Workshops & Speakers

​Your NCACC staff is hard at work finalizing content for this year's conference. This page will be frequently updated with detailed summaries of each session and information on the presenters as the conference approaches. We're looking forward to seeing you in Durham in August!


Opening General Session: Friday, August 11, 8:30 - 9:45 a.m.

"Listening to Understand, Not to Respond"

We've been blessed with a very precious gift - the gift of language. As with every gift, overusing it may lead to unexpected results. Do you ever find that words get in the way of conveying what you intend to communicate? Speaking and listening in a balanced way is imperative to effective communication. The noise of useless words employed to get a grip on someone else's attention creates a thick fog that makes it difficult to understand each other. Ironically, the more we talk, the less we're able to communicate. 

Through an extraordinary story, Lt. Col. Ret. Phillip Woody demonstrates the difference between listening closely to understand and listening to respond. His incredible life experiences inform his entertaining message that is bound to help audiences gain a deeper understanding of today's communication challenge.
Sue Klebold

Second General Session: Saturday, August 12, 8:45 - 9:45 a.m.

"Reaching for Hope"

Sue Klebold is the mother of Dylan Klebold, one of the two shooters at Columbine High School, scene of a tragedy that saddened and galvanized the nation. She has spent the past 15 years excavating every detail of her family life, and trying to understand the crucial intersection between mental health problems and violence. Instead of becoming paralyzed by her grief and remorse, she has become a passionate and effective agent working tirelessly to advance mental health awareness and intervention.

In her address, she will share her profound realizations that will leave a lifelong impression on all who listen. 

LELA Seminar: Thursday, August 10, 9:30 a.m. - 2:30 p.m.

"Learn to Listen Rather Than Hear"

In today's high-stress, high-speed world, communication is more important than ever, yet we devote less time really listening to one another. "Active Listening" is one of the most important skills you can develop. How well you listen has a major impact on your effectiveness as a leader and the quality of your relationships. 

During this highly interactive workshop, Dan Clark presents strategies and skills to improve your ability to listen to co-workers, other elected officials, staff members and constituents. Practice listening strategies that will help build relationships, solve problems, ensure understanding, resolve conflicts, and improve your effectiveness as a leader.

Conference attendees may attend this session free of charge. Municipal officials are also invited to attend, and may register here for $95. 


Conference-Wide Youth Involvement Breakfast: Saturday, August 12, 7:30 - 8:45 a.m.

County officials and Youth Delegates begin the day together with breakfast. A brief presentation will highlight an NCACC initiative to engage high school students on issues that impact county government.

The Civics Challenge asked participants to create presentations that would either 1) address the value of their county; or 2) provide insight into why high school can be a difficult time of life, and how adults can make it easier for students to talk with them about mental health issues and reach out for help. In June, the NCACC selected three finalists, who will each receive a $500 academic award. Prior to the breakfast, a team of county commissioners will select a winning entry that will be shown during the breakfast. The winning student will receive an additional $500 award.

​Workshop Block I - Thursday, August 10, 2:45 - 4 p.m.

Public Health Hot Topics: Medicaid Reform, Communicable Diseases, and Opioids

Pose your public health questions to a team of local health directors that will offer presentations on Medicaid reform and its potential impact on county governments, health department services, and budgets; emerging communicable diseases; and local public health efforts regarding opioids and North Carolina law.

Speakers: Lisa Macon Harrison, MPH, Health Director, Granville-Vance Health District; Dr. Sue Lynn Ledford, BSN, MPA, DrPH, Health Director, Wake County; and David Jenkins, MPA, Health Director/Deputy Director of Human Services, Carteret County
Facilitator: Jim Bruckner, MSHS, Health Director, Macon County

The 411 on 911

Transformational changes in consumer communications technology are forcing major infrastructure upgrades to Emergency 911 services. Calls routed to public safety answering points (PSAPs) cannot be processed as they have been, created challenges – and opportunities – for county PSAPs. This workshop will take participants through the elements of operations at a county 911 center; provide a look at the role of the State 911 Board and funding for PSAPs; and Next Generation standards, such as text-to-911.

Speakers: Richard Taylor, Executive Director, NC 911 Board; Donna Wright, Director of Emergency Services, Richmond County, and 911 Board member; Greg Hauser, Fire Alarm Superintendent/Manager, City of Charlotte Fire Department, and 911 Board member; and Candy Strezinski, 911 Director, Iredell County
Moderated by Tracey Johnson, Washington County Commissioner
Sponsored by the Justice & Public Safety Steering Committee

Social Security: The Choice of a Lifetime

How and when to take Social Security is one of the most important decisions you will make regarding your retirement. This presentation demonstrates how you can make a suitable decision for your needs by analyzing and comparing different Social Security filing options.

