Fall 2022 County Lines

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Page 28 Mississippi County courthouse gets a facelift Page 14 Make Arkansas Safe Page 32 Legislative Leadership FALL 2022 County Lines County Lines ARORP News Conference Page 25

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In This Issue

FALL 2022


Cover Notes: A Much-Needed Facelift is Complete

(Photo by Ken West Photography)

Far Left: The new entry doors to the Mississippi County Courthouse in Blytheville are mahogany. The glass is adorned with the names of townships and the date the county was formed. Left: The county opted not to build a new courthouse, but rather renovate the historic courthouse. Architectural elements of the building, such as the elaborate marble and limestone could not be recreated at a new courthouse.

Turn to page 28 to read more.

Mississippi County Courthouse gets a facelift.............................28
Arkansas Opioid Recovery Partnership holds meeting..............25 Meet the Leadership in the 94th General Assembly.................32 Former AAC Executive Director Remembered............................35 AAC Board Profile: Rebecca Talbert.............................................36 AAC Staff Profile: Michael Roys....................................................37
Staff Profile: Misty Petrus.....................................................38 AAC Staff Profile: Sarah Perry........................................................39 AAC Staff Profile: Taylor Handford................................................40 AAC Photo Recap: County Collectors............................................41 AAC Photo Recap: County Assessors.........................................42 AAC Photo Recap: Guardian Training..........................................43 AAC Photo Recap: County Coroners..............................................44 AAC Photo Recap: County Circuit Clerks....................................45 AAC Photo Recap: County Clerks...............................................46 AAC Photo Recap: County Treasurers.........................................47 AAC Photo Recap: County Judges..............................................48
From the Director’s Desk...................................................................7 President’s Perspective.....................................................................9 From the Governor............................................................................11 AG Opinions.......................................................................................13 AAC Research Corner.......................................................................14 Seems to Me..................................................................................... 21 Governmental Affairs......................................................................23 Legal Corner......................................................................................24 AAC Risk Management Services...................................................26 News from NACo...............................................................................49
— Photos by Ken West Photography


Jan. 15-18 Sheriffs Marriott, Little Rock

Feb. 1-3 County Clerks Hilton Garden Inn, Little Rock

Feb. 8-10 Judges Embassy Suites, Little Rock

Feb. 15-17 Circuit Clerks

Hilton Garden Inn, Little Rock

Feb. 22-24 Treasurers Hilton Garden Inn, Little Rock

Calendar activities also are posted on our website: www.arcounties.org

AAC Mission Statement

The Association of Arkansas Counties supports and promotes the idea that all elected officials must have the opportunity to act together in order to solve mutual problems as a unified group. To further this goal, the Association of Arkansas Counties is committed to providing a single source of cooperative support and information for all counties and county and district officials.

The overall purpose of the Association of Arkansas Counties is to work for the improvement of county government in the state of Arkansas. The Association accomplishes this purpose by providing legislative representation, on-site assistance, general research, training, various publications and conferences to assist county officials in carrying out the duties and responsibilities of their office.


Chris Villines, Executive Director cvillines@arcounties.org

Anne Baker, Executive Assistant abaker@arcounties.org

Loretta Green, Receptionist lgreen@arcounties.org

Eddie A. Jones, Consultant e.jonesconsulting@gmail.com

Mark Whitmore, Chief Legal Counsel mwhitmore@arcounties.org

Josh Curtis, Governmental Affairs Director jcurtis@arcounties.org

Lindsey French, Legal Counsel lfrench@arcounties.org

Christy L. Smith, Communications Director csmith@arcounties.org

Sarah Perry, Communications Coordinator sperry@arcounties.org

Michael Roys, ACE Program Coordinator mroys@arcounties.org

Cindy Posey, Accountant cposey@arcounties.org

Jenny Evans, Accounting & Program Assistant jevans@arcounties.org

Mark Harrell, IT Manager mharrell@arcounties.org

Risk Management/ Workers’ Compensation

Debbie Norman, Risk Mgmt. & Insurance Director dnorman@aacrms.com

Misty Petrus, Workers’ Comp Claims Mgr. mpetrus@arcounties.org

Cathy Perry, Program Analyst cperry@aacrms.com

Kim Nash, Workers’ Comp Claims Adjuster knash@aacrms.com

Renee Turner,Workers’ Comp Claims Adjuster rturner@aacrms.com

Jacob Trumble, Claims Analyst jtrumble@aacrms.com

Greg Hunt, Claims Analyst ghunt@aacrms.com

Kim Mitchell, Premium Analyst kmitchell@aacrms.com

Karen Bell, Program Assistant kbell@aacrms.com

Ellen Wood, Admin. Asst./Receptionist ewood@aacrms.com

Brandy McAllister, RMS Counsel bmcallister@arcounties.org

Colin Jorgensen, RMS Litigation Counsel cjorgensen@arcounties.org

JaNan Thomas, RMS Litigation Counsel jthomas@arcounties.org

Melissa Dugger, RMS Litigation Counsel mdugger@arcounties.org

Aaron Newell, RMS Litigation Counsel anewell@arcounties.org

Mallory Floyd, RMS Employment Counsel mfloydl@arcounties.org

Fonda Fitzgerald, RMS Paralegal ffitzgerald@arcounties.org

Shantina Osborn, RMS Paralegal sosborn@arcounties.org

Samantha Wren, RMS Paralegal swren@arcounties.org

James Mirus, Member Services Manager jmirus@arcounties.org

AR 72201 (501) 372-7550 phone / (501) 372-0611 fax
1415 West Third Street Little Rock,

County Lines

County Lines [(ISSN 2576-1137 (print) and ISSN 2576-1145 (online)] is the official publication of the AAC. It is published quarterly. For advertising inquiries, subscriptions or other information, please contact Christy L. Smith at 501.372.7550.

Executive Director/Publisher

Chris Villines Communications Director/ Managing Editor

Christy L. Smith Communications Coordinator/ Editor

Sarah Perry

AAC Executive Board:

Debbie Wise – President

Brandon Ellison – Vice President

Jimmy Hart – Secretary-Treasurer

Tommy Young Deanna Sivley

Debra Buckner Dana Baker

Kevin Cleghorn Terry McNatt

Rebecca Talbert Doug Curtis

Gerone Hobbs Marty Boyd

John Montgomery Heather Stevens

Brenda DeShields Selena Blair

National Association of Counties (NACo) Board Affiliations

Debbie Wise: NACo board member. She is Randolph County Circuit Clerk and president of the AAC Board of Directors.

Brandon Ellison: NACo board member. He is Polk County Judge and vice-president of the AAC Board of Directors.

Ted Harden: Finance & Intergovernmental Affairs Steering Committee. He is a member of the Jefferson County Quorum Court.

Barry Hyde: Justice and Public Safety Steering Committee. He is the Pulaski County Judge.

Rusty McMillon: Justice and Public Safety Steering Committee. He is Greene County Judge

Kevin Smith: IT Standing Committee. He is the Sebastian County Director of Information Technology Services.

Gerone Hobbs: Membership Committee. He is the Pulaski County Coroner.

Paul Elliott: Vice-Chair of Justice and Public Safety Steering Committee, vice-chair of law enforcement subcommittee. He is a member of the Pulaski County Quorum Court.

Ellen Foote: Community, Economic & Workforce Development Steering Committee. She is the Crittenden County Tax Collector.

Tawanna Brown:Telecommunications & Technology Steering Committee. She is Crittenden County Chief Computer Operator.


Welcome to new officials and farewell to coworkers

As is written throughout this issue of County Lines, this is a season for change in county government. With over half of our counties receiving a new county judge on January 1, and many other offices seeing a high turnover rate, things will look a bit different in 2023.

