David Liebler is the Director of Public Affairs and Member Services for the California State Association of Counties. For more, visit The County Voice.

More than 300 county officials gathered in Sacramento last week for the 2010 CSAC Legislative Conference. In light of the dire status of the state budget, the timing couldn’t have been better. Conference attendees listened to State Treasurer Bill Lockyer and State Senator Denise Ducheny provide candid insights on California’s fiscal challenges. They heard grim reality peppered with much-needed humor from journalist Greg Lucas.

Our members attended workshops focusing on labor relations, federal funding and local initiatives. They applauded a dozen of their colleagues who received credentials from the CSAC Institute for Excellence in County Government. They set policy and direction for the Association. And they listened to, discussed and debated key issues that will have significant impact on our 58 counties for years to come.

Overall, it was a very successful conference. Our members headed back home with a better understanding of what is happening inside the Capitol, and they provided key input on how CSAC can best position itself to minimize impacts to California counties.

Although the conference is over, the job facing CSAC and our members is just beginning. As CSAC President Tony Oliveira stated in his opening remarks Wednesday, when focusing on state proposals to cut vital services:

“If these proposals become reality, the state would once again be balancing its books on the backs of our counties and at the expense of those who need assistance the most. We must not let that happen. We cannot afford to let that happen. We must ensure that whatever shape or direction the state budget eventually takes, that we have a say in the outcome since the stakes are too high for our counties and the 38 million people we serve…

“There is so much divisiveness going on at the state and federal level over policy and politics that county leaders must be willing to carry the torch of clarity and collaboration. We, the supervisors of California’s 58 counties, along with the thousands of our fellow county public servants, must demonstrate to the general public that we not only understand what needs to be done – we are also doing it…

“You are what California needs to lead us through these troubled times. Your advocacy in your own communities and through the halls of Sacramento is a resounding sign of hope and of courage. We come together at CSAC as a united front on behalf of the most essential government in this state: county government.”

While the skies are overcast in Sacramento today, it’s going to be a long, hot summer in the state capital.  As President Oliveira pointed out, we must work together and diligently to make sure that California counties don’t get cooked in the budget process.

For more, visit The County Voice, a place where CSAC, county officials and stakeholders can voice their thoughts on governance and issues that impact California’s 58 counties.