County Lines Spring 2012
Connecting people for a greater objective or greater good has been something I have focused on for the last several years as I have tried to be a better community member in whatever community we called home.
I’ve seen firsthand how a group of individuals can have a vast impact on people and various causes. Whether the project was organizing charity events or cooking food for disaster workers, when people work toward a common goal, the sky truly is the limit.
County folks already knew that fact because they live “working together” every day.
County government connects more constituents with elected officials and services than any other level of governing. It is the critical path of our system.
I learn more and more about county government’s role and collective story through the process of producing County Lines' magazine every quarter. Not only do I continue to learn about the level of public service that really is where the rubber meets the road, but I enjoy front-row seats to watch good people who chose to leave their impression by serving in various offices in county government across our great state.
My experiences building the County Lines Spring 2012 edition took me from the foothills of the Ozark National Forest where Johnson County Judge Mike Jacobs took some time to share his success story with us to the banks of Greers Ferry Lake where I spent a day interviewing Cleburne County Sheriff Marty Moss.
What Jacobs has accomplished in Johnson County during the last 20 years is a textbook example of how a county judge can help make a community better. He would be the first to tell you that he certainly didn’t do it single handedly, and quite to the contrary, he said “getting everyone on the same page” is critical to successful projects and to a strong county.
As I toured Johnson County working on the cover story, I knew very quickly that the judge never met a stranger, and he treated all of them the very same. His vision when he took office was to focus on two key improvements that he felt would create the potential for steady growth.
He took aim on increasing the miles of paved roads and adding access to running water. His plan worked and Johnson County hasn’t looked back since. He now shares his experiences with other judges either one on one or during the County Judges Association of Arkansas meetings. You might hear Jacobs whistle a tune or two if you ever visit his courthouse, and now, you’ll know why he has a reason to whistle.
Cleburne County Sheriff Marty Moss is another elected official who has come home to serve his hometown community.
Moss showed me his home territory and helped me understand what a sheriff really does. It was way more than just what meets the eye. The personal aspect of how Moss approaches his role caught me a little off guard. The top lawmen of our respective communities are sometimes erroneously stereotyped into being calloused and rigid figures that just arrest people when they get caught on the wrong side of the law. I believe you would find the majority of our sheriffs care about the people they serve whether it be offenders who need some tough love or the victims who have to pick up the pieces after an event.
Moss was truly touched when a man he arrested many years prior called him to tell him how he changed his life the day he arrested him for cooking methamphetamine. Moss said he remembers talking with the man on the way to jail and telling him how “he could change his life.”
He cared enough to carry on a conversation that would eventually help the man find a better life.
Moss also told me how creating a centralized sex-offender database for his county was one of his most important projects. He said he approaches everyday as an opportunity to have a positive impact on someone’s life and that mind-set is what public service is all about. Our country would prosper if other elected officials, especially the ones in Washington, D.C., would adopt this unselfish perspective.
Technology is in rapid growth and the public sector is no exception.
We found a good technology story only a stone’s throw away from my office at the AAC in Pulaski County’s mobile assessing app and met Pulaski County Assessor Janet Troutman Ward. A couple of minutes with Ward and you will also notice a commitment to the people. Her county has led the way in new technology services ranging from online assessing to now mobile assessing.
I also attended every one of our member association meetings in the last quarter and enjoyed getting to meet more and more of our elected officials across the state. I have noticed a common denominator in these meetings, and it is one of camaraderie, fellowship and a collective energy to learn and get better together. Readers can learn all about those meetings between the pages of the County Lines magazine.
Chuck Lange, former executive director for the Arkansas Sheriffs Association, retired and also shared his story with us while I also spent some time with his successor — the new ASA executive director — Ronnie Baldwin.
The AAC legislative committee meeting’s current was a commitment to the people by all member association representatives. The conversation was frank, honest, and refreshing as the AAC continues to listen and then advocate for those we serve.
I look forward to a fast-paced, eventful and somewhat frenzied 89th Arkansas General Assembly in 2013. One of the themes of the legislative committee meeting was the unanimous message that partisan politics should have no place in the act of governing. The only guiding factor or influence should be what is best for the citizens.
My last adventure for this edition was a trip to Little River County to help those fine people celebrate the courthouse’s 105th anniversary and the county’s 145th.
Jeff Sikes, AAC legislative director, is from Little River County and Ray Sikes, his grandfather, was a former county judge there. He was also one of the founding members of the AAC. We went down to help Little River County celebrate those birthdays and found a community coming together on their courthouse lawn. It is a scene that helps wrap-up this spring 2012 edition and the theme of getting it done together on the county level.
We look forward to seeing you this summer.
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The Association of Arkansas Counties hosted its annual safety conference May 16 in Little Rock. Counties from across the state were represented.
The Arkansas Sheriffs' Association held its winter convention Jan. 23-25 at the Wyndham Riverfront Hotel in North Little Rock.
Jackson County courthouse shines bright in Newport, Arkansas.