However, I am sure of one thing. The trainings we offered to newly elected officials in December were some of the best organized and attended meetings of these types in the history of the AAC. My hat goes off to the AAC staff — Mark Whitmore, Lindsey French, Josh Curtis, and Eddie Jones, who serve as association liaisons. Our communications staff of Christy L. Smith and Sarah Perry also helped make these meetings flow smoothly. Thank you to Cathy Perry, who created the county identification cards. All newly elected officials had a chance to meet new ACE Program Coordinator Michael Roys and to hear useful employment information from RMF Legal Counsel Brandy McAllister. Sheriffs also heard from JaNan Thomas during their week-long session, which was skillfully organized by Arkansas Sheriffs Association leaders Scott and Kim Bradley.

Additionally, leadership from each one of our nine member associations — county judges, sheriffs, assessors, collectors, treasurers, circuit clerks, county clerks, coroners, and justices of the peace — took time to share their real-world wisdom with our newly elected officials. They were organized, provided great information, and orchestrated robust question and answer sessions.

I walked away with great hope for the future of county government in Arkansas after meeting the many competent newly elected officials from across the state. As is always the case, when new officials take office there will be questions, and the AAC staff is ready to help guide you through this new and great opportunity to serve in public office. It is one of the greatest callings there is.

One of the topics of discussion with all newly elected officials was the process our member associations, and the AAC, follows when going through a legislative session. The session is here, and we are as prepared as ever to present to the legislature a series of bills put forward by each of our member associations and adopted by the AAC Board of Directors as our 2023 Legislative Package.

Many of you are aware of how this process works, but I will share the steps for those who are new, or for those who may not remember the mechanism our counties use.

Each of the nine member associations work to put together ideas for improving statutes that will help make their respective offices function better. In time our AAC liaisons work with each group to draft and refine these ideas into several potential pieces of legislation.

The individual associations vote on their respective pieces of legislation, then forward them to a 27-member legislative committee composed of three representatives from each of the nine member associations. This committee meets two to three times prior to a legislative session to discuss these ideas and offer feedback, with the final meeting occurring in October of the year preceding the legislative session.

Our legislative package is so strong because each idea is vetted by

Chris Villines AAC Executive Director

a cross-section of county and district officials. They offer constructive criticism when an idea may, for lack of a better word, “step on the toes” of another office within the counties. This refining process means the potential legislation has been scrutinized from many angles and is deemed worthy of inclusion in our overall legislative package.

The legislative committee then votes whether to recommend the full legislative package to the AAC Board of Directors, which is comprised of 18 members — two from each of the nine member associations. This board then adopts the legislative package in its entirety — or it may cull some bills prior to adoption.

This process works well and historically has provided AAC staff with marching orders on around 25 to 30 pieces of legislation that we will label as our AAC Legislative Package. Occasionally a legislator or lobbyist may question whether a bill comes directly from AAC staff, but we cannot and would not draft or pursue legislation outside of the direction of the AAC Board of Directors through the process outlined above.

We have an enviable success rate at the Capitol, often seeing a pass-rate of between 95 and 100 percent for bills in our legislative packages. This success is grounded in the fact that county officials know what is best for constituents and local government, and we simply help you do what you are already so skilled at. There is a great deal of reason in the legislative

package finally presented on your collective behalf. However, most of the work for AAC staff comes from bills not contained within our legislative package. While we work with you to present a package of 30 or so bills, each session we find ourselves (with your association leadership) tracking somewhere between 600 to 700 bills that are filed and affect county government. Many of these bills are innocuous, but some could prove detrimental to local government. We work closely with you and sponsors to make sure you have your voices heard regarding these bills. Please stand ready to be involved in the upcoming session when your name is called to help. •••

Finally, it is bittersweet to say goodbye to two fellow coworkers here at the AAC. With the end of the year comes change and often retirements. This year we are saying goodbye to Karan Skarda, who worked for seven years as our ACE Program Coordinator but also has decades of prior experience in state and local government. We also bid farewell to Debbie Lakey, who has spent 18 ½ years as our Workers Compensation Claims Manager.

Both have been wonderful to work with and will be truly missed. Best wishes to them as they move into their new roles.

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Fidelity Bond Trust provides extra protection

Iam extremely proud of the AAC Risk Management Fund (AACRMF). Created in 1986, it serves countyspecific needs for protection. It is not an insurance program; however, it does provide general liability, auto liability and physical damage, and property protection in addition to volunteer fire department programs. All 75 Arkansas counties are members of the program.

One thing the AACRMF does not provide is fidelity bond coverage for actual losses through fraudulent and dishonest acts caused by employees or officials. For instance, if an employee or elected official embezzles money from a county, AACRMF does not cover that loss. That falls under the purview of the State of Arkansas’ SelfInsured Fidelity Bond Program.

The program is one of many overseen by the Arkansas Insurance Department (AID). It is administered by the Arkansas Governmental Bonding Board. I am honored to serve on this board along with the president of the Arkansas Municipal League, the director of the Department of Finance and Administration, and the Commissioner of Education for the Department of Education. Arkansas Insurance Commissioner Alan McClain serves as chairman of the board.

State agencies, counties, municipalities, and school districts have the option to participate in the Self-Insured Fidelity Bond Program. The policy limit is $300,000 per fraudulent or dishonest act that is punishable under the criminal code. In other words, the individual who committed the act could be tried and convicted, could plead guilty or nolo contendere, or is found guilty. There is a $2,500 deductible for each occurrence.

Each participating governmental entity is already subject to an annual audit, typically conducted by Arkansas Legislative Audit. If an audit reveals an actual loss due to a fraudulent or dishonest act, Legislative Audit must submit a Proof of Loss notice to the Arkansas Governmental Bonding Board. The board then determines coverage under the Bond Program. All bond payments approved by the board, less the deductible, are issued from the Arkansas Fidelity Bond Trust Fund to the affected agency.

I have been a member of the Bonding Board since 2018, when I was sworn in as president of the AAC Board of Directors. I have enjoyed working with Insurance Commissioner Alan McClain and Arkansas Insurance Department Risk Management Consultant Ruth Fernandez.

During my tenure, the Bonding Board has considered numerous instances of theft of governmental funds. Entities that do not participate in the Fidelity Bond Program have limited recourse in recovering what was taken from them. But counties, as good stewards of the public’s tax dollars, are protected.

We want to hear from YOU

Debbie Wise Randolph County Circuit Clerk / AAC Board President DEBBIE WISE AAC Board President; Randolph County Circuit Clerk
Debbie Wise
us your good news. Be sure to let us know if an aspect of county government “made news” recently in your county. Or if your county officials or staff get an award, appointment or pat on the back. We want the whole state to know about your successes and accomplishments.
372-7550. COUNTY LINES, FALL 2022 9
Contact Communications Director Christy L. Smith at csmith@arcounties.org or Communications Coordinator Sarah Perry at sperry@arcounties.org. Or you may call
at (501)
Tax B I L L I N G & C O L L E C T I O N S O L U T I O N S S E R V I C E S O F T W A R E S A T I S F A C T I O N E X P E C T M O R E Browser Based Full Credit Card Integration Fully Documented Multi-payment Processing Unlimited History Public Inquiry Exportable Data Multiple Annual Updates gowithtaxpro.com info@gowithtaxpro.com (501) 246-8060
The Future of

Firearms and ammunition industry

When I ran for Governor in 2014, I wanted to be the jobs governor, and today I’d like to talk about our work to bring firearm industry jobs to our state.

On my first day in office, I made calls to six CEOs across the country to recruit them to Arkansas. One of those calls was to Ron Cohen, CEO of Sig Sauer.

Just over one year later we announced that Sig Sauer would be relocating its Elite Performance Ammunition manufacturing operation to Jacksonville. But this wasn’t the beginning of the firearms industry in the state.

