Taking the Field: State and Local Partnerships Propel North Carolina Forward

Rose Vaughn Williams, NCLM Executive Director

Throughout this issue, you’ll see a consistent theme: local officials and state legislators working together. It’s a partnership that breeds success, not just for you at home, but for our state as a whole. When our lawmakers are tuned in to city concerns, are aware of pressing issues and understand the intricacies of the communities they represent, everyone comes out ahead. Cities and towns receive the support they need; and state leaders can craft legislation that suits those towns, all while knowing that they have a network of dedicated local officials at the ready to address challenges.

Several recent League events showcase the bounty of this relationship. This summer, the League hosted its 4th Annual Town and State Dinner, which gathered local leaders and state lawmakers together over a meal—a get-together that yields incredible results for all parties involved. Through discussion, differences dissolve. And through gathering, common ground emerges. As much was made clear through the after-dinner presentations from legislative leadership, from both the majority and minority parties.

Then, this fall, the League launched its American Rescue Plan Expert Tour. These traveling events bring League experts and other partners across the state to directly assist local leaders with everything ARP, from strategy to administration to reporting. This tour, made possible by tremendous support from state leaders, has allowed even our smallest municipalities access to one-on-one help, and is setting up all of our communities to make transformational investments with their ARP funds.

How do we ensure that these partnership-created successes continue? Two ways.

First, we must consistently work to develop and maintain relationships with our legislators. Get to know your representatives. Meet with them either at League gatherings or elsewhere, and begin to understand their key priorities. When these bonds grow, so too does an understanding of intergovernmental leadership—that despite the different roles, a locally elected official and state elected lawmaker almost always have the same goal: success for the communities they represent. As your League, we are here to make introductions, facilitate meetings and help you foster these relationships however we can.

And second, we must always tell our stories. These need not only be tales of crisis or celebration. Rather, they should be a regular, ongoing story of how our municipalities operate. So much—perhaps too much—of the work you do happens behind the scenes and with little fanfare. You are at the heart of public service in this respect, and local governments in North Carolina are the toast of the nation for exactly this reason. It’s important, however, to inform state lawmakers the work that goes into our day-to-day successes. What support, policies, and administrative capabilities do we need to continue achieving our goals? What tools are absolutely critical to local government operations? And what authorities could help us make even greater impacts locally? As new policies and ideas enter the legislative agenda, we can avoid potentially harmful legislation simply by sharing our answers to these questions—by making lawmakers aware of the ways our cities and towns function.

We are thankful for the partnerships we have at the state level and the leadership our lawmakers have shown, especially over the past few years as we’ve recovered from the pandemic. When our cities and towns succeed, our state succeeds. Through great relationships—new and old alike—we can ensure that those successes continue long into the future.