Caleb S. Cage: Visits provide an up-close look at sites rarely seen
I’m always happy to travel to Elko, where the Nevada Office of Veterans Services has two excellent employees, a thriving partnership with the county, and great relationships with the local veteran service organizations. We visited again last week for the Veterans Services Commission’s quarterly meeting, and it was great as always. Every time we leave, I wish we had more opportunities to visit with our staffers and the community, and to make sure we are in tune with the direction our commission intends.
The commission was created in statute and has nine members. Five are appointed by Gov. Brian Sandoval, two are appointed by the Senate majority leader and speaker of the Assembly, and two represent our cemetery committees. Their primary function is to advise the governor, our agency and the Legislature on issues relating to veterans, but they do a lot more than that. They help us communicate with veteran service organizations, help us focus our resources, and provide several layers of accountability.
State law allows for meetings to be anywhere as long as the public can join by phone. We usually host meetings in the state’s primary population centers, but we like to host meetings in other areas. Once a year the commission meets at our cemeteries in Fernley and Boulder City, for instance, to visit the grounds and recommend improvements. And because we have an office in Elko, we commonly visit northeastern Nevada.
At this most recent meeting, we updated the committee on the status of our three primary programs — our cemeteries, nursing home and service officer program — to ensure members were up to date on the challenges and opportunities we faced over the past quarter. We updated them on the progress being made within the Women Veteran Program, including the women’s wellness summit to be hosted in Elko this year, as well as our ROVER program, which we have been building to serve rural Nevada.
Their feedback and support was helpful. Not only do the commissioners provide guidance, they let us know how our efforts can include or be improved by the organizations that they represent, particularly Disabled American Veterans, Veterans of Foreign Wars and the American Legion.
The commissioners are particularly active and interested in our legislative efforts, as were the members of the public who joined us. As I wrote about last week, the 77th Legislative Session was pretty successful, and they were generally pleased with the progress. Even with this success, we all agreed it was not too early to start preparing for another successful session in 2015.
One of the best parts of holding our meetings in various locations is the opportunity it provides us to meet with our local staff. We stopped by the office and discussed how things were going with Martha Dixon and Deborah Gentry, as well as how we could improve them going forward.
With the session behind us, we have a clear picture for the way ahead for the next two years. With the commission meeting behind us, our office has clear guidance for the next quarter and beyond. There is a lot of work left to do regarding both, but based on the feedback we have received, we know we have an excellent and supportive statewide community backing us.
Caleb S. Cage is the executive director of the Nevada Office of Veterans Services. You can read his blog at http://veterans.nv.gov/blog.