In 1969, Gov. Winthrop Rockefeller joined Remington Arms to break ground on their new plant in Lonoke. He even proclaimed July 23, 1969, as “A Day to Welcome Remington Arms.” The proclamation states, “this multi-milliondollar plant will employ approximately 1,000 people, thereby bringing new prosperity to the community and to the State.”

Today, more than 50 years later, that same Remington plant in Lonoke continues to thrive and grow under the ownership of Vista Outdoor, employing hundreds more people than when the plant first opened in the late 1960s.

When I took office, I tried to recruit industries that would be mesh with the culture of the state. I knew of the history of the Remington plant and Arkansas’s respect of the Second Amendment, so the firearms industry was a natural fit.

In 2015, I was the only governor to attend the SHOT Show, the industry’s leading trade show. Since then, I’ve taken a delegation from Arkansas every year they’ve held the event. Governors from states like Georgia, Oklahoma, South Dakota, and Montana have since followed our lead and attended the SHOT Show to recruit these companies.

Because of our rich history and continued efforts to attract

these businesses, we’ve seen steady growth over the past eight years. While it began in 2016 with Sig Sauer in Jacksonville, that’s not where it ended. In 2017, Gamo/ Daisy Outdoor, the maker of the legendary Red Ryder BB gun, expanded their production in Rogers.

Ammunition manufacturer American Marksman in Searcy and high-end firearm creator Nighthawk Custom in Berryville have also expanded their presence in the Natural State.

During the pandemic in 2020, Fiocchi of America announced their decision to move primer production to Arkansas. When they made this decision, they also acquired some of the assets of Grandeur Fasteners in Danville, which was a supplier for Sig Sauer. Just last month, Fiocchi announced the largest investment in the firearms industry in Arkansas with over $41 million dollars and 120 new jobs coming to the Port of Little Rock.

The Remington Arms factory that Governor Rockefeller helped bring to our state was also purchased by Vista Outdoor in 2021 and reopened to bring an additional 450 jobs back to the state.

As governor, I focused on job creation and the growth of the firearms industry is a great fit for Arkansas. Now our state is known as a premier destination for the firearm industry.

Asa Hutchinson

The Honorable Asa Hutchinson

Governor of Arkansas

Hon. ASA HuTCHINSON Governor of Arkansas
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From publications to infamous crimes

AG OPINION NOS. 2021-065, 2021-067 AND 2002-003

The Attorney General was asked whether an online publication constitutes a newspaper of general circulation or a legal newspaper; whether certain counties are without a newspaper of general circulation or without a legal newspaper; and whether under those circumstances county officials should therefore post the notices or advertisements.

Arkansas Law

A county government is directed to publish required notices in a newspaper of general circulation in the county pursuant to certain provisions of the Arkansas Code. See Ark Code §§ 14-14-104, 105; 14-14-905; 14-14-917; 14-16105; 14-16-106; 14-21-102; 14-22-101; 22-9-2-3; 26-36203; 26-37-102; and 26-37-107. The AG noted that the courts have reasoned that newspapers of general circulation are publications that are given wide and general publicity and can reasonably be expected to be generally read by the public. Ark. Code §14-14-104(b) provides where no newspaper of general circulation exists in a county, publication may be made by posting in three (3) public places which have been designated by ordinance.”

Arkansas law also requires legal notices to be published by litigants or the courts in a legal newspaper of general circulation. Reference is made to Ark Code § 16-3-101 et seq., which provides that if there is no legal newspaper of general circulation in the county, the publication shall be made by posting five (5) written or printed notices in the most public places in the county.

Online Publications

In AG Opinion No. 90-134 (June 8, 1990), the Honorable Mayra Jones requested an opinion as to whether a legal newspaper of general circulation needs to be a hard copy or in print media (as opposed to published online or on the internet). Do the online publications of newspapers qualify for or count as to whether a newspaper publication is of general circulation in a county only if it is published printed. Or does online publication count as far as a newspaper of general circulation? The AG explained that an online publication will not likely constitute a newspaper for purposes of notice statutes or a legal newspaper, that online newspapers do not meet the requirement of print and sheet form, and that online newspapers are generally ineligible for publishing public legal notices as required by state law. The AG further noted that this analysis is consistent with how other states have interpreted similar notice-publication statutes.


Rep. Danny Watson kindly provided background information as to the extremely limited circulation of two newspapers in Little River County under AG Opinion request No. 2021065. The AG stated she could not provide a definitive answer to state and county officials as to whether there is a newspaper of general circulation or a legal newspaper in Little River County, Arkansas. County officials, litigants, and courts in Little River County and other similarly situated counties must determine whether there is a newspaper of general circulation and legal newspaper in their county.

Sen. Ronald Caldwell kindly provided background information in connection with AG Opinion request No. 2021067. Woodruff County has a population of 7,620. Woodruff County lost its last printed newspaper in December 2020. There are currently no newspapers that generally circulate printed newspapers in the county. There is a large entity that is online. The AG determined that under the facts presented, Woodruff County is clearly without a newspaper of general circulation nor a legal newspaper. Several other counties in Arkansas also are without general circulation of a printed newspaper. In recent years, several county officials, litigants and courts in other similarly situated counties must determine whether there is a newspaper of general circulation and legal newspaper in their county.

AG OPINION NO. 2022-004

The AG was asked about the effect of sealing or expungement of a criminal record in connection to eligibility to run or hold office. The AG explained the litany of laws and provisions of the Arkansas Constitution. The Arkansas Constitution, Article 5, §9 prohibits anyone convicted of embezzlement of public money, bribery, forgery, or other infamous crime from serving in the General Assembly or holding any office of trust or profit in the state. It also bars persons that lack the qualifications of an elector. The lack of a disqualifying conviction is a legal prerequisite to holding office. The Arkansas Code echoes these prohibitions and further prohibits the placement of their name on the ballot. Additionally, candidates are required to pledge they have never been convicted of a felony. The AG concluded that to the extent a person has plead guilty or nolo contendere of a “public trust” crime, that person may not file, run for, or hold any constitutional office, any elected office of a county, city, township, or other political subdivision of the state, regardless of whether the crime was sealed or expunged.


Make Arkansas safe AAC RESEARCH CORNER


The goals of a criminal justice system are retribution, deterrence, incapacitation and rehabilitation. Pursuit of these goals aims to increase public safety, decrease crime and return incarcerated individuals back to communities as productive, transformed citizens. Despite the work of dedicated, diligent public servants, the criminal justice system in Arkansas is failing to protect citizens, prevent crime and rehabilitate the incarcerated population.

According to the FBI’s 2019 Uniform Crime Report, on a per capita basis of 100,000 inhabitants, Arkansas has the fourth highest rate of violent crime and the fifth highest rate of property crime. Further, Arkansas has the second highest rate of rape, the fourth highest rate of aggravated assault and the eighth highest rate of murder and nonnegligent manslaughter in the country. Additionally, Arkansas has the fourth highest rate of burglary and the sixth highest rate of larceny-theft, which includes the theft of vehicle parts such as catalytic converters.

Alongside high rates of violent crime and property crime, Arkansas state prisons and county jails are routinely overcrowded — and have been for decades. According to the National Institute of Corrections, the Arkansas state prison system’s design capacity is 15,431. At the end of July 2022, the state prison population was 17,109, and the county jail backup averaged 1,541 state inmates per day.

The state legislature passed acts to address state prison overcrowding commencing in 1987 and to address county jail overcrowding since 2003, with state prisons operating above a 98 percent rated capacity threshold and county jails regularly holding more than 500 state inmates.

While state prisons and county jails chronically face overcrowding issues, the state’s recidivism rate is one of the highest in the country. The higher a recidivism rate, the more individuals will return to state and county facilities. JFA Associates (JFA), an expert group that has forecasted Arkansas state prison populations for over 28 years, estimates that Arkansas’ prison population will grow by 1.4 percent per year. A 1.4 percent per year growth results in 18,100 state inmates in 2026 and 19,160 state inmates in 2031.