Speaker: Debbie Turner, Nationwide Retirement Plans

Ethics Training, 3 – 5 p.m.

Legislation passed in 2009 requires all county commissioners to “receive a minimum of two clock hours of ethics education within 12 months after initial election or appointment to the office and again within 12 months after each subsequent election or appointment to the office.” The Association will offer county officials the opportunity to receive their required ethics training during this two-hour seminar.

Speakers: Norma Houston and Frayda S. Bluestein, UNC School of Government


Workshop Block II - Thursday, August 10, 4:15 - 5 p.m.

Note: the 2017 NCACC Legislative Update scheduled for this workshop block has been moved to the Business Session (Saturday, 2 - 4:30 p.m.)

Brainstorming Alternatives for FEMA Disaster-Related Housing Assistance

Hurricane Matthew and western wildfires in 2016 left thousands of North Carolinians in need of temporary housing. The disasters brought to light challenges associated with securing basic needs - most notably housing - through federal assistance. County officials are invited to this session to share insights and ideas on how to better serve disaster survivors with NC Emergency Management Director Michael Sprayberry, who is part of a new FEMA initiative that is considering ways to reshape disaster housing policy.

Speaker: Michael A. Sprayberry, Director/Deputy Homeland Security Advisor, NC Emergency Management
Moderator: Ernestine Bazemore, Bertie County Commissioner

Make Your County Count in the 2020 Census

County leaders have a vested interest in accurate census data – 26 federal agencies rely on it to appropriate federal monies in more than 1,000 programs. In addition, census data helps your county plan for future needs. Come to this workshop to learn what you can do as a county leader to ensure that the U.S. Census Bureau is working with a complete and accurate address list to reach every living quarters and associated population for inclusion in the census. The Local Update of Census Addresses (LUCA) Operation is the one and only opportunity for tribal, state and local governments to review and comment on the Census Bureau’s address list, which will serve as the foundation for the 2020 Decennial Census.

Speaker: David M. Cline, Geographer, U.S. Census Bureau - Atlanta Regional Office
Moderator: Wendy Jacobs, Durham County Board Chair

An Education on the Lottery

Since the NC Education Lottery was established by legislation 12 years ago, the percentage of its proceeds dedicated for school construction costs has been of great interest to counties that rely on this funding stream. The NC General Assembly ultimately decides how those proceeds are spent, while the NC Education Lottery (NCEL) Commission provides supervision and administration of the lottery itself. In this session, NCEL members and staff will provide an overview of how the Lottery works and its role in providing funding for education.

Speakers: Alice Garland, Executive Director, and Sarah Hardin, Director of Government Affairs, North Carolina Education Lottery
Moderator: Viola Harris, Edgecombe County Commissioner


Workshop Block III - Friday, August 11, 10:15 - 11:30 a.m.

'Oh, Say Can You See?': Publicity and Communications Skills for Public Campaigns

Beginning with the "shot heard 'round the world", the American Revolution was immediate international news. What a great model for any public campaign! Using concepts from our Founding Fathers, storyteller Tim Lowry will teach you how to create a social movement to effectively communicate your county's mission and encourage people to spread the word far and wide. In this fun, interactive workshop, Lowry will help you identify the ideas, the narrative, the symbols, and the leadership required to grow an idea or initiative into a cultural force that is the talk of the town, the pride of the nation, and international phenomenon!

Speaker: Tim Lowry, storyteller
Moderator: Renee Price, Orange County Commissioner

How Will Your County Handle a Hack? Cyber Security Tips from a Pro

Cyber threats make the headlines with alarming frequency. What can a county do to protect itself? Find out more about these threats and learn the first, second and third things your county must do to improve its cyber security posture!

Speaker: Ryan Spelman, Senior Director of Business Development, Center for Internet Security
Moderated by Ann Holton, Pamlico County Commissioner
Sponsored by the NCACC Risk Management Pools 

Understanding the Basics of Local MH/DD/SA Services

State-driven change seems to be the only constant for community-level mental health, developmental disabilities and substance abuse (MH/DD/SA) services. Bring your questions to this workshop and learn what the public Local Management Entities-Managed Care Organizations (LME-MCOs) for these services do in your county; how they are organized and governed; and what authorities are granted to Boards of County Commissioners.

Speaker: Mark F. Botts, Associate Professor of Public Law and Government, UNC School of Government
Moderator: Steve Jarvis, Davidson County Commissioner
Sponsored by the Health and Human Services Steering Committee

Tsunami Warning: The Unique Mental Health Needs of Older Adults

In 2015, 66 of our 100 counties had more citizens over the age of 60 than age 17 or younger. Those numbers continue to rise dramatically, and the NC Office of State Budget and Management projects that by 2025, 87 counties will be predominantly elderly. The disruptive demographics identified by Dr. Jim Johnson of the UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School as the aging “tsunami” – baby boomers in retirement, improved life longevity due to advances in medical care, and declining fertility rates – pose startling public policy challenges for local elected leaders, not only from a social policy view but also in very concrete ways with regard to school construction, transportation, economic development and housing. County commissioners need to better understand how to nurture a mentally healthy older population in order to develop strategies to address these challenges. This workshop will focus on the unique mental health needs of older adults, offer suggestions about how public agencies might integrate elderly mental healthcare into a stronger system of community support, and highlight projects that show promising results.

