By Lexington Souers
Regional meetings were not abnormal at the inception of The Council of State Governments. Early editions of Book of the States act more as a diary, with meetings on freight rates, taxes and executive leadership, among other topics. CSG was always meant to be a “secretariat and clearing house,” to ease the concerns of the states. The articles of organization called for the creation of regional offices, the first of which opened in New York City in 1937. An office in Washington, D.C., was also opened the following year.
In the years that followed, CSG opened offices in the Midwest, South and West. Toll knew that regions were unique, concentrated “laboratories of democracy” and could curate solutions to specific policy issues. Increased communication also led to regional growth as ideas from across the country reached new leaders. Once the Eastern Regional office opened, their leadership understood that they were a “direct branch” of the central office and acted as a liaison. The Book of the States notes that “the experience of the district office has clearly indicated the value of field representatives closely associated with the interstate problems involved in the several regions across the country.”
A New York Times editorial touted CSG for its “fitness of the machinery for the job,” reading that “CSG is a practical machine of information and action, highly useful in a day of complex problems.”
The Eastern Regional Office values nonpartisan and inclusive action for multi-state solutions and leader-to-leader communication. They publish resolutions, newsletters and other documents compiling policy work. The office also hosts state visits, task force meetings and webinars for members, as well as hosting trainings, such as EASTRAIN and the Eastern Leadership Academy. The CSG Justice Center, founded in 2006, is also located in New York City.
CSG Midwest established an office in Lombard, Illinois, in 1945. The office serves 11 states, one province and several affiliated areas through policy support and research. As well, the region hosts the Bowhay Institute for Legislative Leadership Development, which is a region-specific program for leaders to improve their own skills as well as meeting with professional development leaders and collogues.
Both CSG South and CSG West opened offices in Decatur, Georgia, and Sacramento, California, respectively in 1947. Much like the other offices, they aid in policy and research analysis and leadership development. CSG South hosts programs for legislative staff, agency directors and the Center of the Advancement of Leadership Skills.
Those in a CSG West member state can attend the Border Legislative Academy, which promotes binational leadership, and the Western Legislative Academy. Customized training is also available through the WESTRAIN program.
The national leadership offered by CSG has utilized the experience being a regional leader provides. The third CSG executive director, Brevard Crihfield, served in the Washington, D.C., office, the New York office and as the Midwest regional representative, and used his experience as a regional leader to expand the services offered by CSG. Hebert Wiltsee replaced Crihfield as the fourth executive director, following a long tenure as director of CSG South and as director of research and publications. Even the current executive director, David Adkins, formerly served as chair of CSG Midwest.
“As a legislator, I served as chair of CSG Midwest. From that experience, I met and learned from incredible CSG staff members and legislative colleagues throughout the Midwest,” Adkins said. “Legislators from other states became my mentors, my advisors and my closest friends. Serving in public office has its rewards, but it can also be tough. I found at CSG a family of people, like me, who were passionate about public service and whose camaraderie helped sustain me through some dark days.”
The national Headquarters moved to Lexington, Kentucky, in 1967. Years later, the Center of Innovation opened at the National Headquarters to aid in research requests and focus on policy concerns throughout the states. Now, CSG serves as a harbor for state leaders and legislators across the nation and beyond, consistently providing the resources and opportunities they need to become more successful public servants. A commitment that David Adkins invites all state officials to utilize.
“I invite every state official to find a home in the CSG family,” Adkins said. “CSG will make you a better, more effective public servant and your participation will make CSG a stronger force for good.”