TCSA History & Its Leaders

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History

 Founded in 1954 and headquartered in Nashville, the Tennessee County Services Association (TCSA) is a nonpartisan, nonprofit public interest group representing counties before the Tennessee General Assembly and the state administration.   According to the by-laws of the organization, TCSA was created for the “...purpose of developing more efficient and economical functions of local government to promote the common welfare of the people.” It was to accomplish this mission by collecting and sharing information about government and the administration of counties, by providing a means for county officials to exchange ideas and experience and by providing a means for counties to act harmoniously in regard to matters affecting the rights and liabilities of counties.  The by-laws also provide that TCSA is to work cooperatively with the National Association of Counties and other appropriate organizations to protect the interests of Tennessee counties in matters of state and national significance.  The creation of TCSA allowed for two major bodies of county government, County Judges (now known as County Mayors) and Highway Superintendents, to be associated under one umbrella organization offering opportunities for more resources and a stronger voice to better serve their communities. When Tennessee Magistrates formed an association in 1969, now known as the Tennessee County Commissioners Association, TCSA welcomed them into the fold. 

Today, TCSA is an umbrella organization made up of three affiliate associations – The Association of County Mayors (ACM), The Tennessee County Commissioner’s Association (TCCA), and The Tennessee County Highway Officials Association (TCHOA).  This combined membership represents over 1,800 elected and appointed officials of both the executive and legislative branches of county government.

What TCSA Does

TCSA offers a range of services directly and indirectly through relationships with partner agencies and organizations to deliver information resources, financial management tools, advocacy, intergovernmental relations and technical assistance. This is all done with the purpose of helping county officials improve the operation of Tennessee county government and thereby the services provided to their residents. Specifically, TCSA strives to:

Serve as a liaison for counties with other levels of government
Improve public understanding of counties
Act as a statewide advocate for counties
Inform county officials about issues impacting their office and duties
Help counties find innovative methods for meeting the challenges they face
Provide educational and networking  opportunities for county officials

TCSA works hard to secure and preserve state funds for counties and, most importantly, exerts a strong effort to prevent the passage of unfunded mandates. Throughout the legislative session, TCSA provides regular information to county officials about bills impacting county government. TCSA communicates directly with legislative and administrative officials, participates in studies and task forces, enables county officials to testify before legislative committees, and helps members of the General Assembly know firsthand how proposed legislation will impact county government. Several state boards and commissions have county government representatives serving as members by law. In general, TCSA is recognized as the representative of county government in Tennessee and is looked to for nominations for those appointments. 

TCSA hosts three major conference a year: a County Government Day event during the legislative session, a Legislative Conference at the end of session to inform county officials of the outcomes, and a Fall Conference and Trade Show that offers an extensive program of workshops and educational sessions in addition to a major showcase of vendors of goods and services used by counties.  TCSA releases publications throughout the year and hosts websites for itself and its affiliates that connect county officials with information and news of interest to local government on an on-going basis.

Partnerships and Affiliates

Over the past 60 years, as new challenges for counties arose, TCSA created programs to address those needs. The Local Government Insurance Pool and the TCSA Loan Program were established by TCSA and spun off as separate entities to provide county governments with competitive options to meet their needs for insurance and capital borrowing at a time when costs of these services in the private markets were becoming cost-prohibitive. TCSA has most recently entered into a partnership with the Tennessee Department of the Treasury to offer deferred compensation and retirement programs with highly competitive administrative fees to benefit county employees. 

One of its most crucial partnerships is a long-standing relationship TCSA has with the University of Tennessee. The association works closely with the University of Tennessee County Technical Assistance Service (CTAS) in its mission to provide prompt, accurate technical assistance on a daily hands-on basis to Tennessee’s 95 counties. This longstanding partnership began in 1973 after TCSA sought sponsors to bring the proposed legislation that ultimately founded CTAS and placed it under the University’s oversight. Today, the expertise CTAS provides covers an array of services, including financial analysis, legal consulting, law enforcement and jail consulting, statistical analysis and research, environmental services, and training. The agency also maintains a comprehensive online electronic library of information related to county government (e-Li for short). CTAS is supported by a combination of state funding through the University and by a share of certain statutory county revenue streams. By using these funds to house a staff of trained professionals that specialize in Tennessee county government in one agency, CTAS offers unparalleled free technical assistance to county governments in this state that saves taxpayers millions every year in comparison to what it would cost for counties to acquire these professional services individually. 

On a national level TCSA is affiliated with the National Association of Counties (NACo), supporting and promoting Tennessee county membership in the organization and encouraging counties’ use of NACo services and programs. TCSA lends support to the voice of NACo in Washington as it advocates for counties before the federal government on a wide range of issues. Through NACo, Tennessee county governments can access purchasing cooperatives and benefit programs that leverage the size of a national organization to bring down costs and create efficiencies.