St. John officials return from NACO Hawaii convention

Published 12:00 am Monday, July 25, 2005


Staff Reporter

LAPLACE – Three members of St. John the Baptist Parish Council attended a National Association of Council Officials convention in Honolulu, Hawaii as a training ground for networking and seminars.

Councilmen Lester Rainey Jr., Cleveland Farlough and Steve Lee attended the convention from July 15 to July 19, along with around 216 Louisiana county officials.

“This is a great opportunity for networking, ” Rainey said. “There are about 200 to 300 vendors that come out, and we are given a chance to talk to them, get business cards and meet several other officials from Louisiana, as well as from other states. It is a great learning environment.”

Rainey said NACO meets twice a year and for about five days. One for the actual convention for the training sessions and the other is a legislative conference held in Washington, D.C. where officials meet with delegates from Louisiana to talk about different issues, such as funding options and opportunities.

“The convention hosts different kinds of training and seminars,” Rainey said. “They address trends, hot issues and topics in government right now. I attended a session on a new prescription drug card that we can bring into the local area, which is a different kind of session than I normally attend. I also attended a session about transforming vacant properties into new developments for the Parish.”

On Sunday afternoon at a NABCO session, National Association of Black County Officials, Rainey was voted to be the Executive Secretary for the next two years.

“This association allows a perspective from an African-American viewpoint,” Rainey said. “The biggest topic this time was the reauthorization of the voters act of 1965, which expires in 2007.”

Rainey said he brings back a ton of paperwork for himself and people in administration. He said he was stopped at the airport, because he had a suitcase with about 50 pounds of paper in it.

Councilman Steve Lee has attended NACO conventions for 14 years.

“I attend every educational session held over three days,” Lee said. “These conventional are for educational purposes. They are designed to give problem-solving opportunities for council members. There are question and answer panels and featured speakers. It is all work related.”

Lee said he picks and chooses specific sessions to attend and the top two sessions he found most important to him this time were involving problem solving for sewer and water problems with new techniques for infiltration problems.

The other session was one on how to deal with the media and ways to better relationships with them. He said they have actual members of the media for panel of discussions.

“I go to this particular session every year,” Lee said. “It doesn’t change much, but the information is updated, and I think it’s helpful for council members to learn how to give the media the information they are looking for, whether it comes from me or from someone I refer the media to.”

Councilman Cleveland Farlough said he is interested in many topics and goes to the convention to learn.

“I go to learn,” Farlough said. “I wouldn’t go, if it weren’t to learn and network with other people. This is an opportunity to gain insight from other people to help us do a better job. We can find out problems other people have and they are addressing them.”

Farlough said some of the most interesting sessions he attended were ones on developing long-range strategies for the Parish and economic and community development and on garbage and recycling.

“I am interested in anything that helps improve the community to make life more livable for the people,” Farlough said. “One of the interesting things I learned about was a program where people take things to be recycled to the school and the school takes the items to the actual recycling place and receive money for it to be used to buy supplies for the students.”

Farlough said another session he attended was on financial concerns where they advise on how to do a better job with the money you have and how to do it more effectively.