By Cheryl Splain, KnoxPages.com Reporter
MOUNT VERNON — The Knox County commissioners said their meetings on Tuesday in Washington, D.C., with officials from the Trump Administration were worthwhile and productive. Topics discussed include nuclear, waterways, infrastructure and agriculture.
Commissioners Teresa Bemiller, Thom Collier and Roger Reed, along with about 80 other Ohio commissioners, met with representatives from 21 federal agencies, including Vice President Mike Pence and Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue; Kellyanne Conway, counselor to President Trump; Ohio native Omarosa Manigault, Trump's communications liaison; and representatives from the Department of Transportation and Trump's Chief of Staff Office.
“A lot of it was about their planning and proposed budgeting,” said Collier. “We were able to talk to them about how it affects local questions. We asked questions; I don't think we were disappointed with their answers.”
“The big thing that impressed me was they genuinely acted like they wanted to hear what we had to say,” said Reed. “They said you can contact us directly.”
“I think they are trying to tell us that if you have issues, you can come directly to us. Everyone made that clear to us,” said Bemiller.
“They weren't surprised by anything we brought up,” said Collier. “Kellyanne talked a lot about the opiate epidemic in Ohio.”
“They had a good grasp of the number of kids taken in by Job & Family Services, and the need for foster families,” Bemiller added.
“I think when you talk about the budget and funding for those types of things, Kellyanne will have a lot of input. I think the President is pretty close to what she thinks and does,” said Reed. “She definitely has his ear, so I think she's probably going to have some input on this particular issue.”
“They understand the counties have a lot of infrastructure. They may direct money to the state, but they know we are the ones who do roads and bridges,” said Bemiller.
Collier said that a lot of the issues discussed, such as algae bloom and coal, do not affect Knox County but do affect other Ohio counties. He said the officials are aware of the time and red tape involved with government bureaucracy, and they are trying to streamline regulations and procedures.
“They really drove that point home, that you will only deal with one department,” said Reed. “One person will basically shepherd you through.”
“I think the No. 1 message that came through is there's been a lot more accomplished in this administration that we don't hear about,” said Bemiller. “And they made it clear in was non-partisan; they are open to Democrats and Republicans.”
Meetings ran from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. with a break for lunch. “They didn't hurry us,” said Bemiller. Reed agreed, saying it was “worthwhile just getting the contact information and knowing who you are talking to one the other end.”
A tour of the East Wing preceded the nearly seven hours of meetings, which were held in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building. Ohio is the fourth state the Trump Administration has invited to the White House for talks, joining Florida, Pennsylvania and Michigan. The goal of the talks is to open a direct line of communication between local and federal agencies.
Officials from President Trump's administration held a series of meetings on Tuesday with county commissioners from throughout Ohio. Vice President Mike Pence, left, and Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue were among those who talked with the commissioners. Photo courtesy of Thom Collier