Focus Policy Blog


Innovative Officials Meet in DC at Joint Center December 2015 Roundtable

Last week, the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies hosted 25 of the nation’s most innovative and influential elected state, county, local, and tribal officials at a 3-day policy roundtable in Washington, DC. The 25 elected officials met with leading experts and policymakers at the White House, the U.S. Capitol Complex, and GW Law School. The sessions focused largely on three topics: workforce development, voting, and lessons from Detroit (e.g., economic development, facing fiscal challenges, neighborhood revitalization).

Selection Process
The 25 participants were selected in a competitive nationwide process. The selection committee focused on the most innovative and thoughtful policymakers in the nation who represent significant communities of color with a significant potential for leadership in our increasingly diverse nation. “These were the best and the brightest, and we were pleased to have them join us to provide insights on research and the most innovative ideas in government,” said Spencer Overton, President of the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies.
The elected officials selected included both Republicans and Democrats, as well as African-Americans, Asian-Americans, Latinos, and Native Americans.  The elected officials came from 19 states that account for more than 71 percent of people of color in the United States (more than 85 million people).  Most of the officials selected hold leadership positions (e.g., state legislative floor leader, county commission chair, mayor, city council president, tribal chair).
Roundtable participants met with a variety of leaders, including Deputy Assistant to the President and Director of Intergovernmental Affairs Jerry Abramson, Deputy Assistant to the President for the Office of Urban Affairs, Justice, & Opportunity Roy Austin, U.S. House Assistant Democratic Leader James Clyburn, U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx,  Deputy Assistant to the President and Counselor to the Vice President Don Graves, Assistant to the President and Cabinet Secretary Broderick Johnson, Brookings VP and Metropolitan Policy Program Director Bruce Katz, Asian Americans Advancing Justice President Mee Moua, U.S. House Republican Conference Chairman Cathy McMorris Rodgers, NALEO Executive Director Arturo Vargas, and many others.
Speakers and Program
The selection committee that chose the 25 innovative state, county, and local elected officials included Georgia House Minority Leader Stacey Abrams, former White House Associate Director of Intergovernmental Affairs and Public Engagement Charles W. Galbraith, former Kansas State Representative Raj Goyle, Asian Pacific American Institute for Congressional Studies (APAICS) President and CEO Floyd Mori, Colorado House Speaker Pro Tem Dan Pabon, former Northwest Indian Bar Association President Rion J. Ramirez, Santa Ana Mayor Pro Tem Vincent Sarmiento (California), Louisville City Council President David Tandy, and APAICS Program Director Amy Watanabe.
At the opening reception of the Roundtable, sponsored by Citi, the Joint Center showed a short film entitled Harlem on My Plate, with an introduction by Schomburg Center Director Khalil Gibran Muhammad PhD.
During the Roundtable, the Joint Center also awarded its prestigious Louis E. Martin Great American Award to former Joint Center President Eddie Williams (1972-2004). Previous recipients of the award include Cory Booker (2014), Susan Rice (2013), Kasim Reed (2012), John Lewis (2012), Jesse L. Jackson, Sr. (2011), Dorothy Height (2010), James Clyburn (2009), Charles Rangel (2008), William Jefferson Clinton (2007), Muhammad Ali (2006), Vernon Jordan (2005), and Jimmy Carter (2004).
On the final day of the Roundtable, the Joint Center released its report “Diversity Among Top Senate Staff,” which has received extensive media coverage in the Atlantic, the Washington Post, the Associated Press, and several other publications.
This roundtable event was made possible thanks to the generous support of Citi, CTIA, the Democracy Fund, DTE Energy, FedEx, the Ford Foundation, GW Law, INSIGHT America, the Joyce Foundation, JPMorgan Chase & Co, the Kapor Center, PepsiCo, T-Mobile, Verizon, and the W.K. Kellogg Foundation.
Next Steps
Based on the discussions and feedback provided by the elected officials who participated, the Joint Center will publish policy briefs and produce a series of 4-minute videos on the issues discussed. The Joint Center will hold its next Roundtable in June 2016.
25 Elected Officials Selected to Participate in December 2015 Roundtable
New Hanover County, North Carolina Commission Chairman Jonathan Barfield, Jr.
Wayne County, Michigan Commission Vice Chair Alisha Bell
National Congress of American Indians President & Swinomish Tribal Chair Brian Cladoosby
Nevada Senate Minority Leader Aaron Ford
Gary, Indiana Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson
Hawaii House Minority Floor Leader Beth Fukumoto Chang
Cook County, Illinois Board of Commissioners Business & Economic Chair Jesús “Chuy” García
Austin, Texas City Council  Public Utilities Chair Delia Garza
Miami, Florida City Commission Vice Chair Keon Hardemon
Georgia House Minority Whip Carolyn Hugley
Idaho Representative & Coeur D’Alene Tribal Member Paulette Jordan
Virginia Delegate Mark Keam
Jersey City, New Jersey Council President Rolando Lavarro Jr.
Tampa, Florida City Councilman Guido Maniscalco
San Antonio, Texas City Council Intergovernmental Relations Chair Cris Medina
Paterson, New Jersey City Council Vice President Domingo Alex Mendez
Atlanta, Georgia City Council President Ceasar Mitchell
New York State Assembly Assistant Speaker & National Hispanic Caucus of State Legislators Co-founder Felix W. Ortiz
New Mexico House Business & Employment Committee Chair Jane E. Powdrell-Culbert
Douglas County, Nebraska Commission Vice Chair Chris Rodgers
Connecticut Assembly Deputy Majority Leader Jason Rojas
Richland County, South Carolina Council Chairman Torrey Rush
New Jersey Assembly Majority Conference Leader Shavonda Sumter
Hollister, California Mayor Ignacio Velazquez
New York City Council Deputy Leader Jumaane Williams