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Working With the White House

Working With the White House


All three Fremont County Commissioners recently joined historical discussions with officials at the highest levels at the White House in Washington, D.C.

For the first time in history, all 580,000 County Commissioners across the United States were invited to participate in in a three-year, ongoing series of State Leadership Days under President Donald Trump. Colorado Commissioners joined other participants from the seven-state Western Region in September.

This event allowed us a unique, bipartisan opportunity to discuss challenges we all share. We not only listened to presentations from federal officials, but we also had the opportunity to engage with them and ask questions relevant to all citizens of Fremont County.

Since 2017, 5,213 Republican, Democrat, and Unaffiliated officials joined the unprecedented movement to take our concerns to the White House. The 45 different events held over those three years allowed serious face-to-face communications and professional relationships that are essential to build strong intergovernmental partnerships.

Vice President Mike Pence addressed our group and said six million new jobs have been created in this country since President Trump took office. He said the current administration is focused on investment in infrastructure, workforce, and safety. We were most pleased to hear the White House believes in empowering local communities, an issue we all focus on every day.

Because the Western Region encompasses most federal lands in the United States, Secretary of the Interior David Bernhardt also spoke during our session. He discussed current difficulties with attracting high-ranking agency staff to live in Washington and the administration’s efforts to move the positions where the jobs are. That effort created the Bureau of Land Management federal headquarters move from Washington to Grand Junction, Colorado. Bernhardt, a Colorado native, also said more people are working now than ever before.

Following the conclusion of State Leadership Days, Bernhardt said he appreciated the opportunities to visit with and learn from leaders across the country.

“Their input and insight are invaluable in our work and service to the American people,” Bernhardt said.

During the event, we also heard other officials discuss current administration priorities, including shared stewardship of federal lands, combatting the opioid crisis, permanent funding for Payment in Lieu of Taxes, facilitating infrastructure development and rural prosperity, promoting economic and workforce development, and improving disaster recovering and resilience.

Perhaps one of the most interesting topics was the Selective Service System. Director Don Benton said men are registered to require before the age of 26 or face lifetime consequences. If not registered after the age of 25, men cannot be employed by the federal government or by federal contracting agencies including UPS and FedEx. About 50 percent of all states have adopted the same policies, so unregistered men also would not qualify for state jobs. In addition, there are no federal grants for college for men who have not registered. He said this equates to more than $10,800 in lost financial aid and other funding per person that would otherwise be available.

Most registrations – a full 92 percent currently – take place online, at Benton said kids who drop out of high school are at the biggest risk for not registering.

“It takes 45 seconds to save a man 45 years of heartache,” Benton said.

In addition to all the discussion, I believe one of the most important pieces of information we received was a list of contact information for many of the folks in White House Intergovernmental Affairs, allowing us to contact any of them in the future for one-on-one discussions.

Casey Hammond, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Interior, told us to use that contact information when the need arises.

“The squeaky wheel gets the grease,” Hammond reminded our group. “If you have to, knock twice.”

Armed with the information we received during State Leadership Days, the Fremont County Commissioners are now more prepared than ever to work with the current administration in moving local priorities forward.

Debbie Bell is the Fremont County Commissioner for District 2. She can be reached at