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Get to Know: The Council of State Governments

As a former state legislator and member of The Council of State Governments (CSG), I was excited to accept my role a year ago as the organization’s executive director and CEO. I knew how CSG enriched my service as a legislator by providing me with great insight including what I can learn from the experiences of leaders from other states.

I know the future of CSG is very bright and I want to build on our existing strengths as America’s only regionally-based, multi-branch, nonpartisan organization of state leaders. For 77 years, the states and territories have come together through The Council of State Governments to learn from each other, to advocate for the interest of the states at the federal level and to enhance the ability of state leaders to serve the common good.

When former Colorado state senator Henry Toll founded CSG in 1933, he envisioned an organization that would facilitate greater interstate cooperation, help states interact more productively with the federal government and assist state leaders by developing the tools they need to govern effectively.

As state government has evolved and changed, CSG has adapted to provide those tools, products and services that empower state leaders to achieve more than they might have ever dreamed possible.

The initial leadership of CSG was comprised of legislative and executive branch officials. Among the organizations affiliated with CSG in the early years was the National Association of Attorneys General. From 1936 to 1980, CSG served as NAAG’s secretariat. In the mid-1970s, many of the executive branch organizations established their own offices in Washington, D.C. However, they continue to work cooperatively with CSG as voices of the state government community on Capitol Hill. NAAG and other partners contribute material published annually in CSG’s Book of the States, the essential state government reference tool.

CSG continues to foster interstate cooperation. The National Center for Interstate Compacts, for example, provides technical assistance to states developing compacts and helped develop the Interstate Compact for Adult Offender Supervision and the Interstate Compact for Juveniles, just to name a few.

Interbranch cooperation is promoted by CSG in several ways. The CSG Justice Center board of directors, for example, includes state legislative leaders, judges, corrections administrators, juvenile justice agency directors, and law enforcement professionals; together, they represent a cross-section of the senior-level state officials who work to enhance public safety.

During our annual conference in December, CSG’s Interbranch Working Group hosted a session titled, “A Discussion on the Future of Fair and Impartial State Courts.” The panel was comprised of four state chief justices, who provided CSG’s membership with insights on the unique challenges facing the state judicial systems.

In addition, CSG’s Henry Toll Fellowship Program annually provides a week-long boot camp of leadership development for 40 of the brightest state officials from all three branches of state government.

CSG celebrates state achievements through the annual Innovations Awards and identifies the best legislation from around the country through the Suggested State Legislation program.

In helping states meet the complex demands of governance, the CSG policy staff at the national and regional level tracks public policy issues including education, health, energy and environment, and transportation. Recently, CSG launched the Comparative Performance Measurement Project, which seeks to collect, analyze and publish comparative performance data so states can better set reachable targets for their services and identify successful state practices.

There has never been a more exciting or challenging time to be a state leader. History teaches us that often the greatest leaps forward spring from adversity. While it is clear state leaders will confront some of the most difficult choices ever in the coming year, I believe from that experience new seeds of change will be planted and from those seeds new solutions and transformative innovations will emerge and grow. All of us at CSG look forward to continuing our close and productive partnership with our member states attorneys general.

David Adkins is a graduate of the University of Kansas School of Law. He served eight years in the Kansas House and four years in the Kansas Senate. Prior to joining CSG as executive director/CEO, Adkins served as Vice Chancellor for External Affairs at the University of Kansas Medical Center. He can be contacted at For more information on CSG, please visit

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