The National Association of Towns and Townships (NATaT) was formed more than 30 years ago to provide America’s smaller communities — towns and townships — a strong voice in Washington, D.C.
NATaT’s mission today, as it was then, is to champion fair-share federal funding decisions and promote legislative and regulatory policies that strengthen grassroots local government. Members of the Ohio Township Association are automatically NATaT members.
Representatives from six state township organizations met in August 1967 to discuss banding together to improve visibility in the nation’s capital. The result was the establishment of the National Association of Towns and Township Officials (NATTO), with a mission to further the interests of township officials and smaller communities.
The new organization had two immediate goals: the creation of a general revenue-sharing program that would help smaller local governments, and inclusion of a township official on the federal Advisory Commission of Intergovernmental Relations.
Ohio Joined as Members in 1967
Ohio joined six other states as members later in 1967, and Indiana, Maine and Minnesota joined the national association in 1972. That same year, NATTO scored its first real victory when Congress established annual sharing of federal tax revenue for states and their cities, counties and townships.
A few years later, the organization shifted from a voluntary operation to a full-time, staffed operation with permanent headquarters in Washington, D.C. Barton D. Russell was named the first full-time executive director of the newly named National Association of Towns and Townships (NATaT).
Issues the new organization focused on included funding for roads and bridges, federal dollars for rural development programs, and sewer and water facilities.
In 1977, NATaT personnel met with White House staff to develop the first-ever White House policy on rural development. NATaT successfully made townships eligible for federal Urban Development Action Grants in 1978, and NATaT representatives testified before Congress on federal assistance reforms and the need for better research.
Congress approved the national Rural Development Policy Act in 1980, following up on NATaT’s recommendations. NATaT held its first annual conference in Washington for hundreds of officials from smaller communities, raising the visibility of the national group.
In 1981, board members met with President Ronald Reagan, Agriculture Secretary John Block and Housing and Urban Development Secretary Samuel Pierce on issues important to townships. Since that time, NATaT officials have had direct access to the White House and close relationships with each sitting president.
NATaT’s Three Pressing Goals
In its fifth decade, NATaT (www.natat.org) continues to inform and educate federal officials about township government and the needs of smaller governments. NATaT represents 11,500 towns and townships across the country in areas of federal statutory, regulatory, funding and policy decisions.
Today, NATaT’s Board of Directors has identified three pressing goals: ensuring that towns and townships receive their fair share of federal funding; protecting the role of local governments in new telecommunications legislation; and increasing funding for local first responders.
NATaT now hosts an annual “Fly-in” in Washington, D.C., for members to lobby Congress, ensuring the voice of towns and townships is heard on Capitol Hill. The NATaT Fly-in takes place each spring.
NATaT has released a federal grant guide for townships. Access it here.