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Wash Journal   Fairfield Ledger
Neighbors Growing Together | Aug 20, 2018

HC sheriff 1 of 60 elected Iowa officials to attend conference in D.C.

VP Pence made surprise appearance
Jul 17, 2018
Photo by: Submitted Henry County Sheriff McNamee, second from the right, stands with other elected officials from Iowa in the White House on Tuesday, July 10.

By Grace King, Mt. Pleasant News

 

Henry County Sheriff Rich McNamee got a nod from Vice President Mike Pence while visiting Washington, D.C. for a conference with law enforcement officers last week.

McNamee was one of about 60 elected officials from Iowa to attend the conference, traveling with three other sheriffs from southeastern Iowa for the quick three-day trip.

While Pence was not on the itinerary to make an appearance, he told elected officials as he stepped into the India Room in the Eisenhower Executive Office building overlooking the White House that he wanted to acknowledge the hard work of local law enforcement officers throughout the country.

Pence shook hands with McNamee, Hardin County Sheriff Dave McDaniel, Lee County Sheriff Stacy Weber and Marion County Sheriff Jason Sandholdt, saying, “God bless you,” and thanking them for their service.

“He was a really cool gentleman,” McNamee said.

While all sheriffs, county supervisors, county attorneys, treasurers, recorders, mayors and other elected officials from the 99 Iowa counties were invited, only a handful were able to make the trip. The invitation was extended seeking to improve relationships between the federal government and local elected officials.

“I thought this is an opportunity for our little Henry County, Iowa to go to our nation’s capital, and for me personally it was an honor,” McNamee said. “I thought I’ll probably never have this opportunity again.”

The conference was on Tuesday, July 10. McNamee left Monday and returned Wednesday.

Counselor to President Donald Trump Kellyanne Conway, Chief of Staff for the U.S. Department of Justice Matthew Whitaker, Deputy Secretary Patrick Pizzella with the U.S. Department of Labor and Administrator Linda McMahon with the U.S. Small Business Administration were notable speakers during the conference.

McNamee spoke with Whitaker following the conference, asking him to support grants such as the BJA Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant (JAG) and grants that help police departments employ extra personnel. The JAG grant is a federal grant program that supports drug task forces across the country.

Senator Joni Ernst, who knew and greeted McNamee by name, and Senator Chuck Grassley also made an appearance.

The conference focused on three priorities of the current Administration: the heroin epidemic, protecting U.S. borders and Back the Blue.

Conway specifically spoke about the steps being taken to tackle the heroin epidemic while simultaneously stressing that they are not forgetting about methamphetamine use. “Especially in the Midwest, that’s a major concern,” McNamee said. “Kellyanne Conway talked about that as well — heroin vs. meth — and we’re working on this one, but we’re not forgetting about that one.”

Secondly, speakers at the conference discussed the goals of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and Homeland Security.

The conference comes two months after 32 men were arrested from MPC Enterprises in Mt. Pleasant by ICE officers. The Henry County Sheriff’s Office and Mt. Pleasant Police Department assisted in the arrests.

“I don’t have a choice whether I can do my job or not,” McNamee said about assisting in the raid. “(ICE) and Homeland Security are doing their job better in 2018 than they’ve done in a long time.

“We have a lot of felons who come in and out of our custody. Every one of them potentially has a family and is potentially separated from their family. Regardless if it’s immigration, meth, murder, drunken driving third offense, all those people go to prison,” McNamee continued. “I feel bad for any little child that is without their mom or dad, but I still have a job to do.”

Finally, the conference touched on Back the Blue, a public awareness campaign dedicated to displaying public support for law enforcement throughout the U.S. During his surprise appearance, Pence said he and Trump are making a point during their administration to acknowledge military and law enforcement throughout the country.

“To me, that was a big deal,” McNamee said about all three points. “From a law enforcement perspective, I was very impressed (Pence) talked about that stuff.”

In the midst of such important names in government, McNamee even experienced brief celebrity himself when a tour group from Peru asked to take a picture with the U.S. law enforcement officers while they were walking throughout D.C.

In addition to a conference, attendees were given a brief tour of the White house, which included seeing the formal dining rooms, the Red Room and the Green Room.

McNamee observed that regardless of what political party was in office, the walls represented the nation’s history fairly and bipartisan. “As soon as we walked through the door … pick a president. They’re everywhere,” McNamee said, mentioning a picture of Barack Obama, Abraham Lincoln and of course Trump and First Lady Melania Trump.

Secret Service officers were cordial, but direct, McNamee said. “They have a major job to do, and that place is very secure, but they were polite and friendly,” he said. “If you stepped out of line, they corrected you promptly, but they were reasonable about it as long as you didn’t buck them.”

McNamee’s trip came on the heels of a weeklong bus tour to D.C. he attended with his mother. Comparing the two experiences, McNamee said there’s an overwhelming spirit in the air in the nation’s capital.

“You can feel the history of the city,” McNamee said. “You can feel the honor of being in the nation’s capital. You can just sense the importance of that community.”

McNamee continued, “It was an honor to represent all of Iowa there. It was really humbling.”

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