MACo’s in-person 2020 Winter Conference has been cancelled due to ongoing concerns around the COVID-19 pandemic. Instead, the Association will offer e-learning opportunities and virtual members-only meetings focused on legislative advocacy in 2021.
MACo President and Baltimore City Council Vice President Sharon Green Middleton announced on September 8 the decision of MACo leadership to cancel the in-person Winter Conference. Scheduled for December 9-11 at the Hyatt in Cambridge, MD, the conference in a normal year would draw about 800 participants for 3 days of policy-focused discussions and educational sessions. After examining social distancing requirements and safety precautions – including consideration of alternate versions of the event to reduce the size and offer hybrid online options – the MACo Board of Directors determined there was no version of the conference that would be worth the risk of an in-person offering.
Michael Sanderson, MACo’s Executive Director noted:
“So much of the Winter Conference is about preparing for the upcoming legislative session. There’s a ton of value in the breakout sessions and panels – no question – but what makes this event special are the more casual interactions where you can connect with a legislator or potential ally for the issue you’re going to be working in January. That’s a difficult conversation to have from six feet away. The MACo Board made the right call here, and I’m proud to be serving under leaders who understand the risks and put their responsibilities to our members and participants first.”
Instead of an in-person or virtual conference in December, MACo will be planning 4 virtual members-only discussion sessions focused on the organization’s legislative initiatives, along with expected legislation in the categories of education, land use, and tax/finance. A fifth virtual members-only meeting will serve as MACo’s annual business meeting to vote on various Association business.
Following the success of MACo’s virtual Summer Series, a companion Winter Web Series is in development and will focus on resources and best practices to help counties with the business of county government. Details will be announced soon.
Both MACo’s staff and Board of Directors are deeply saddened that Winter Conference had to be cancelled, but wholeheartedly stand by President Middleton’s comment in her official conference statement:
…if we have learned anything in the months since COVID-19 changed the way we live our lives, it is that local government will persevere – we will fill the void, we will bridge the gap, and we will continue to be there for the people of Maryland. And MACo will help us do just that.