It was a decided honor to have been invited to the White House Conference of Women Mayors in our Nation’s Capitol. The invite came along with a phone call from an Assistant Director of President Trump’s Office of Intergovernmental Affairs. As the Mayor of Superior and an active resident of Pinal County, I was proud to represent my community and participate in this special conference along with Florence Mayor Tara Walters and 88 other woman mayors from throughout the United States.
After touring the White House, we walked the halls of the Eisenhower Executive Office Building, where the Vice President and other Cabinet officials work, to commence our conference with key officials from President Trump’s administration. The conference included a welcome from Vice President Mike Pence and a speech from Second Lady Karen Pence.
Conference topics included economic development, workforce development, education, and the opioid crisis. Each of these topics are so obviously intertwined and affect how our communities fare. If our residents are not educated, will they be able to attain the jobs available, can they earn a livable wage? Will new businesses come to our communities if there is not infrastructure available or a workforce unprepared for work? What happens when someone becomes addicted to drugs, especially opioids? Can they re-enter the workforce, and how do we help those that do not even realize they need the help? While an administration can allocate monies and set priorities, ultimately it is the Mayors and Councilmembers, School Boards, nonprofits and faith based groups that are put to task to get the job done and grow their communities.
Those in the administration shared their plans, explained how Opportunity Zones were created to encourage private investment in Census Tracts with high poverty. An overhaul to the FAFSA application is in the works to make the application easy to complete on a smart phone. The realities of the Opioid Crisis, according to Special Counsel Kellyanne Conway, “It is like an airplane falls out of the sky everyday.” That is how many people this crisis affects and every community across America is facing this problem.
Each of these topics are critical to Superior and of course to Pinal County. Vice President Pence explained that the administration supports local government and wanted to start a direct dialog with those in attendance. The communities in attendance were mostly small cities and towns, with similar concerns despite their geographic location in the United States. The biggest take away from the conference is that by attending, a door has been opened to allow us to communicate our story and to capitalize on the expertise, resources and best practices that are available to small and large towns alike to become more competitive and desirable places in which to live, work, learn and recreate.