County Commissioners and Judges from Oregon traveled to Sun Valley, Idaho, May 23-25, 2018 for the annual National Association of Counties (NACO) Western Interstate Region (WIR) Conference. In partnership with Blaine County and the Idaho Association of Counties, the conference brought together nationally renowned experts, state and federal policy leaders and county officials from across the country.

With critical legislative and regulatory issues being debated in the nation’s capital, county leaders discussed issues particularly important to Western communities. These issues included:

  • Ensuring certainty in federal county payments through the Payments in Lieu of Taxes (PILT) and Secure Rural Schools (SRS) programs
  • Strengthening the local-state-federal partnership in tackling the opioid epidemic
  • Planning and preparing for wildfire season and other disasters
  • Reducing the number of people with mental illnesses in jails
  • Strengthening local infrastructure, and
  • Fostering conditions for economic growth

Featured speakers included three-time Paralympic Gold Medalist Muffy Davis; Executive Director of the Homeland Security Advisory Council Michael McKeown; Professor Stephanie Witt of Boise State University; Ada County, Idaho Coroner Dotti Owens; and Deputy Director of the Office of Intergovernmental and External Affairs for the U.S. Department of the Interior Tim Williams.

Over 20 sessions and workshops provided attendees with a wide variety of learning opportunities.

It was an action packed time, and a great opportunity for networking. Deschutes County Commissioner Tammy Baney moderated a panel on affordable housing, a topic that is as timely across the western region as it is in Oregon. Douglas County Commissioner Tim Freeman shared his experience on a panel that discussed best practices in communicating with residents during a disaster.

National and regional representatives of the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and the U.S. Forest Service met with county commissioners to share experiences in cooperation and collaboration, and to acknowledge the work that has gone into drafting and finalizing a memorandum of understanding that establishes a framework for the BLM and NACo to work collaboratively on initiatives that mutually benefit each organization’s mission and objectives.  

WIR serves as counties’ advocate for public policy issues affecting the West. WIR is affiliated with NACo and dedicated to the promotion of Western interests within NACo. These interests include public lands issues such as land use and conservation, community stability and economic development and the promotion of the traditional Western way of life.

WIR’s membership consists of the state associations of counties in 15 Western states: Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oregon, South Dakota, Utah, Washington and Wyoming.

WIR is dedicated to promoting a clearer understanding of challenges facing county officials and serves as a valuable resource for exchanging information about Western county governments for NACo, Congress, the Administration and among county officials nationwide.

For more information about WIR, see this new video and visit

Contributed by: Susan Morgan | AOC Policy Manager