Polk County Commissioner Scotty Tillery, Jennifer Hulsey and Jose Iglesias joined more than 100 Georgia county leaders at the White House for a day of meetings with key administration officials, including Vice President Mike Pence, Department of Agriculture (USDA) Secretary Sonny Perdue, and Senator David Perdue.

County commissioners heard from federal departments and agencies, including the Small Business Administration, Energy, Transportation, Health and Human Services, Homeland Security and Housing and Urban Development. They discussed how federal policies impact Georgia counties and residents.

Topics included the opioid epidemic, workforce housing, infrastructure, natural disaster preparations, health care reform along with the latest developments at Plant Vogtle and the Georgia Ports expansion.

Hopes are that by getting in front of Federal leaders, commissioners can get needed time to explain their needs and gain support for project ideas coming in the future to help improve local education, infrastructure and the economy.

“It was an honor to be invited by the White House to discuss our county’s priorities,” TIllery said. “We plan to follow up with the officials we met and continue discussions about how the federal government can help us serve county residents.”

The White House briefing started at 9:30 a.m. and continued non-stop until 3:30 p.m.

“This was a great opportunity for us to tell the White House about the challenges and opportunities we face at the local level,” Tillery said. “Federal policies have real consequences in counties across our state, and we’ll continue to work with the administration to inform those policies.”

After the briefing, we were invited to attended a special reception at the USDA headquarters with our own Secretary Purdue.

Prior to the White House meeting, county leaders and ACCG (Georgia’s County Association) participated in a federal policy briefing at the National Association of Counties. The group discussed tax reform, the federal budget, infrastructure, economic development and other legislative activity on Capitol Hill. After the briefing, we attended a special reception at the USDA headquarters with our own Secretary Purdue.

“Jennifer, Jose and myself knew our first day in Washington would be a tour day, but instead of touring, we made it a work day and previously scheduled a meeting with the offices of Congressman Graves, Senator Isakson, Senator Purdue and Secretary Purdue,” Tillery said. “We carried two special Polk County Projects to Washington (County Wide Agriculture Education Facility and Marquette Road Expansion) and presented each project to our representatives.”

Hulsey said she felt her time was well spent in the nation’s capital as well.

“I was proud to represent Polk county,” Hulsey said. “My hope is that anytime we have an opportunity to bring businesses and prosperity to Polk county that we go, and let others know what a wonderful county Polk county is and how proud of it we are.”

Iglesias also took away his own thoughts from the trip as well in this statement sent by e-mail.

“Earlier this month, from the 159 counties in Georgia, I was very proud to have joined Commissioner Tillery, Commissioner Hulsey and the more than 100 Georgia county officials that accepted the special invitation from the White House,” Iglesias said.

“Not everyone was able to attend, those of us who did attend, we were able to hear from key speakers like Billy Kirkland, who was responsible for making the White House event for Georgia County Elected officials, he is the Special Assistant to the President & Deputy Director, White House Intergovernmental Affairs. He also, made it possible for us to receive a contact list of federal intergovernmental affairs staff, and I learned that the individuals on the contact list are our federal agency points of contact. ‘The overall message of the conference presenters was to encourage county officials to reach out, speak up and offer solutions/ideas as it relates to federal regulations/policies,’ Kirkland said.”

He continued with “I am proud to say that Polk county and our very own Board of Commissioners were very well represented by Commissioner Tillery, Commissioner Hulsey, and myself by being very diligent and preparing a 2 day agenda with appointments before the trip. When got there on Sunday evening, we got there and we were on a mission. We were able to highlight the best our county has to offer and present future projects we need support with. On Monday December 4, we had confirmed appointments with offices of Georgia’s U.S. Representative Tom Graves, Secretary Sonny Purdue, and Senator Johnny Isakson.

We received numerous compliments, from key individuals, like ACCG Representative who told Commissioner Tillery “it shows that you are united, you came to work as a team, you represented Polk County professionally, and you were very focused not on tourism but on what you came to Washington DC to accomplish, and you all did it very well.”

“I believe our visit to Washington DC was a very productive one, and I recommend that going into the new year we continue to develop these very important intergovernmental relationships and reach out to these points of contacts that we can immediately access and speak up at the federal level for regulations, policies and to bring ideas and solutions back to our county,” Iglesias finished.

Georgia commissioners were the ninth group of county officials to attend such an event. County leaders from Ohio, Florida, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Indiana, Missouri, Nevada and West Virginia were invited to the White House earlier this year.