These factors create a revolving prison door that causes high crime, low rehabilitation and no deterrence. To address these issues, there must be a three-pronged approach:

1. More state capacity to hold state inmates.

2. More state capacity to reduce recidivism.

3. Use new state capacity to implement what works, discard what does not work.

Prong One: More State Capacity to Hold Inmates County Jail Overcrowding Isn’t Sustainable

In 1987, the state legislature passed Act 418, the Prison Overcrowding and Emergency Powers Act (EPA). The EPA allows the Board of Corrections and the director of the Department of Corrections to identify and release eligible state inmates early. In 2003, the state legislature passed Act 1721, amending the EPA to address county jail backlogs. When county jails have a backlog of more than 500 state inmates, the EPA can be used to release inmates and temporarily alleviate county jails. Excluding special COVID-19 releases in 2020, over 2,000 state inmates have been released every year since 2010, due to state and county facilities being overcrowded. These releases are primarily driven by Act 418, which has accounted for 89 percent of EPA releases since 2010.

County jails have never been intended to be long-term holding facilities for state inmates. State inmates under judgments of conviction for felonies are directed by the courts and by laws to the Arkansas Division of Corrections (ADC) or Arkansas Division of Community Correction (ACC). County jails are only supposed to hold state inmates in circumscribed roles: for relocation to other facilities or when the inmate is needed in court to testify. Instead, county jails are holding state inmates on a long-term basis. Counties on average hold state prisoners for months (state inmates commonly serve much of or their entirety of the sentences in our county jails.) In response to the growing state and jail population, county jails have added more than 2,150 beds since 2015. This isn’t a problem that can be solved or should be solved at the county level, however.

Sebastian County Sheriff Hobe Runion stated, “On any given day, we could have 175 state prisoners in our jail, which reduces capacity by 25 to 33 percent.”

When a county jail loses that much capacity because of holding state inmates, the effects ripple throughout the criminal justice system.

“Because we are housing state felons in particular, we don’t have room for misdemeanors, which takes the ability of judges to correct behavior out of their hands,” Runion said.

The only misdemeanors Sebastian County currently can

Taylor Handford Law Clerk

attempt to hold are those individuals who are an immediate threat to themselves or to the public.

In speaking with other sheriffs, it was clear that this reality and concern is not isolated to Sebastian County.

“County sheriffs are not able to serve misdemeanor warrants, especially those of us with small to medium sized jails,” Clark County Sheriff Jason Watson said.

Jeremiah Edward Devon and Timothy Jay Robertson are great insights into the catch-and-release regime caused by state prison and county jail overcrowding. Devon, now 44 years old, from Springdale, Arkansas, was arrested 42 times in Benton County and 10 times in Washington County. On March 26, 2021, Devon was arrested for the murder of 48-year-old Wanda Reed, a mother of four. Devon is alleged to have killed Reed by repeatedly striking her head and then leaving her body in a creek near the Razorback Greenway walking and biking trail.

Preceding Devon’s alleged murder of Reed, he had a litany of felony offenses. In January 2019, Devon was arrested and charged with a Class D felony for possession of methamphetamines. Following two failure to appear charges in April and June 2019, Devon was arrested and charged in August 2019 for forgery, a Class C felony. In October 2019, Devon was charged with another Class D felony for possession of methamphetamine. Devon’s court cases were continued throughout 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In May 2021, two months after Reed’s death, Devon was sentenced on his prior possession felonies to 10 years at the Department of Corrections with five years suspended. In early August 2021, after having committed scores of crimes and serving only a handful of months of a 60-month sentence, a parole board unanimously released Devon to ACC supervision on parole. In December 2021 Devon was charged for the murder of Wanda Reed.

nalia, possession of a Schedule VI controlled substance, three counts of criminal trespass, failure to appear, resisting arrest, aggravated assault on a family or household member, and possession of firearms by certain persons. For those keeping count, that’s eight misdemeanors and two felonies in a year. While being detained at the Polk County Detention Center in February 2020, Robertson escaped and fled on foot. After being reported at a nearby residence, Robertson tried escaping across a body of water, Ward Creek. Polk County Sheriff Scott Sawyer, along with other law enforcement officials, pursued Robertson into Ward Creek where a confrontation occurred. While apprehending Robertson, Sheriff Sawyer’s hand was broken. Robertson was charged with one count of escape from law enforcement, a Class B Felony. Due to COVID-19, Robertson had three court cases continued into May 2021 involving an aggravated assault on a family or household member, his firearm possession and his escape. Under a negotiated guilty plea, he was sentenced to 120 months at ADC. By March 2022, less than one year later, Robertson was out of ADC. In 2022, he was charged with two counts of public intoxication, driving on a suspended license, failure to appear, two counts of criminal trespass, and theft of property. According to the Administrative Office of the Courts (AOC) Public CourtConnect, as of Oct. 18, 2022, Robertson was in rehab at ADC. That begs the questions why was he not held long enough on prior convictions to complete rehabilitation or treatment programs while incarcerated? Or is it painfully apparent that he was released too quickly?

Timothy Jay Robertson, from 2010 to 2022, has 23 court cases charging him with offenses ranging from Class A misdemeanor charges to Class D felony charges. On May 7, 2018, Robertson gave a negotiated guilty plea to first-degree domestic battery, a Class B felony, and was sentenced to 24 months at ADC. By the time he was sentenced, he had already been found guilty on at least two other domestic battery charges. By August 2019, Robertson was out of ADC. Throughout 2019, Robertson was charged with and pleaded guilty to: driving on a suspended license, possession of drug parapher-

Washington County Sheriff Tim Helder has served in law enforcement for more than 42 years. He has repeatedly emphasized the urgent need for more state prison capacity and beds, particularly regarding northwest Arkansas’ population boom. As perfectly illustrated by Devon and Robertson, Sheriff Helder remarked that more beds at the state level would “provide relief at the county level, which would in turn free up beds so when local law enforcement officers are making arrests there is space to hold them.”

Sheriff Helder also confirmed what the ADC’s own statistics bear out. The state inmate population has shifted from most inmates being non-violent offenders to violent offenders. Until 2016, most ADC inmates were categorized

County sheriffs are not able to serve misdemeanor warrants, especially those of us with small to medium sized jails.
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Clark County Sheriff Jason Watson


as non-violent based on their convictions. In 2016, the trend reversed and has only increased. Since 2016 there has been a 24.8 percent increase in violent inmates and a 22.8 percent decrease of non-violent inmates. Currently, 59.8 percent of the ADC population is serving time for violent offenses and 40.2 percent is serving time for non-violent offenses.

Not only has the state inmate population changed but so have county jail populations. When state facilities cannot hold violent felons, they are left to be held by county jails, which are primarily meant for misdemeanor and non-violent charges. Sheriff Helder said there are currently 23 felony murderers in the Washington County Jail.

“It used to be a banner year if we had two or three [murderers],” Sheriff Helder said.

When a county jail must house violent offenders, it is nearly impossible to separate them from non-violent offenders. This is because county jails, unlike state facilities, were never designed to hold and separate such persons from the general population.

County jails cannot continue to hold state inmates on an indefinite basis without repercussions. County resources are limited and should be dedicated to protecting their jurisdiction – jurisdictions they are outfitted to serve. The more county resources used on state inmates, the fewer county resources available for crime reduction. Sheriff Runion believes county jails and the state criminal justice system are at “a tipping point” with the lack of state prison beds being “a roadblock in the whole justice system.”

EPA Releases and Early Access to Parole Add to the Revolving Door

Both the EPA and the access to parole after serving a fraction of felony sentences contribute to Arkansas’ high crime

Historical Prison Population Chart

and recidivism rates. Since 2010, thousands of inmates, such as Jeremiah Devon, have benefitted from early release from parole after serving shockingly little of their sentence. In the same time span, over 20,000 inmates have been released through the EPA, with many released after serving less than 20 percent of their sentence.

