The High Country Council of Governments Strategic Assessment
Complete Record Report
Conducted by
The Southeast Regional Directors Institute
Fall 2023

Fall 2023

At the request of the High Country Council of Governments (HCCOG) the Southeast Regional Directors Institute (SERDI) conducted a strategic assessment of the Council during the late summer and early fall of 2023.

The assessment consisted of five segments: (1) Online Surveys of the HCCOG Executive Board and High Country Municipal and County Officials (2) six focus group sessions of (a) HCCOG Executive Board (b) Planning and Resilience Leaders (c) Area Agency on Aging (d) Workforce Development Board (e) HCCOG Staff Management and (f) HCCOG professional staff. (4) HCCOG Executive Board work session and, (5) the submission of the Assessment Complete Record Report.


To partner with our local government members to effectively identify, address, and leverage challenges and opportunities in Alleghany, Ashe, Avery, Mitchell, Watauga, Wilkes, and Yancey Counties while providing innovative solutions and beneficial services for our region.


To promote economic and community prosperity throughout the region by providing high impact services to our local government members, establishing beneficial relationships with partner organizations, and building strong organizational capacity while being recognized as a model organization for regional development.

Download Strategic Plan


1. The High Country Board of Directors must get all local governments to attend and participate in the Council’s deliberations

The HCCOG has the distinction of being possibly the only council in the United States whose governing board contains a seat for each local government in the region. The commitment to its Council is strong by those Executive Board members who attend and actively participate. The Executive Board feels it is up to them to reach out and encourage those local governments that do not regularly attend to participate so that all 26 local governments have a voice at the table on region’s issues, challenges, and opportunities.

2. There are four key challenges facing the region that HCCOG is best suited to be the convener to address

The challenges (1) Housing (2) Infrastructure (3) Workforce and (4) Gentrification of the region from the outside and the generational population. “Convener” can mean leading, assembling the appropriate key leaders and/or organizations, and/or HCCOG staffing support to address whatever the challenge, opportunity, or need may be. Currently only one of the challenges have program/standing committee that can take a deeper dive/regional perspective that being Workforce. Housing at all levels and the challenge of the gentrification of the region and failure of Raleigh to recognize population shifts in communities impacting government services and impact on infrastructure that is not recognized in funding formulations from the state. In addition to traditional infrastructure (water, sewer, roads, etc.) it is important to include electric utilities, broadband, in that consideration.

3. Promotion of High Country Council of Governments

It is very important that the staff and the Board of Directors on behalf of the region’s local governments promote the HCCOG. Those that criticize are almost always unaware of the services and initiatives that HCCOG are carrying out on behalf of them and the region as a whole.

4. Having More of a Regional Focus

In addition to the traditional grant writing/technical assistance services provided by HCCOG to the local governments of the region, there should be more importance put on a regional focus. Approaching opportunities, issues, and challenges in a regional way. It gets to a convening role…if it means leading, if it means supporting, if it means coordinating, etc. it is an important role.

5. Enhance / expand the HC Workforce Development Board’s role as regional convener

While the HCWDB has a history as a focal point in workforce issues in the region, and with the exception of some recent funding from ARPA to address specific issues, stakeholders agreed that there is a need for more. The workforce issues inherent in the region’s current (and future) economy require a broader and more direct involvement by those same stakeholders. As noted frequently in the assessment process, the convener role does not place the WDB in a leadership role, it may assume other roles given the expertise or interest of other workforce/educational entities.

6. “Revisit” HCCOG’s legislative outreach effort

The HCCOG’s Legislative Committee of 10 Executive Board members should increase its engagement with the region’s legislative delegation. Participants in several focus groups think there is a need to delineate High Country’s issues from those similar but different challenges found in the Asheville metro region.