Introduction: Fred McClure, NCACC President and Davidson County Commissioner
Speaker: Dr. Paula Hartman-Stein, founder, the Center for Healthy Aging
Panelists: Thava Mahadevan, MS, Director of Operations, UNC Center for Excellence in Community Health; Marianne Cockroft, PhD, Assistant Professor, and Victoria Soltis Jerrett, PhD,  PMHCNS/NP-BC, FAANP, Carol Morde Ross Distinguished Professor of Psychiatric Mental Health Nursing, UNC School of Nursing; and Dr. Mary Fraser, Aging Transitions Administrator, Orange County Department of Aging
Moderator: Gloria Whisenhunt, Forsyth County Commissioner


​Workshop Block IV - Friday, August 11, 1:30 - 2:45 p.m.

Keep Calm, Don’t Carry On: Let Data Drive School Planning Decisions

Operating in the space between Boards of Education and County Commissioners, N.C. State’s Operations Research and Education Laboratory (OREd) provides a framework to help guide county and school officials through critical facility planning decisions such as new school siting, school closures, and student reassignment. OREd’s services, which include enrollment forecasting, community engagement, and data-driven attendance boundary scenarios, all serve to help calm the discourse and center the discussion around real world data.

Speakers: Thomas Dudley and Mathew Palmer, Operations Research and Education Laboratory (OREd), N.C. State University
Moderator: Mark Richardson, Rockingham County Commissioner
Sponsored by the Public Education Steering Committee

What You Need to Know About the LME/MCO

When a representative of your Local Management Entity/Managed Care Organization (LME/MCO) presents to your Board of Commissioners, do you know what questions to ask? Or when you receive written communication from the LME/MCO, do you know what information you should be looking for? This workshop will cover these questions, and provide an overview of LME-MCO funding sources, types of services provided to citizens in need of care, oversight, and operational functionality.

Speaker: Dave Peterson, Central Regional Director, Trillium Health Resources

History Lesson: Schooling the New South

The transformation of public schools and education in North Carolina at the turn of the 19th century led to a major social change – a movement that architects of the New South hoped would instill in students a vision of life that valued individual ambition and enterprise above the familiar relations of family, church, and community. In this North Carolina history lesson, UNC-Chapel Hill Professor Jim Leloudis – author of “Schooling the New South: Pedagogy, Self, and Society in North Carolina, 1880-1920” – will provide context for why schools became what they are today: the primary institution responsible for the socialization of children and therefore the principal battleground for society's conflicts over race, class, and gender.

Speaker: Dr. James L. Leloudis, Professor and Director of the James M. Johnston Center for Undergraduate Excellence, UNC-Chapel Hill
Moderator: Bob Byrd, Alamance County Commissioner

Fable, Myth or True Tale: What Is the Story Behind NC’s Economy?

When you hear about North Carolina's economy, does the message reflect the reality of life at home in your county? This workshop will explore connections between our state's economy, the economic and community development priorities of the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond, and your own county's economic development strategies. Participants will explore possible financing strategies to foster small business creation and entrepreneurship, and economic challenges and objectives through table-top discussions with community bankers that can consider and respond to your county's unique circumstances and needs. This is an opportunity for counties to provide input to the nation's Central Bank.

Introduction: Kevin Austin, NCACC Second Vice President and Yadkin County Chairman of the Board
Presenters: Jeanne Bonds, Regional Community Development and Community Engagement Team Leader, and Rick Kaglic, Senior Regional Economist, Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond; and  Dr. Linda Millsaps, Research Director, NCACC
Moderator: Ron Wesson, Bertie County Commissioner
Sponsored by the Tax and Finance Steering Committee
Note: this workshop continues until 4:30 p.m., with a break from 2:45 - 3:15 p.m.


Workshop Block V, Friday, August 11, 3:15 – 4:30 p.m.

Criminal Justice Resource Center Strengthens Durham County Public Safety

The 2017 conference host county is at the forefront of providing innovative opportunities for justice-involved individuals. Durham County’s Criminal Justice Resource Center provides programs and services along the entire continuum of the criminal justice system from preventing arrest and criminal records, to providing substance use disorder and mental health services for Detention Center inmates, as well as rehabilitation, treatment and support services for those on probation and post-release supervision. This off-site workshop includes a brief tour of this unique Center and an overview of services. Transportation will be provided to the CJRC – located just a half-mile from the convention center.