Corey Demond Smith benefitted from this exact kind of EPA release. In 1999, Corey Demond Smith was sentenced to five years for possession of a firearm by a certain person, aggravated assault and first-degree terroristic threatening. Smith also had his probation revoked on a possession drug charge. Within three years, Smith was out of prison. In 2002, he was charged with robbery and escape. Smith was given an enhanced sentence of 40 years as a habitual offender. Smith was approved to be released on parole on June 5, 2013, having served 11 years of the 40-year sentence. On Nov. 11, 2014, Smith was charged with aggravated assault on a family or household member and third-degree domestic battering. On June 9, 2015, Smith was convicted and sentenced to five years on the aggravated assault on a family or household member charge. Through the EPA, Smith, a habitual offender with a violent record, was released on Feb. 23, 2016, having served only nine months of his sentence.

On July 11, 2020, Smith shot his 26-year-old girlfriend, Angela Gipson, and 55-year-old Jamie Hathcoat, killing them. Gipson is survived by a 9-month-old son. Hathcoat is survived by a son and a grandson. Gipson intended on enrolling in nursing school. Hathcoat had spent years as a teacher. On April 20, 2022, Smith plead guilty to capital murder and was sentenced to life in prison.

While incarcerated, now for the fourth time, Smith has had no fewer than 24 disciplinary violations. In discussing Smith, Clark County Sheriff Watson suggested that looking at disciplinary records while a person is incarcerated provides

Prison Population Projected Growth

SAFE Continued From Page 15 <<<
Year *ADC Custody Count FY2012 14,064 FY2013 14,061 FY2014 14,558 FY2015 15,410 FY2016 16,050 FY2017 15,885 FY2018 15,637 FY2019 15,674 FY2020 15,079 FY2021 15,083
Year *ADC Custody Count FY2022 17,112 FY2023 17,344 FY2024 17,611 FY2025 17,832 FY2026 18,100 FY2027 18,333 FY2028 18,567 FY2029 18,773 FY2030 18,964 FY2031 19,160
inmates in county jails.
inmates in county jails. 16 COUNTY LINES, FALL 2022
* Does not include
* Does not include

insight into their current state.

“When you go to prison, and you continue to violate the rules, that’s a clue that shows you there isn’t respect for authority,” he said.

Afan Humphrey, another beneficiary of the EPA, was sentenced in February 2018 to six years in prison on two counts of residential burglary, two counts of theft of property, and one count of theft of property — a firearm. After completing only nine months of his sentence, Humphrey was released on Nov. 27, 2018. Just over a month after his release, Humphrey of Pulaski County shot 19-year-old Wesley McKinley Everett in the back of the head with another stolen firearm.

White County Sheriff Phillip Miller said he believes “more state prison capacity will lead to less early releases, which leads to less violent offenders being out.”

Sheriff Miller added that inmates are intentionally “disruptive and destructive in jail just to get to ADC faster in order to be released faster.”

“Early release is not working. Bed space is not being created because within months a lot of those released individuals are getting picked right back up,” Sheriff Miller said.

In addition to the state prison population growing on a yearly basis, the COVID-19 pandemic caused an unprecedented backlog in felony warrants and felony criminal cases in the state. As of August 2022, there are over 15,500 felony cases pending in Arkansas courts. In 2022, there have been over 12,600 active felony warrants issued in addition to over 38,400 other active warrants. In total, the state has over 170,000 warrants to be served.

If the state of Arkansas had the adequate and necessary prison capacity, it is plausible that Devon, Smith, Humphrey and Robertson would not have served so little of their sentences. There are plenty of similar unnecessary and tragic cases. It is inevitable that with over 2,000 EPA releases a year and a broken parole system allowing state inmates to serve a fraction of their sentences due to lack of state prison capacity and overflowing county jails, that several of these felons will commit heinous crimes upon early access to release. What is also inevitable, however, is that if the lack of state prison beds and capacity is not addressed now, the crisis will only worsen.

Prong Two: More State Capacity to Reduce Recidivism

According to the Arkansas Department of Corrections, Arkansas’ recidivism rate for the 2017 release cohort was 50.6 percent. Recidivism is defined by the state legislature through A.C.A § 5-4-101: “a criminal act that results in the rearrest, reconviction or return to incarceration of a person with or without a new sentence during a three-year period following the person’s release from custody.” Arkansas’ recidivism rate is

the highest rate among other southern states. When compared to the nation, Arkansas ranks as having the sixth-highest recidivism rate. Of the 50.6 percent of released inmates that returned to ADC custody, half of those were reincarcerated within 13 months. Plainly our soft and early release system is not working. More state prison bed capacity would free up county resources, alleviate jail overcrowding, and reduce early access to release. It would also allow for more robust, efficient rehabilitation and treatment programming.

According to the ADC’s August 2022 Director’s Board Report, there are over 1,500 inmates on the waitlist for mental health treatment programs and over 3,000 inmates on the waitlist for substance abuse treatment programs. That’s an unacceptable failure. For fiscal year 2021, ADC admitted 5,182 inmates — a drastic decrease from 7,233 inmates admitted the previous year due to the COVID-19 pandemic — with 37.4 percent of them convicted for a drug offense. With over 1,900 inmates admitted because of a drug offense in 2021 and a total substance abuse treatment capacity of 787 beds, the waitlist will continue to grow.

The Substance Abuse Therapeutic Community Program (T.C.) has a capacity limited to 224 treatment beds for the 9-to-12-month program. The Substance Abuse Treatment Program (SATP) has a limited capacity of 563 treatment beds for the 4-to-6-month program. Investing in these programs is pivotal. The recidivism rate of individuals who completed the T.C. Program is 33.08 percent, 17 percent lower than the overall rate. The recidivism rate for individuals that completed SATP is 36.83 percent, 14 percent lower than the overall rate. How can we continue to release inmates who have not completed their necessary mental health and substance abuse treatments? Why are these vital programs under funded? The citizens deserve better.

There is another, more subtle way that the lack of state prison beds is driving a high recidivism rate: state inmates are spending the bulk or their entire sentences in county jails. When an inmate spends the bulk or entirety of their sentence at a county jail, they are not receiving rehabilitation or programming treatment. Counties are not equipped to provide rehabilitation and programming services akin to state facilities, especially while dealing with an overflowing jail population.

“When we are overcrowded to the point we have been the last few years, we haven’t been able to conduct programming on a regular basis,” Sheriff Helder said.

A state inmate does not receive any state resources, help or guidance until they are sent to the diagnostic unit at the Ouachita River Correctional Unit at Malvern, which is the newest state facility, established in 2003.

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Sheriff Miller said he has, “frequently received notifications of parole for inmates who have stayed at the county jail for the entirety of their sentence.” Sheriff Watson testified to the same scenarios in Clark County, adding, “County jails are not suitable for holding individuals suffering from mental health problems. But you can’t get a bed at a state hospital once they are sentenced.”

Does public safety not demand that the state robustly increase state prison bed capacity? What will it take to properly fund our state prison system?

