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Showcasing the County

Shortly after several hundred of the nation’s county officials gathered in Reno, Nev. for the National Association of Counties (NACo) conference in July 2010, we took notice.

Not only was such a conference an excellent opportunity to showcase one’s county – in this case, Washoe County, Nev. – we also noticed that hosting such an event could have a broader impact on the local economy. Hotels would fill up and restaurants, local businesses and attractions would also receive extra traffic.

Our proximity to countless natural gems such as the Grand Canyon, the San Francisco Peaks, Lake Powell and our surrounding Native American tribes seemed like the perfect location to showcase everything we love about living in Coconino County.

Following a thorough application process, NACo approved Coconino County to host the organization’s Western Interstate Region Conference, which runs May 22-24. During that time, approximately 400 county, state and federal leaders will file into Flagstaff for business meetings aimed at tackling national issues.

The Western Interstate Region (WIR) of NACo is dedicated to promoting issues of interest that impact the nation’s 15 Western states, including Arizona, Alaska, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oregon, South Dakota, Utah, Washington and Wyoming.

The conference will bring federal and county elected officials from across the Western United States, as well as the NACo Board of Directors from across the country.

Coconino County staff and our regional partners, including the Flagstaff, Page, Sedona and Williams Chambers of Commerce, Northern Arizona University, downtown Flagstaff businesses and many others have worked tirelessly for more than a year to plan and promote the 2013 WIR Conference.

The fact that this event is being funded by sponsors serves as a testament that our regional business partners value the opportunity to showcase Northern Arizona on the national stage. This conference also allows us to display some innovative initiatives we have undertaken to benefit our customers.

Conference attendees will be able to tour the 2010 Schultz Fire area to learn how county, state and federal officials continue to work together on reforesting and flood mitigation efforts to reduce the impact floodwaters have had on homes and businesses in the region.

County staff will also hold a seminar to highlight our innovative approaches to addressing crime throughout the region. Through the Criminal Justice Coordinating Council, 34 Northern Arizona agencies, including county and city courts personnel and attorneys, have pooled their resources to address common crime issues.

Those collaborative efforts – and a host of programs aimed at getting offenders treatment and counseling – have had a noticeable impact on the County’s recidivism rate, which measures the likelihood an offender will reoffend.

As the host of the WIR Conference, the County is also responsible for arranging two evening events for attendees to experience our local culture and a taste of Flagstaff.

On Wednesday evening, May 22, the County will host the NACo and WIR Board of Directors for heavy appetizers at Heritage Square as they experience a “Taste of Route 66.” The Route 66 Car Club will be on hand to show off their classic cars, while attendees partake in a sock-hop dance to ‘50s and ‘60s music and sample local food and beverages.

On Thursday evening, conference attendees will descend on the Pepsi Amphitheater at Fort Tuthill County Park for “A County Fair of Our Own.” While there, attendees can play county fair-themed games, marvel at stilt-walkers, dance to live music and enjoy our local cuisine.

Throughout the conference, we will encourage attendees to frequent our many restaurants and support local businesses.

It’s also our hope that the timing of the conference, before the long Memorial Day weekend, will provide attendees with a few extra days to experience what we already know: That with our cool temperatures, natural wonders and mountainous vistas, Coconino County is worth sharing with the world. FBN

Mike Townsend is a lifelong resident of Flagstaff and serves as interim Coconino County manager.  

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