AAC director extends gratitude to many
By Chris Villines, AAC Executive Director
Henry Ford once said, “If everyone is moving forward together, then success takes care of itself.” To the countywide officials of Arkansas, you moved forward in grand fashion this fall and, with more than 70 percent of the vote, we passed a constitutional amendment that will give county officials four-year terms beginning with those sworn in Jan. 1, 2019.
The Association of Arkansas Counties (AAC) board of directors voted unanimously during the 90th General Assembly to seek this amendment, and county officials alongside the AAC pushed for its inclusion as one of the three ballot issues referred by the legislature for vote in the 2016 general election.
It was amended along the way to include provisions such as not requiring unopposed candidates to have names listed on the ballot, as well as a clarified definition of “infamous crime,” which disallows certain people from holding office.
To be referred from the legislature, it took leadership in the form of several key legislators, and we want to take this time to thank Rep. Jack Ladyman (District 59) and Rep. Brandt Smith (District 58), along with Sen. Bryan King (District 5), for their help in keeping the joint resolution alive and ultimately securing its passage out of both chambers. There were countless others who helped along the way, such as Rep. Mark McElroy (District 11) who gave an impassioned speech from the house floor in support of the difficult job many of our county officials face.
The 90th General Assembly adopted the resolution, almost in unanimity, and we want to thank all of our friends in the legislature for their hard work in giving the people of Arkansas the opportunity to vote for the measure. It is edifying to see the people of our state embrace Issue 1 with overwhelming support (70.22 percent). These results support the legislature’s decision to put the change before the populace.
Once this issue was selected as one of those to appear on the ballot, state law precluded advocacy on the part of AAC. However, a ballot question committee was formed to help guide the issue, and we want to particularly thank the five members of the committee: Sheriff John Montgomery of Baxter County, Treasurer/Collector Debra Buckner from Pulaski County, Judge Jeff Arey from Saline County, Collector Stephanie Stanton from Jefferson County and Assessor Russell Hill from Washington County. These five individuals devoted much time and effort to the cause, and the county elected officials owe them a debt of gratitude for their hard work.
I cannot stress enough the importance of four-year terms for the continuity of county government. For example, many county elected officials who were sworn in for the first time on Jan. 1, 2015, found themselves filing to run for office only ten months later in October of the same year. The idea that these officials have only ten months to build a resume, much less make a decision to continue in this capacity, is short sighted at best. What we need in county offices are people who think towards the future, people who plan instead of react, and four-year terms will make county government in our state better because it provides the environment we need to think long term.
At two years, Arkansas had the shortest terms for county officials in our country, and this move will reduce the number of elections and save money for our people. Thank you to all who were involved in this process, and thank you to the legislature and people of Arkansas for making county government more effective.
In reading the summer and fall issues of County Lines, you may have noticed a button on the front cover of our magazine. I am proud to tell the readers that our magazine, our Twitter feed, our Facebook page and our E-newsletter all received national awards over the summer from the National Association of County Information Officers at the annual NACo conference.
The magazine received a “Superior” rating (the highest award) in the external publications category, and deservedly so. Our communications team of Scott Perkins and Christy Smith do a fantastic job putting our quarterly magazine together, and the contributors of the magazine continue to amaze with relevant, timely and informative material to work with.
County Lines is a wealth of information that is well put together and laid out in a clean and easy-to-read format. Much credit goes to current staff, but the vision for the magazine largely rests with Eddie Jones. Eddie devoted many resources and talents to the magazine, including the hiring of our first communications director, Randy Kemp. It is a privilege that we continue to read Eddie’s great work in each issue to this day.
Thank you to all of our contributors and to our communications team for the tireless work you put in to all of our forms of communication.
The 91st General Assembly is fast approaching, and we encourage you all to be involved. It may be as simple as having a cup of coffee with your legislators and inviting them by the courthouse, or serving in leadership on the legislative committee in your association. There are a countless number of ways you can get involved.
Many of our member associations will be putting together rotations of elected officials to be at the Capitol — and you all need to know that we are here for you to help guide you through the process. Chances are rare that you would find yourself testifying in committee, but if you are like me, you sought out those opportunities while in office. I believe there are few things as thrilling in public service as shaping public policy, and that starts in the legislature. Many of you share this passion, and we look forward to being here by your side to help you.
There are many references in this issue to the legislature. I hope you take time to read our legislative package to learn of our priority issues. We also have assimilated statements from the leadership in both the senate and the house to give you a glimpse of what the 91st General Assembly holds.