The record of Jared Lee Ball, another beneficiary, provides insight into how early access to release and lack of state prison capacity combine to prevent rehabilitation of inmates. On Sept. 28, 2008, Ball was sentenced to 42 months of probation for two counts of manufacturing, delivery, or possession of a controlled substance. Within seven months, on April 8, 2009, Ball’s probation was revoked, and he was sentenced to 36 months in ADC for possessing a firearm and for a failure to appear in Franklin County. Ball served eight months of his three-year sentence and was released on parole in late November 2009. On Jan. 13, 2012, Ball’s parole was revoked and he was yet again remanded to ADC custody.

in Logan County. In May 2018, Ball absconded, and a warrant was issued. In July 2019, Ball was sentenced to three years at ADC with 36 months suspended for two failure to appear convictions in Johnson County. In August 2019, Ball’s probation for the Logan County drug charges was revoked, resulting in a three-year sentence and an 84-month suspended sentence. On Dec. 2, 2019, Ball was released on parole with the special condition of completing alcohol or drug counseling and aftercare. On Dec. 8, 2020, a year later, Ball had another abscond warrant issued resulting in his incarceration on Jan. 4, 2021. Ball was released 8 days later. In October 2021, Ball was discharged from Harbor House, his alcohol and drug treatment program, because of unexcused absences. After being dismissed from his treatment program, Ball was arrested for domestic battering, and then on Jan. 20, 2022, he was arrested for allegedly murdering his girlfriend’s 1-year old child, punching the baby with enough force to cause a heart laceration. When Ball was arrested, officers found kratom, a Schedule 1 controlled substance, and drug paraphernalia.

Ball’s history highlights the impact of the revolving state prison door on parole and probation officers. According to Sheriff Helder, it is not unusual for parole officers to average 120 clients at a time. An Arkansas parole or probation officer should be able to provide “constant 24-hour on-call duty required and exposure to personal injury,” according to the state’s own job description. The functions of a parole or probation officer include making home or community visits, referring parolees or probationers to counseling and drug treatment centers, conducting drug tests, and completing investigations into violations, as well as other exhaustive, time-consuming tasks. Admittedly the very limited parole officer staffing prevents them from fulfilling these necessary tasks with the number of parolees and probationers they are assigned to supervise.

After his subsequent release, Ball was apprehended in July 2014 and convicted for breaking and entering in Franklin County. Ball was sentenced to one year but was paroled by late September 2014. In 2016, Ball was sentenced to three years of probation for another drug-related crime, this time

The capability to hold habitual offenders like Ball, to ensure they receive the necessary treatment for mental health and drug issues, only happens if the state prison capacity increases and state resources for such programs increase as well. Of the five states with higher recidivism rates than Arkansas, only one, Pennsylvania, has a larger prison population than Arkansas. Pairing Arkansas’ fast growing prison population with a high recidivism rate means that every year more and

Prison Population Projected Growth

FY2011 8,427 278 3.30% 784 9.30% 3,093 36.70% FY2012 7,343 228 3.10% 923 12.57% 3,204 43.63% FY2013 7,487 737 9.84% 1,734 23.16% 3,672 49.05% FY2014 9,840 1,263 12.84% 2,690 27.34% 5,031 51.13% FY2015 10,629 1,159 10.90% 2,636 24.80% 5,226 49.17% FY2016 11,147 1,095 9.82% 2,655 23.82% 5,294 47.49% FY2017 10,795 1,152 10.67% 2,627 24.34% 5,465 50.63%
Year Releases 6 Mo. Return 6 Mo. % 1 Yr. Return 1 Yr. % 3 Yr. Return 3 Yr. %
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more individuals will be shuffled through the revolving door between county jails and state prisons, eventually ending up as the 24 responsibilities of a parole or probation officer who has over 100 other individuals to worry about as well.

Prong Three: Use New State Capacity to Take What Works, Leave What Doesn’t

The current state of Arkansas’ prison system does not allow for new approaches to be fully implemented and evaluated, much less to flourish. The reality is that of a stagnated, debilitated system: overcrowded prisons and jails lead to felons being released before serving even 20 percent of their sentences, missing any chance of rehabilitation or needed treatments, then reoffending, going back to county jails, taxing county resources, and then either spending their entire sentence in county jail or going back to ADC before being shortly released again. When all you know how to do is tread water, swimming to safety seems impossible, even as you slowly sink farther and farther. Fortunately, other states have learned to swim. It is imperative that we also add capacity in order to swim as well.

States that have built new prisons have also passed policies aimed at addressing pressing issues, such as high recidivism rates and ineffective parole systems. In 2021, as the state of Alabama approved investing $1.3 billion on two 4,000-bed prisons, the legislature also passed a bill requiring the Alabama Department of Corrections to provide inmates preparing to reenter society with a nondriver state identification card, a birth certificate, and a Social Security card. These documents help inmates reentering society to gain housing and jobs. Sixteen other states also provide inmates with identification cards upon release or shortly afterwards. Addressing these barriers to reentry and reintegration is a low-cost remedy for a common problem.

Some non-profit organizations, like The Bail Project, attempt to reduce the number of individuals in jail for pre-trial detention. In January 2020, The Bail Project posted bail for Zack Whitcomb in Washington County. Whitcomb was awaiting trial on misdemeanor charges. After The Bail Project paid his bail, he failed to appear for subsequent court dates, resulting in an arrest warrant being issued. While out on bail, Whitcomb was arrested for participating as an accomplice in the murder of 23-year-old Lavonte Jackson in February 2020 in Benton County. After The Bail Project assists in the release of an individual, they aim to provide “Court Support” and help them “return to court and resolve their cases.” In the name of ending the cash bail system, The Bail Project and similar cash bail non-profits circulate money in paying bails across the country, counterintuitively perpetuating the system, and releasing potentially dangerous individuals.

Notably, and perhaps most relevant to Arkansas’ current catch-and-release reality, with more prison capacity, the sentence handed down is more likely to be the sentence that is served. Passing Truth in Sentencing reforms would ensure that individuals serve the sentence a judge gives them. For the last 20 years, individuals like Brian Bliss Travis from Mena have been in and out of ADC, never serving their full time. Between 2000 and 2019, Travis had five stints in ADC. In 2000, Travis received a 72-month sentence for commercial burglary. In 2005, he was sentenced to 36 months for theft of property and had his probation revoked. Then in 2007, he was sentenced to 120 months on two counts of commercial burglary, one count of theft of property, and one count failure to appear. After serving less than three years, Travis was convicted of one count residential burglary and one count theft of property in 2010, receiving a 30-year sentence. Travis was released in August 2016 on parole. Just eight months after being released from a 30-year sentence on parole, Travis was arrested in Polk County for murdering his 43-year-old girlfriend, Bethany Jo Wester, her son, Reilly James Scarbrough, 9, and daughter, Acelynn Carrie Wester, 2, as well as Wester’s uncle, Steven J. Payne, 66.

Speaking about Travis, Polk County Sheriff Scott Sawyer said, “From the time Travis was 19 to 37, you could see the change from non-violent crimes to violent crimes.”

Yet every time Travis was sentenced, he would be out early, even when charged under habitual offender laws. According to Sheriff Sawyer, Travis was released under EPA three times and paroled at least twice instead of discharging his sentence. With these results, can we continue our broken parole system?

Sheriff Watson believes Truth in Sentencing would deter crime through ensuring the severity of the punishment is upheld.

“There has to be fear in sentencing. Individuals are laughing on their way to the ADC, saying they’ll be free in a matter of months, not years, regardless of their sentence,” he said.

Sheriff Runion also believes movement toward Truth in Sentencing is essential toward restoring the deterrent effect of the criminal justice system. Truth in Sentencing legislation can be crafted in many ways, but ultimately, like other reforms, the ability to fully implement such legislation is dependent upon the capacity of state prisons to hold and detain inmates.


According to Professor Daniel S. Nagin, the author of “Deterrence in the Twenty-First Century,” the theory of deterrence involves three factors: severity of punishment, certainty of punishment, and celerity of punishment. For decades now, underinvestment and half-measures have reduced the ability

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of Arkansas’ law enforcement and criminal justice officials to uphold the severity of punishment and the certainty of punishment for lawbreakers, particularly felons. With COVID-19 came a perfect storm, causing thousands of court cases and warrants to be backlogged, reducing the celerity, or swiftness, of punishment.

Arkansas’ criminal justice system does not operate in a vacuum. The system is a product of governance, investment and cooperation between state and local officials. Elected officials have recognized prison overcrowding and lack of state prison capacity as an emergency since at least 1987.

