Courtesy photo
County Commissioners Varlin Higbee and Jared Brackenbury were among the local elected officials from Nevada to meet Vice President Mike Pence at the White House in Washington, D.C., earlier this month.

County Commissioners Varlin Higbee and Jared Brackenbury traveled to Washington, D.C., on Nov. 2-3 for meetings with undersecretaries of all of President Trump’s cabinet members.

It was a special invitation for the state of Nevada only, Higbee said. “Mostly local elected officials, not state legislators, because they wanted to hear from the local officials, city officials, county commissioners, school board members, and members of the Board of Regents for the colleges.”

Only about eight of Nevada’s 17 counties sent representatives to the meeting held at the Eisenhower office building.

“The meeting lasted about four hours and several of the undersecretaries laid out what the goals of their particular departments are,” Higbee said. “Basically, it was pretty much the same message all across the board. They want to work with and hear from local elected officials, not just state senators and legislators, and congressmen. It was said, ‘We want to hear what’s going on in your county from the ground floor.’”

He said he was told the specific agencies will seek to allocate money for rural development mostly in infrastructure, roads, communications and communication sites, power, energy, infrastructures that would actually provide and build for growth.”

In addition, Higbee said the Nevada representatives were given the undersecretaries’ personal cell phone numbers. “They told us they want to hear from us, and I was excited to hear about that.”

He said this was completely different from what the previous administration would have done. “They would have never even considered it, let alone give us their personal cell phone numbers and email addresses to the staffers that high up. A completely different change in attitude.”

Brackenbury agreed and said, “I thought they were trying to get down to the local level more instead of the state senate and get it straight from the people.”

Vice-President Mike Pence made a surprise visit “in the middle of the meeting,” Higbee said. “He talked to us for about five minutes, took a few pictures, then had to leave.”

Some of the questions Higbee said he asked dealt with the wild horse and burro situation, infrastructure funding, and the Nevada Test Site and Yucca Mountain.

Another person Higbee met was Kellyanne Conway, Counselor to the President. “She was just coming out of her office in the building I was in, so I took to the opportunity to step up and introduce myself. We talked briefly as we walked down the hallway. Mostly our talk was about doing interviews with the media. It was pretty interesting.”

Since returning home, he said, “I haven’t sat down and written a bunch of emails for back there yet, but I need to do that and make some comments about things happening at the Department of the Interior, Department of Justice, and a few other things that impact our counties. I hope I can get to that after the Thanksgiving holiday.”

He said the administration’s plan is to have each of the 50 states, one at a time, invited to come and meet with the undersecretaries.