Executive Director’s Notebook: Governors made history, Governors making history

WGA News

By Jim Ogsbury,

The older I get, the more I appreciate and respect the role of history in our lives. Our ambitions, accomplishments and progress are all built upon the pioneering efforts of others who passed this way before.

And so it is with WGA and Western Governors. Although the Western Governors’ Association was created in 1984 upon the merger of two related service organizations, Western Governors have been meeting to share ideas and leverage their collective influence for well over 100 years.

To memorialize the rich history of Western Governors working together, WGA recently updated a timeline of their collaborative activities. See the entire timeline here (or click on the image) and consider the following highlights:

1891: Governors of the 24 states and territories west of the Mississippi River appointed delegates to the Trans-Mississippi Congress in Denver.

1912: The first annual meeting of Western Governors was held in Boise, Idaho, with 14 Governors on hand. Similar gatherings were held the next three years in Salt Lake City, Denver and Seattle.

1953: The Western Governors Conference creates the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education to develop innovative solutions to challenges in higher education.

1965: The Western States Water Council is created by the Western Governors Conference to address issues in water resource management.

1977: Western Governors form the Western Governors' Policy Office.

1984: The Western Governors’ Association is created through a merger of the Western Governors Conference and the Western Governors’ Policy Office, with headquarters in Denver.

Since then, WGA has racked up an impressive record of policy victories and accomplishments, including:

  • the 1996 creation of Western Governors University, a pioneer in competency based remote learning;
  • congressional enactment in 2006 of the National Integrated Drought Information System Act, a product of WGA initiative and advocacy;
  • work of the Sage Grouse Task Force, a regional and interagency collaborative effort to conserve sage grouse habitat, which led to the 2015 decision by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to not list the greater sage-grouse as threatened or endangered under the Endangered Species Act;
  • the 2018 reinvention of the Western Governors’ Foundation to serve as the philanthropic arm of WGA.

The great success of WGA is largely attributable to the dedicated efforts of its unparalleled leadership. For a comprehensive list of WGA Chairs and their initiatives, click here

As I reflect on the tremendous achievements of Western Governors for the past hundred years, I can only imagine what the next 100 will bring.

Watch the video below that celebrated WGA’s 30-year anniversary.

Jim Ogsbury is the fifth executive director of WGA. Contact him at 303-623-9378 or send an email. Get the latest news about the West and its governors by following the Western Governors' Association on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.

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