Since 1987, some steps have been taken to address overcrowding, including building new facilities and passing legislation. In 2013, then Gov. Mike Beebe and a majority of state legislators voted to approve new funding for a state prison but fell short of the requisite supermajority. Between 2003 to date, the state prison population has continued to rapidly grow, and no new state facilities with maximum security beds have been established during those two decades. The

eventual addition of 500 beds at the North Central Unit in Calico Rock is a welcome start. But it is only a start. Again, note the projections of JFA: Arkansas’ prison population will grow by 1.4 percent per year. A 1.4 percent per year growth results in 18,100 state inmates in 2026 (an additional 1,000 state inmates) and 19,160 state inmates in 2031 (an additional 2,000 state inmates). Our county jails are currently holding approximately 2,000 state inmates. No reasonable person should discard these facts and deny the obvious — we need thousands of additional state prisons beds.

The paramount duty of government is to provide for the safety and security of its citizenry. With Arkansas placing at fourth highest in violent crime and fifth highest for property crime on a per capita basis, according to the FBI, it is no wonder, as Sheriff Watson said, “people don’t feel safe anymore.” There is little doubt in the minds of our sheriffs that public safety should be priority No. 1 for the incoming administration and state legislature.

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Being a leader is not about you!

o one can be a great leader unless they genuinely care about the success of those who work for them, those they work with and those they work for. The courthouses of Arkansas will be full of newly elected county officials that took office on January 1. When you were elected to office, you took on the mantel of leader whether you knew it or not — and whether you like it or not.

Adlai Stevenson, the 31st Vice President of the United States from 1953 to 1961, said, “It’s hard to lead a cavalry charge if you think you look funny on a horse.”

You were elected, so quit thinking you “look funny on a horse” a.k.a. “not a leader” because you are now one of the county’s leaders.

The ultimate measure of leaders is their ability to help those around them become successful. It’s not about them helping you become successful; it’s about a selfless devotion to the people who work to help the county achieve its purpose and goals.

Your focus should be on developing your employees, helping them succeed, and watching them grow into the people they want to become. When your people are successful, it is a reflection of you as a leader. Being a leader is not about you.

Government has become so divisive in recent years, and it shouldn’t be that way. Elected officials have the power to make positive changes at all levels of government, if they are willing to work together. Big problems can be solved, if those elected to office master a few leadership skills.

What we need are great leaders stepping up to collaborate and find the common ground that will bring us the best solutions. We must overcome bias, engage in productive conflict and adopt a positive mindset. Let’s look at those three things — the big picture of leadership.

Overcome bias. Even though we may not know it by its real name of “confirmation bias,” we know it and it is alive and well. Confirmation bias occurs when you seek to confirm what you believe to such a degree that you miss anything that doesn’t align with what you believe.

The stereotypes given to political groups — such as liberal and conservative, bleeding hearts and ultra-conservative, left-wing and right-wing, zealot and nut job — lead us to overlook or ignore those who don’t fit into the stereotype we fit. We have a tendency to belittle those that don’t think or believe as we do. It takes self-awareness to recognize your bias, and then discipline to actively look for ways to work together. Checking bias at the door and looking for ways to connect with those in your courthouse and statehouse who don’t think or believe like you will lead to positive outcomes

that will benefit your county.

Engage in conflict. That sounds counterproductive, doesn’t it? Try productive conflict. Conflict is not going away because we are all individuals, and we don’t all think alike. But conflict can be handled in a productive way. County government faces challenges. We always have, and I assume we always will.

I believe working together toward a common goal, like solving these challenges, doesn’t require common beliefs, but it does require an open mind. Productive conflict is all about finding better solutions and working together as a team with an open mind. The best decisions come when you bring all possible points of view to the table.

What we need is a political environment in which it is possible to raise and discuss points of view and issues without offending or alienating one another and having a clear and honest discussion of all perspectives. That’s what we need at all levels of government. Listening to understand, rather than to defend your position; that’s what it takes to engage in productive conflict.

I remember the day when alignment was possible because elected officials sought to understand different points of view and then partner together to find the best solutions. I don’t know a single person who is smart enough to know it all or solve all problems with only their ideas.

Adopt a positive mindset. How you think matters. If you don’t have the right mindset, you will never make important things happen, and distrust will close the door on the free thinking that leads to the best solutions. Identify your mindset — is it negative or positive? Your thoughts impact your actions, and how you act is contagious. It is important for our elected officials to adopt a powerful positive mindset.

The negativity we see today catches like wildfire. Our elected officials can lead the change. Choosing to believe that change is possible and trusting in positive intentions can ignite fresh solutions to the stubborn problems we face locally, statewide and nationally.

I believe there is hope for our counties, our state and our nation. And what we need is great leaders stepping up to collaborate and find the common ground that will bring us the best solutions.

But just what is leadership? At the most basic level, we need to distinguish between dominance and leadership. In some

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Eddie A. Jones County Consultant

groups, a dominant individual will seize power and assert control. This is the world of animal herds, authoritarian dictatorships, and mafia families. While these situations make for great television, dominance is not leadership. We should focus more on the nature of leadership as a relationship — an honor that is bestowed upon a person by followers who are willing to place their trust in them. Dwight Eisenhower, President of the United States from 1953-1961 said, “You do not lead by hitting people over the head; that’s assault, not leadership.”

The key question becomes what are the qualities in a person that cause others to trust him or her with leadership? A simple model captures three key traits people require in order to bestow the mantle of leadership on someone.

• First, people look for integrity — confidence that a person will do the right thing, with the best interest of those they serve in mind. As a practical matter, this integrity is embodied in the leader’s behavior. Leaders with integrity are comfortable adding people more talented than themselves to the team. And when things go wrong, they take responsibility, rather than throwing subordinates under the bus or blaming failure on unforeseeable events. Make no mistake: leadership is an honor that often requires sacrifice.

• Second, people look for competence — a leader must have the skill to assess a situation and make the sequence of decisions and take the actions required to ensure survival and the achievement of goals. A competent leader is one who can perform under pressure, is resilient when adversely surprised and has the grit and persistence to overcome obstacles. Also, under the banner of competence, a leader must strike an appropriate balance between the optimism needed to inspire their team and the hubris and overconfidence that leads to failure.

• And third, a leader must have empathy for the people who have entrusted him or her with the leadership. Leaders authentically care about their people. You can’t fake this; people are endowed with a strong ability to tell the difference between leaders who are authentic and

leaders who are putting on an act. For example, leaders with empathy don’t hesitate to liberally share credit for their team’s success. And while they praise in public, they only criticize in private and only do so when they can provide constructive coaching and advice.

You may be thinking that there is still something missing from this description of leadership — and I agree. There is one other element, and it is critical.

One of the few things we leave behind is the impact of our actions. When you are on your deathbed, looking back on your life, actions that serve no higher purpose than maximizing your own wealth and pleasure will look painfully small and insignificant. Many people know this and either explicitly or intuitively want to be part of a collective purpose that is larger than their own pleasure; something that gives meaning to their lives and the passage of time. This is the last aspect of leadership: the ability to define a noble purpose for a group, and to give meaning to every individual’s effort.

I saw something posted on LinkedIn recently about the bosses we remember. The bosses we remember:

• Provided us a safe place to grow;

• Opened career doors;

• Defended us when we needed it;

• Recognized and rewarded us;

• Developed us as leaders;

• Inspired us to stretch higher;

• Led by example;

• Told us our work mattered; and

• Forgave us when we made mistakes.

Effective leadership is not about making speeches or being liked; leadership is defined by your ability to influence. I urge all elected county officials, especially those that are just starting the journey, to be a real leader. Remember, “delegating work works, provided the one delegating works, too.”

