Officials deem national symposium success

By Kristen Tribe | Published Wednesday, October 18, 2017

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BLOCK PARTY – Guests attending the Rural Action Caucus fall sympsium were welcomed to Wise County Oct. 5 with a reception on the Decatur square. Messenger photo by Joe Duty

County officials from across the nation convened in Wise County Oct. 5-7 for the 2017 Rural Action Caucus (RAC) fall symposium.

RAC, a subgroup of the National Association of Counties (NACo), is chaired by County Judge J.D. Clark.

The group’s sessions covered rural opportunity and development, rural resiliency and the opioid crisis, in addition to strategy talks for RAC’s legislative efforts.

Arthur Scott, NACo’s associate legislative director, said NACo leaders were pleased with the symposium.

“We couldn’t have been happier with the programming and the location,” he said. “Judge Clark and the team he pulled together rolled out the red carpet for us … we couldn’t have asked for a better situation.”

He said Clark has been a great addition to the NACo leadership.

“He’s a tireless champion of all things rural, and it was nice to get his perspective on issues,” Scott said.

Clark said the mobile workshops were a highlight for most guests. The group toured NRS in Decatur, Hanson Aggregates in Chico and the Center for Animal Research and Education (CARE) in Bridgeport.

“Everybody was blown away by the scope of (NRS),” Clark said. “They were shocked to learn about its history as a small, local western store and becoming a massive mail order and online business.”

Guests were also treated to a roping demonstration and motivational talk about being a good force in the community, according to Clark.

The judge said the Hanson tour sparked a lot of good discussion, and guests were intrigued by such a large operation running 24 hours.

Scott said the group couldn’t have visited Texas at a better time. They had a session on disaster preparedness Saturday morning, and Goliad County Judge Pat Calhoun Skyped in to talk about how his county weathered Hurricane Harvey, decisions he made and how they’re faring in the aftermath.

“The fact that we were able to be there at a time when it’s still very raw, and we were able to Skype in members from hurricane impacted communities is invaluable,” Scott said.

He explained it was nice to have Calhoun’s insight and advice for their entire membership to help guide them if a disaster of such magnitude were to strike their home counties.

D.C. Campbell, with the Texas Department of Insurance, addressed the opioid crisis and detailed steps taken by the organization to reduce the number of prescriptions handed out through workers’ compensation and in turn, the number of addiction-related deaths.

“It’s great for our members to see how programs and initiatives work in other places – not only the success stories but also the struggles,” Scott said. “It was beneficial for members to see Texas had experienced an opioid epidemic and through workers’ comp had seen a decrease in opioid deaths and prescription drug costs. It was nice to be able to showcase that.”

Scott said Clark and his wife, Leah, “went above and beyond for this program.”

“Every year we have a great program, and every year the bar is raised,” he said. “(Judge Clark) pulled together an amazing team of folks, and I was pleased to meet the business leaders and folks that made this happen.”

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