The new year brings new executive management to two associations serving local governments, the National League of Cities (NLC) and the National Association of Counties (NACo).

Photo of Matthew ChaseMatthew Chase, formerly executive director of the National Association of Development Organizations (NADO), became NACo's new executive director in September.

Photo of Clarence AnthonyClarence Anthony, who served as mayor of South Bay, Fla., for 24 years and was NLC president from 1998 to 1999, became the new executive director on January 1. Both replace retiring executive directors who had been on the job more than 20 years, and both assume the reins of organizations facing unprecedented challenges and accelerating change.

Chase, who succeeds former NACo chief Larry Naake, will serve as the spokesman for NACo and America's counties, advocate before federal policymakers, and promote counties and county issues to the media on behalf of NACo's more than 2,400 members. Chase says he will look aggressively to increase NACo's relevance in the federal policy arena, a critical factor given the recent fiscal cliff impasse and related economic issues that could impact county governments.

Chase will also seek to raise awareness of the large role of counties, which in some cases are an "unknown level of government," he says. For example, many people are surprised to learn that counties play a significant role in Medicaid in 27 states.

Chase says NACo under his leadership will be looking to expand resources and capabilities to help members navigate uncertain times. For example, the organization will strengthen its research division, collecting more data on counties and trends such as budgets, staffing and economics.

NLC was transitioning its executive leadership during December, a busy season complicated by the need to respond to issues such as the fiscal cliff and preserving the tax-exempt status of municipal bonds. Anthony worked closely with his predecessor, Donald Borut, whom he has known for 15 years, to implement a smooth transition plan.

As executive director, Anthony will manage the operations, initiatives and staff of the association while working closely with NLC's leadership and membership to develop and implement a strategic plan advancing the interests of NLC's member cities. He will also serve as a key spokesman for America's cities and towns, advocating before policymakers and promoting municipal issues on behalf of more than 18,000 cities.

Anthony sees a need to change from a reactive mode to a more proactive stance when advocating municipal issues to the federal government. "We have been responsive in the past, but we need to drive the discussions," he said. "We are the experts in what cities need, and we are going to start driving the issues."

Larry Anderson is a Georgia-based freelance writer.