Prince George's CountyWilliam J. Ford

Prince George’s Leaders Tout County as ‘Crown Jewel’ on Eve of National Conference

One day before Prince George’s County hosts a national conference with slightly more than 2,000 people, county leaders touted the majority-Black jurisdiction as the “crown jewel” of the D.C. region.

They spoke during a press briefing Thursday before the 86th annual National Association of Counties conference begins Friday as the first major event in the county and at the Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center at National Harbor since the coronavirus pandemic affected the state of Maryland in March 2020.

It took three months for county and Gaylord National representatives to prepare for this year’s annual convention for the organization known as NACo.

Leslie Graves, president and CEO of Experience Prince George’s, said County Executive Angela Alsobrooks called her at 1 a.m. and wanted the NACo conference in the county. The national conference running from Friday to Monday marks the first one in Prince George’s.

“I knew she meant business … at 1 o’clock in the morning in her sleep. Make this happen,” Graves said. “Everybody who needed to come into the loop came into the loop because we understand in this county nothing happens if we don’t operate like a team.”

Leslie Graves (left), president and CEO of Prince George's Experience, left, speaks during a press briefing on July 8, one day before the 86th annual National Association of Counties conference at the Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center at National Harbor. (Robert R. Roberts/The Washington Informer)
Leslie Graves (left), president and CEO of Prince George’s Experience, left, speaks during a press briefing on July 8, one day before the 86th annual National Association of Counties conference at the Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center at National Harbor. (Robert R. Roberts/The Washington Informer)

Gaylord occupying 600,000 square feet of meeting and activity space with parts of the resort overlooking the Potomac River also helped to secure hosting the conference, which didn’t take place last year in Orange County, Florida, because of the ongoing pandemic.

Dan McKeon, general manager at Gaylord National, said it took a year to replace furniture, carpets and other amenities in all 2,000 guest rooms and suites.

Hand sanitizer stations are placed at various places next to meeting rooms and other locations in the resort.

Some of the 700 Gaylord employees who worked Thursday at the convention center smiled and greeted conference guests who came a day early for various meetings and summits. Thursday marked the first time Gaylord opened its doors for an event.

“People are excited to be back. Everybody’s smiling,” McKeon said. “We are going to have an amazing experience.”

The conference, which has about 300 people who registered to participate virtually, will feature keynote speeches from Vice President Kamala Harris on Friday, U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Marcia Fudge on Saturday and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Monday.

One of the main focuses for this year’s conference will be how the 3,690 counties recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic and utilizing $65.1 billion for counties from the federal government’s American Rescue Plan.

Several county officials plan to participate in sessions during the four-day conference such as George Askew, deputy chief administrative officer for health, human services and education. He will join University of Maryland professor Brenda Jones Harden on Saturday to discuss how research on neuroscience and its effect on children can help shape policy decisions.

Tara Jackson, chief administrative officer, is scheduled to speak Sunday on women in county administrations.

“Prince George’s County has so much to offer. It’s not a surprise that it was chosen [to host the conference]. I think the surprise is what took so long,” said County Council member Monique Anderson-Walker, who represents District 8 where National Harbor resides. “This kickoff here at Gaylord National Harbor really sets the tone for what we are attempting to push forward and that is we’re open for business and we can be successful in keeping a safe environment.”

William J. Ford – Washington Informer Staff Writer

I decided I wanted to become a better writer while attending Bowie State University and figured that writing for the school newspaper would help. I’m not sure how much it helped, but I enjoyed it so much I decided to keep on doing it, which I still thoroughly enjoy 20 years later. If I weren’t a journalist, I would coach youth basketball. Actually, I still play basketball, or at least try to play, once a week. My kryptonite is peanut butter. What makes me happy – seeing my son and two godchildren grow up. On the other hand, a bad call made by an official during a football or basketball game makes me throw up my hands and scream. Favorite foods include pancakes and scrambled eggs which I could eat 24-7. The strangest thing that’s ever happened to me, or more accurately the most painful, was when I was hit by a car on Lancaster Avenue in Philadelphia. If I had the power or money to change the world, I’d make sure everyone had three meals a day. And while I don’t have a motto or favorite quote, I continue to laugh which keeps me from driving myself crazy. You can reach me several ways: Twitter @jabariwill, Instagram will_iam.ford2281 or e-mail, wford@washingtoninformer.com

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