Boise, Idaho – Last week, several members of the WSAC staff traveled to Boise, Idaho to take part in the first ever Western States Association Staff Retreat. The event was hosted by the Idaho Association of Counties (IAC). WSAC staff arrived on Thursday and set out to explore the city and the Idaho State Capitol campus before the scheduled programming began.
The Idaho State Capitol reminded Paige DeChambeau, WSAC’s External Communications Manager of the Washington State Capitol due to its similar entryway and dome. “It is constructed in a similar fashion; however, it is far more spread out than ours and each of the committees has their own hearing rooms which I imagine would make scheduling committee meetings much easier,” she reflected.
After the self-guided tour of the capitol and the city, WSAC staff attended a dinner hosted by IAC where attendees were able to introduce themselves and begin networking. There were nearly 30 staff members in attendance from the following states: Arizona, California, Idaho, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oregon, Utah, and Wyoming.
The following day was full of breakout sessions on topics varying from human resources, media and PR plans to various board related topics and state policy discussions. Each session was structured as an open discussion which allowed attendees to dive deeper into what specific states associations are doing. The idea sharing continued throughout the day as staff moved around to different table topics.
Discussing the way the various organizations were structured, Josh Weiss, WSAC’s Director of Policy ruminated:
“I thought it was interesting how each association organized their staff. They had some staff responsibilities divided up differently than we do – you saw people playing multiple, distinct roles. I also came away feeling Washington policies for counties are not as bad as they could be. We are ahead of some states, but behind them in other ways, it really depends on the specific policy. For example, Idaho did not accept Medicaid expansion dollars, and the state requires counties to provide indigent health insurance at a phenomenal cost.”
Derek Anderson, WSAC’s Director of Communications and Member Services said the following about the event:
“Learning about all the great work our peers are doing in other states was beneficial. As Association staff, we can easily get caught up in the struggle of providing additional services with limited budgets. Hearing about some of the creative solutions other associations have implemented, and their commitment to serve their members was inspiring.”
From the finance perspective Karlyn Shannon, Director of Finance, had the following to say about takeaways from the conversations she had during the conference:
“Conference registration software seems to be hard to settle on for a lot of associations. What we have is pretty good but still falls into the same categories of deficiencies – expensive and does not integrate with our accounting software.”
The trip was also a great opportunity for WSAC staff to build stronger working relationships with each other and are looking forward to next year’s retreat. As for the location, the Association of Oregon Counties (AOC) volunteered to host the event next year. WSAC looks forward to participating again and hopefully seeing some familiar faces. It will be exciting to see how this new event grows and takes shape over the years to come.