Speakers: Gudrun Parmer, Director; and Roshanna Parker and Peter Baker, Assistant Directors, Durham County Criminal Justice Resource Center

Making Sense of Solar and Renewables

North Carolina is a leader in solar photovoltaic capacity, ranking second in the nation for cumulative solar installations as of 2016. Solar-friendly policies have brought significant economic benefits to North Carolina, particularly in rural areas of the state. That explosion of solar installations, however, has left some communities struggling with impacts on agriculture, the environment and the removal or deconstruction of the solar equipment, among other issues. This workshop will include a brief overview of renewable energy – particular solar – in North Carolina, and will provide ample to time to explore individual questions from commissioners grappling with renewable energy in their counties.

Speakers: Steve Kalland, Executive Director, NC Clean Energy Technology Center; and Daniel Brookshire, NC Sustainable Energy Association

Talking H₂O: A Conversation on Rural Water Systems

Providing a safe and reliable source of potable water for citizens is one of the most valuable services that a local government can provide and having available water system capacity is crucial to economic development - especially in rural areas. How can counties reliably predict the appropriate financial strategies to protect their infrastructure investments? What challenges does operating a water system present, and how do you know what questions to ask when of the engineering and design groups? Bring your questions to this conversational-style session and learn how to move forward with a sound plan for a stable water system.

Facilitator: Jeffrey A. Hughes, Lecturer and Director, Environmental Finance Center, UNC School of Government
Respondents: Tim Romocki, Local Government Commission; and Rodney M. Tart, Director of Business Development, Green Engineering; and George Wood, Wayne County Manager

Moderator: Jimmy Clayton, Person County Commissioner
Sponsored by the Environment Steering Committee


Workshop Block VI - Saturday, August 12, 10 - 11:15 a.m.

Early Returns on the County Leadership Forum on Opioid Abuse

Davidson County Commissioner Fred McClure’s Presidential Initiative on addressing the opioid crisis resulted in an early June rollout of the “County Leadership Forum on Opioid Abuse,” an effort that seeks to engage local elected leaders in an informed discussion about the opioid epidemic, and develop collaborative strategies that enhance prevention, education and treatment. In collaboration with several organizations, the NCACC developed and delivered to all 100 counties all the materials needed to hold a county forum. This workshop will feature a panel consisting of representatives of counties that have hosted a Leadership Forum to discuss local impacts of the epidemic, Forum participation, discussion and next steps.

Moderator: Fred McClure, Davidson County Commissioner
Panelists: Lance Metzler, County Manager, Rockingham County; and Lillian Koontz, Health Director, and Debbie Harris, Clerk to the Board, Davidson County

Working Effectively with State and Federal Elected Officials

Establishing a working relationship with elected officials and their staffs at the federal and state levels can be a somewhat daunting task when your sphere of influence is largely framed by the parenthetical letter following your name on the ballot or by the animal represented on your lapel pin. At the county level, public services are delivered in a direct and impactful manner, regardless of party affiliation or ideology. This workshop, which will include ranking staff members from NC General Assembly and NC Congressional offices, will not only challenge participants to think about framing messages that seek common ground but also present strategies for successfully influencing legislative outcomes.

Introduction: Larry Phillips, NCACC First Vice President and Surry County Commissioner
Moderator: Frank Williams, Brunswick County Commissioner

Panelists: Betty Jo Shepheard, Eastern Field Representative, Office of U.S. Senator Richard Burr; Nick Wilkinson, Triad Regional Representative, Office of U.S. Senator Thom Tillis; and Jordan Whichard, Director of Intergovernmental Affairs, Office of Governor Roy Cooper
Sponsored by the General Government Steering Committee

Investing Early for Positive Outcomes for Youth

Data consistently shows that there is a strong connection between workforce development challenges and early childhood system gaps. In this session, Durham and Transylvania counties will discuss county initiatives to provide insight into the lives of young people, and explain how they hope to use the information as a decision-making tool. The Institute of Emerging Issues will also present its initiative on addressing early childhood needs, increase attendees' understanding of early childhood system challenges through data, explore county-based projections of the potential return on early childhood investments, and present the latest research has to offer on solutions that move the needle on early childhood interventions.

Introduction: Brenda Howerton, NCACC President Elect and Durham County Commissioner
Speakers: Jaime Laughter, Transylvania County Manager; Ellen Reckhow, Durham County Commissioner; Professor Kenneth A. Dodge, faculty fellow, Duke Center for Child and Family Policy; Donnie Charleston, Economic Policy Manager, NCSU Institute for Emerging Issues; and Linda Millsaps, Research Director, NCACC

Moderator: George Dunlap, Mecklenburg County Commissioner