March 2021

NACE Update from President McGolpin

Where has the time gone?  I never would have thought I’d say that when I started my NACE Presidency last year, as the country rolled into a worldwide COVID pandemic.  2020 brought so many new challenges for each of us, our families, colleagues, and NACE that were unimaginable this time last year. We no doubt we're living in historic times and the decisions we found ourselves tasked with were unprecedented. Just a few weeks prior to my term commencing, NACE found itself in the unenviable position of deciding to conduct our annual conference on electronic platforms in lieu of holding the conference in person in Orange Beach, Alabama.  We survived and actually did it quite well considering the limited time to prepare due to the work of our outstanding NACE staff.  We are all very fortunate to have our Executive Director, Kevan Stone, and his team Staci Morgan and Connie Radoulovitch on our side.  Their leadership and perseverance this past year has been superb as we navigated these uncharted waters.

This year our Fall Board of Directors meeting was held in Minneapolis, MN.  Last year the leadership of NACE decided to schedule these annual meetings in a central location within our nation to ease the commute for members to attend these meetings in person.  As one of our members who lives on the coast, this decision was welcomed to avoid a whole day of travel and having to adjust to the impacts of crossing multiple time zones.  Realizing the need to ensure COVID-related health and safety measures, Minneapolis fit the bill perfectly and Kevan Stone, planned it very well for the host hotel to be a mere few minutes from the airport, eliminating the need to venture outside for the duration of the event.  On the afternoon of October 28th, the Executive Committee conducted their meeting and on the morning of October 29th the Board of Directors convened to tend to NACE business.  In a COVID environment, we expected attendance to be down, but we were pleasantly surprised to have a few board members who were able to make the trip for a socially distanced meeting.  I cannot thank the Executive Committee and Board of Directors enough for their continued support of our association, making tough but thoughtful decisions to ensure the long-term prosperity of NACE and for their leadership over the last year.  It has been a privilege to work with each and everyone of these professionals.

On the policy and federal agency front, we will roll out a white paper discussing ideas NACE has in the area of FEMA Reform during our annual conference.  To a person, if I ask someone in NACE about their experience with FEMA the stories are usually quite consistent and relate to customer service and efficiency concerns.  My goal initially by developing this information was to inform a briefing paper that we could use on our DC Fly-Ins to help this federal agency improve.  Today’s travel restrictions, unfortunately, played into whether our 2021 Fly-In was conducted, which it wasn’t, nevertheless, this information will be available now to each of us to brief our federally elected officials back home.  We need to start this conversation, if one needs to be had for your jurisdiction, then we will be able to capitalize on change in the future once Capitol Hill, the Administration and FEMA reopens for visitors in the future.  My thanks go out to Pam Dingman, Emergency Preparedness Committee Chair, and Josh Harvill, Legislative Committee Chair, and their respective committee members for providing the heavy lift of drafting this document.

As hard as it was for NACE to cancel our conferences in 2020 and now 2021, it was just as hard on our Corporate Members and Exhibitors.  These good people and businesses are dedicated to our organization and rely on the connections and business they receive from our membership for survival.  In addition to our event, they lost similar opportunities around the country over the past year, as other organizations were forced to cancel their events as well.  Many of these exhibitors have been with us for a long time, and they are committed to all of us and deserve special thanks for their continued commitment.  I worked with the Corporate Member Services Committee to engage these folks to thank them for their continued commitment to NACE.  We spent time with them to explore ideas NACE could implement throughout the year, and certainly at our conference to get them in front of more of our members.  Without their continued financial support annually, our organization would cease to exist without much higher dues for all of us.  This process was very enlightening for the NACE team involved and it resulted in the development and roll-out of our very first NACE Connect a few months ago which was a complete success.  My hope is in a small way NACE Connect will provide that same opportunity to our Corporate Partners until we hold our next in-person conference.  NACE Connect however will be a program that we will continue to provide to our membership beyond the pandemic as an additional benefit to our partners while at the same time providing no-cost professional development hours to each of you.  Mark Servi, Corporate Member Services Committee Chair, and NACE’s Staci Morgan were the spark plugs who got this program up and running and I really appreciate all that they did to get this initiative started.

While the majority of travel over this past year has been limited, NACE was invited to the White House in July by the President for the roll out of his NEPA Modernization Executive Order.  For anyone who deals with federal funding, this was a big deal and it partially satisfied one of two of NACE’s primary advocacy items, environmental process streamlining.  With a new administration in the White House now we all need to stay engaged to educate them on the benefits of environmental process streamlining.  I was able to attend two state affiliates that conducted face-to-face meetings this past year, Wisconsin and South Dakota, where I will visit at the end of this month.  Many more invitations to state virtual meetings were made and honored by either Kevan or I throughout the year.  While I am truly sorry that we did not get the opportunity to meet in person I am grateful to NACE being included virtually to share all that was going on from a federal legislative perspective over the last year.

All of us, as members of this outstanding association, have a professional responsibility to continue advocating for federal legislation that makes positive impacts to the communities we serve daily at home.  To that end, we must take every opportunity to raise our NACE priorities with decision-makers and stakeholders to influence this process.  The first two NACE priorities below were also approved as resolutions at the National Association of County’s (NACo) Transportation Steering Committee:

  •  Federal regulatory reform to include environmental streamlining to get projects through the process and to construction faster; and
  • Direct federal funding to local agencies now. As we all know, a dollar that goes directly to a County Engineer/County Public Works Department will be spent faster and go further than a dollar that must pass through multiple layers of government to get to that same County Engineer/Department; and

  • Long-term financial stability of the highway trust fund.

The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted all of our operations in ways that are much different than natural disasters.  Specifically, the loss of gas taxes to make ends meet in our operating budgets due to the initial Safer at Home initiatives across this country must be addressed.  This week in DC, a $1.9 Trillion COVID Relief Package was approved.  There certainly is much hope in California that our financial impacts associated with the pandemic will be addressed through this funding.  My hope is nationwide this relief to all of us comes quickly.

Of all the professional organizations I have been involved in, NACE has the strongest membership and leaders.  Within NACE, there is a passion and focus to improve the work we do for the public we serve like no other.  NACE would not be the outstanding organization it is today without the participation of each of you, our members.  Thank you for your commitment and for your efforts to improve the rules that govern the work that we do at the federal government level.  It has been a career highlight and honor for me to be your NACE President over the last year and I look forward to working with each of you to continue building NACE into the nation’s public works powerhouse.

Thank you for your public service it is my honor to serve with each of you!


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