CSG Looks Back as it Moves Forward

On Aug. 31, The Council of State Governments rededicated its national headquarters in Lexington, Ky., after an extensive, $5.5 million renovation to the building where CSG got its start in the Bluegrass State.

CSG’s history, however, and the council’s commitment to championing excellence in state governments, dates back even further.

In 1925, Henry W. Toll, then a Colorado state senator, conceived the idea of an association in which legislators would work together for the purpose of improving legislative standards and personnel throughout the country. Toll created the American Legislators’ Association, the forerunner to CSG. In 1933, he founded CSG—a national, nonpartisan organization—to assist and advance the institution of state government. About five years later, a newly completed building in Chicago became CSG’s central home.

CSG stayed in Chicago for about 32 years. In 1967, CSG and the Commonwealth of Kentucky entered into an agreement that provided CSG with 23 acres of state land and a headquarters building at the cost of nearly $1.2 million. CSG leased the building for $1 a year for a 99-year term.

The building was constructed to the council’s specifications and provided ample space for CSG’s expanding programs, especially in the fields of state executive and legislative staff development and training. CSG dedicated the new headquarters in Lexington, Ky., on June 9, 1969. At the dedication, Toll, who served as executive director until 1938, praised the thousands of state officials who had helped to make the council a success.

Services offered by CSG have evolved and improved over time. The Book of the States, which provides relevant and timely information about state government, was first published in 1935. CSG continues to publish The Book of the States annually.

State Government News was first published in 1958. In 2010, State News was transformed into CSG’s current bimonthly magazine, Capitol Ideas. CSG also launched its online Knowledge Center in 2010.  The Knowledge Center provides tools and information to help policymakers better understand complex policy issues.

The Eastern Regional Conference was established in 1937. CSG opened a Washington, D.C. office in 1938. The Midwestern Legislative Conference was established in 1945. The Southern Conference—now the Southern Legislative Conference—and the Western Regional Conference—now CSG West—were both established in 1947. In 2006, the CSG Justice Center was formed.

Suggested State Legislation, or SSL, on topics of current importance to states are published in annual volumes. The program started in 1940.

The CSG Henry Toll Fellowship program, a leadership development program for state officials, was established in 1986.

Also in the mid-1980s, CSG decided to keep its headquarters in Lexington, Ky., after considering offers from other states. In 1993, the state financed the construction of a second building—known as the Daniel M. Sprague National Headquarters Building—to facilitate CSG’s continued growth. Sprague was CSG’s eighth executive director, serving from 1989 until 2008.

In 2012—under the leadership of David Adkins, CSG’s executive director since 2008—the Commonwealth of Kentucky appropriated the money for the reconstruction of the original headquarters, resulting in a LEED-certified facility with a café, wellness center, an outdoor plaza and spacious room for hosting events.

CSG and affiliated organizations continue to serve the nation from Lexington, Ky. CSG now has nearly 250 employees and an enterprise-wide budget of more than $50 million. 

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