The Gila County Board of Supervisors held an in depth work session on Tuesday, Nov. 28 with management staff and elected officials in order to help determine the national issues that are most important to Gila County.
The work session was part of a week-long visit with Patty Power, of Bose Public Affairs, who works to help represent Gila County interests in Washington.
“With 96% of our land base federal, 96% of our problems are federal,” said Supervisor Tommie Martin. Martin stressed that the power of having a constant voice at the state and national level cannot be overstated. “There’s a tremendous difference between knocking on a door once a week and knocking on a door once a year,” said Martin. “If you’re not at the table, you’re on the menu.”
To that end, Gila County pays $70,000 annually to contract with Power, and Supervisor Martin says the return on investment is phenomenal. Over the 11 years that the county has enlisted Bose to be its eyes and ears in Washington, they have helped bring about 14 million dollars to the Payson and Pleasant Valley Ranger Districts to help with fuels reduction. “With this funding, Gila County has been able to make an impact on the forest,” said Martin.
Power spoke to the group on Tuesday, providing an update on some of what’s happening in Washington and how it might affect Gila County. Power stressed that now, more than ever, it is important to have partnerships with like-minded people. This is particularly true for rural counties, who can form regional partnerships in order to share resources and maintain their influence.
Power praised all three supervisors for their involvement in NACo (National Association of Counties), saying that it helps amplify the voice of Gila County nationwide.
The group talked about strategies to help prevent rural counties from losing their voice and place in conversations happening at the federal level. Malissa Buzan, Director of Gila County Community Services, said “So often, it seems like we’re getting the scraps of the scraps.” Buzan and other department heads and elected officials shared their unique challenges with Power.
The group identified several: fixing the mental health component of criminal justice, making dependable redundant broadband available county wide, and continuing to foster healthy productive and sustainable public land management.
Gila County staff and supervisors will stay in touch with Power throughout the year to keep her up to date.