Executive Director’s Report: WGA kicks off the new year with a bang

By Jim Ogsbury

Happy New Year!

I’ll grant, as summer temperatures soar, that might sound a bit out of place. But at WGA, our fiscal year kicks off each July and we have a lot of work to celebrate.

2019 Annual Meeting: Last month’s Annual Meeting in Colorado was an enormous success, thanks in no small part to the attendance of 12 Western Governors, eight of whom were newly elected last November.  Veteran Governors David Ige of Hawaii, Doug Burgum of North Dakota, Kate Brown of Oregon and Gary Herbert of Utah were joined by first-term counterparts Jared Polis of Colorado, Brad Little of Idaho, Mark Gordon of Wyoming, Michelle Lujan Grisham of New Mexico, Kristi Noem of South Dakota, Steve Sisolak of Nevada, Laura Kelly of Kansas, and Lou Leon Guerrero of Guam. 

With nearly 450 attendees, the Governors had plenty of company. They were treated to three days of policy discussions and keynotes by, and gubernatorial conversations with, Secretary David Bernhardt of the Department of the Interior; Secretary Ben Carson of the Department of Housing and Urban Development; renowned pollster Frank Luntz; and the chief executive officer of Vail Resorts, Robert Katz.  In addition, former Governors Roy Romer of Colorado and Mike Leavitt of Utah (pictured, with WGU President Scott Pulsipher) reflected on the creation of the Western Governors University by WGA over 20 years ago. 

The meeting also featured an exciting announcement by WGA and the Department of Agriculture on the specific projects that will be jointly pursued under the shared stewardship memorandum of understanding executed by the two organizations last December.  Cross-boundary projects will focus on cheatgrass, vegetation management and interagency wildfire disaster response. 

But that’s just the beginning of WGA’s recent work, as the following illustrate.

New Leadership, New Initiative: North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum was elected Chair at the Annual Meeting and Oregon Gov. Kate Brown was elected Vice Chair.  Gov. Burgum unveiled his initiative for the coming year, Reimagining the Rural West,  which will examine rural prosperity issues along three central pillars:  economic opportunity, connectivity and community.  A launch webinar, featuring Gov. Burgum, was held July 16 (Watch the webinar).  Up next, workshops hosted by Gov. Burgum on Oct. 1 in Fargo, North Dakota, and Nov. 4-5 by Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham in Santa Fe, New Mexico. 

Foundation Relaunch: WGA is excited to relaunch the Western Governors’ Foundation, which will leverage Western Governors’ influence to perform important philanthropic work in the West. The Foundation’s newly reconstituted board of directors is composed of an all-star cast: former Governors Dennis Daugaard of South Dakota (who has agreed to serve as Chair of the Foundation), Brian Sandoval of Nevada (Vice Chair), C.L. “Butch” Otter of Idaho, and Matt Mead of Wyoming, along with Governors David Ige of Hawaii and Steve Bullock of Montana. Look for exciting announcements about foundation work in the months to come.

WGA Reports: Our newly released 2019 Annual Report details the wide-ranging, substantive policy work of the Governors (Download here). WGA also just published the Western Governors’ Biosecurity and Invasive Species Initiative Special Report, which includes findings and recommendations produced by the central policy project of immediate past Chair David Ige. (Download here). And I’m proud to add that WGA policy advisor Bill Whitacre won this year’s Outstanding State Government Achievement Award of the Reduce Risks from Invasive Species Coalition for his work on the Initiative.  

Save the Dates: Make a point to attend our 2019 Winter Meeting Dec. 12-14 at the Four Seasons Hotel in Las Vegas, Nevada.  And you won’t want to miss our 2020 Annual Meeting scheduled for June 29 to July 2 of next year, hosted by Gov. Burgum in Medora, North Dakota.

Jim Ogsbury is the Executive Director of the Western Governors' Association. 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 TwitterFacebook and LinkedIn.

sign up for our newsletters