state by the end of the year.