Tarrant County Precinct 1 Commissioner Roy Charles Brooks became the 2017-18 President of the National Association of Counties (NACo) on Monday July 17 in Franklin County (city of Columbus), Ohio during the organization’s annual business meeting.
Outgoing NACo President Bryan Deslodge from Leon County, Florida, turned the gavel over to Brooks during the organization’s annual business meeting. Commissioner Brooks’ daughter, Royce Brooks, an attorney from Atlanta, Georgia, swore him in. Also on stage with him were his wife, Dr. Jennifer Giddings-Brooks, and their son Marion, an attorney living in Los Angeles, California.
In an interview before the ceremony, Commissioner Brooks said, “One of my main points is to give the people of Tarrant County a voice at the table when policies are made in Washington, D.C., that affect them. My role is not to usurp power from our representatives in Washington, and I hope they consider me as an advocate – a spirit guide through the national policy formation. We want to bring a focus of real needs because local people live in counties.
“I will be able to tell the stories of what the need looks like in the context of Tarrant County.”
From the podium following the ceremony, Brooks outlined some of this plans.
“During the course of my presidency, I am introducing an initiative to shape the county’s role to break the cycle of poverty in America,” he said. “Just as I have concentrated on in Tarrant County, I am prioritizing generational childhood poverty with a focus on birth to age 3 early education. This emphasis will mirror what we have implemented in Tarrant County Precinct 1 to serve the underserved.”
In supporting his overall poverty initiative, he plans to advocate for federal policies that support county efforts to expand opportunities. He also called for government to provide tools to increase counties’ capacity to combine poverty to build healthy, vibrant, safe counties across the country.
“The economic benefits to communities at large are compelling,” he added. “For every $1 we invest, we save $7 in teen pregnancy, healthcare and incarceration rates. This initiative is in everybody’s interest.”
Commissioner Brooks added that the Human Services and Education Committee of NACo will be an integral part of his plan. He quoted that more than 43 million Americans – 13 percent of the population – live below the poverty line. That number is the equivalent of the combined residents of the 23 least populous states.
Citing that nearly one in five American children live in poverty, he added that a majority of counties have poverty rates between 20 percent and 58 percent for school-age children.
“Poverty is not just an urban, suburban or rural problem,” he continued. “It is everywhere. Even in some of our most affluent counties, there are pockets of poverty. This is not a partisan problem and neither are its solutions.”
To help inform people of the county about efforts to reduce childhood poverty, NACo has released a new publication, “Serving the Underserved: Counties Addressing Poverty.” The narrative outlines some of the local responses to poverty and federal policies that can help those most in need.
According to Commissioner Brooks, “Counties are the ultimate safety net for our residents, but that is not all. Safety net services also make good financial sense. When we make investments and demonstrate leadership in early childhood development, we will lower future costs in healthcare, child welfare, public safety and justice services.”
Commissioner Brooks said he is most proud of how his office has become a place where people can come for help with their problems. “At one of the lowest points in their lives, they have gone everywhere else and not received any help. Our policy is to solve that problem. We stay with them throughout the process – we don’t hand them off to someone else.”
His team focuses on health care for the homeless, including a Nurse Family Partnership for at-risk mothers. Each woman works directly with a nurse case manager to navigate her through the process for her child and family.
Brooks has represented Tarrant County as a community volunteer, a city elected official, and now as County Commissioner for more than 30 years. .