Being a leader is not about you. Become the kind of leader who people would follow voluntarily, even if you had no title or position.

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When you are on your deathbed, looking back on your life, actions that serve no higher purppose than maximizing your own wealth and pleasure will look painfully small and insignificant.

Embrace the turnover

Apple, cinnamon, cherry, peach and chocolate: these are the things I would normally think of when I hear the word turnover. Legend has it that the famous (apple) pastry originated in France around 1630, from a small town named St. Calais. An epidemic had spread throughout the town and the lady of the town, known as the Chatelaine, supplied the afflicted people with flour and apples. Those two ingredients must have saved the town because the town is still in existence and thriving today.

Arkansas voters overwhelmingly passed Amendment 95 in 2016 —commonly known by our members as the four-year term amendment. Instead of welcoming new county officials to the family every two years, now it is every four years. Doing a little simple math, that shows us our turnover rate will double — and boy did it ever double. Before we “turn” to the new elected officials, I want to say thank you to everyone who has served in county government and is leaving office. Most of the time your job is a thankless one. You may only hear complaining. However, what you have done for your constituents overall has made their lives better even though you may not receive a thank you. I do not know all the sacrifices each one of you have made, but I know a lot of them, and for that I say, “thank you.”

More than a third of our countywide offices turned over during the last election cycle. Going into the new year, we will have 38 new judges, 30 new sheriffs, 25 new county clerks, 24 new collectors, 25 new circuit clerks, 25 new treasurers, 21 new coroners and 20 new assessors. Some say this creates many challenges for counties; losing institutional knowledge from exiting officials can cast an air of uncertainty. Many of these officials know why and when decisions were made for counties in the past. An incoming official may think why in the world is a certain office the way it is, but years ago it may have been the best decision for the county. I look at this new era of county government not as a challenge, but as an opportunity. Over the last couple of years officials have told me, “I know ‘blank’ needs to be change, but I will leave that to the person who fills my shoes.”

We also have over a third new justices of the peace being sworn in come January. One county has only two of is nine quorum court members returning. There are a few counties in which over half of the quorum court is turning over.

The 94th General Assembly will have 40 new members — just under a third turnover. The Senate may have the largest

number of new senators than they have had since the 1990’s — 13 new members to be exact. However, several of the new members have previously served in the legislature. The membership of the Senate includes 30 Republicans and five Democrats. The House of Representatives will have 27 freshman representatives; the membership includes 82 Republicans and 18 Democrats.

With this kind of turnover, we want to help all the new elects get off to a great start. That is the reason for the new elect training we provide to each association. AAC Executive Director Chris Villines introduces everyone to AAC and briefly discusses retirement. All the associations will be introduced to their liaisons, which include Chief Legal Counsel Mark Whitmore, Legal Counsel Lindsey French, Eddie Jones, and myself. We at the AAC provide legal guidance that aims to build a strong foundation for everyone being sworn in for the first time. Our AAC Risk Management Services Counsel Brandy McAllister articulates different scenarios when it comes to tricky personnel issues. Eddie Jones gives a crash course about budgeting, appropriations, and county fiscal policy. This could not be done without all the wonderful, elected officials in leadership positions that help organize new elect training. The second half of the training is driven by the current and seasoned elected officials in each association. They provide basic training for the inner workings of each office. These individuals have made mistakes and have implemented best practices in their respective offices. There is a lot of time for group discussion and Q & A so all new members can participate. We go into this training with the hope that it lays the groundwork for each official to have a successful first term.

This is going to be a time of opportunities for newly elected officials and county employees. Turnovers can be many different flavors with many different colors. Turnovers can be messy or clean. Some may like certain turnovers and dislike others. I am a chocolate or cinnamon type of guy; you may be an apple or cherry type. I think most people can find something they enjoy about a turnover. Apple may have been the first, but I am sure glad chocolate and cinnamon were incorporated into the original pastry. My advice is to embrace the turnover.

75 Counties - One Voice COUNTY LINES, FALL 2022 23

SCOTUS issues opinions in law enforcement and EPA cases

The U.S. Supreme Court has issued rulings on cases that were argued in the Fall 2021 term, with several of them affecting state and local governments. This article will highlight a few of those cases and their summaries as compiled by Lisa Soronen, with the State and Local Legal Center, specifically those dealing with law enforcement and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issues.

Vega v. Tekoh — In this 6-3 decision, the Court held that law enforcement officers cannot be sued for money damages for not reciting Miranda rights. Tekoh was arrested for a sex crime, which resulted in a confession that Tekoh claimed was obtained using “coercive investigatory techniques.” Deputy Vega disputed that allegation but admitted that he did not read Tekoh his Miranda rights. After his acquittal, Tekoh sued Deputy Vega for violating his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination by not reading him Miranda rights. The Court held that failure to cite Miranda rights is not a violation of the Fifth Amendment, which protects a person from being compelled to witness against themselves in a criminal case because the iconic Miranda case merely imposed a set of prophylactic rules to safeguard a person’s right against selfincrimination during police interrogation. It did not create a new standard for violating a person’s Fifth Amendment rights.

Rivas-Villegas v. Cortesluna — In this per curiam decision, the Supreme Court upheld qualified immunity for law enforcement officers by reversing the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals’ decision that had threatened the doctrine. A young girl called 911 and stated that she, her sister, and mother had locked themselves in a room because the mother’s boyfriend, Cortesluna, was threatening to hurt them with a chainsaw. Officers arrived and ordered Cortesluna to leave the house when they noticed a knife protruding from his pants pocket. After failure to comply with the order to put his hands up, police shot him twice with a beanbag gun, after which he complied with officers’ orders. At that point, for no more than 8 seconds, Officer Rivas-Villegas put his left knee on the left side of Cortesluna’s back, the side of his body where the knife was, and put the suspect’s arms behind his back while another officer removed the weapon and handcuffed the suspect.

The Ninth Circuit, interpreting LaLonde v. County of Riverside, ruled that leaning with a knee on a suspect who is lying face-down without resisting is excessive force. Qualified immunity protects officers from being sued for money damages for potential violations of citizens’ constitutional rights unless they violated “clearly established” law. The Supreme Court

found that the facts of LaLonde’s arrest were “materially distinguishable” from Cortesluna’s arrest and “did not govern the facts of this case.” Officers in LaLonde were responding to a mere noise complaint as opposed to a serious allegation of armed domestic violence. Additionally, LaLonde was unarmed, whereas Cortesluna had a knife protruding from his pocket, which he had appeared to reach for. The Court also noted the brief period Rivas-Villegas had his knee on Cortesluna’s back as well as the location of his knee, near where the knife was being confiscated, as opposed to the officer in LaLonde, who “deliberately dug his knee into his back when he had no weapon and had made no threat when approached by police.”

City of Tahlequah v. Bond — In another per curiam ruling by the Supreme Court, the Court again reversed a denial of qualified immunity for two law enforcement officers. The officers shot suspect Dominic Rollice after his ex-wife told 911 that Rollice was intoxicated in her garage and refused to leave. During conversation with the officers, Rollice wielded a hammer with both hands and faced them as if going to swing a baseball bat. Ignoring the officers’ commands to drop the hammer, Rollice raised the hammer high behind his head and took a stance as if preparing to charge at the officers. The officers both fired their weapons, and Rollice was struck and killed. The Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals cited case law, including Allen v. Muskogee, that it claimed clearly established that the officers used excessive force. The Supreme Court found the facts of Allen to be dramatically different from the facts here. In Allen, the officers were responding to a potential suicide call by running at a car screaming and attempting to physically disarm the suspect. In contrast, the officers in this case engaged in a conversation from a distance with Rollice and did not escalate to yelling at the suspect until after he picked up a potential weapon. The Court determined that they were entitled to qualified immunity.

West Virginia v. EPA — The Court ruled 6-3 that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) acted outside of its authority designated by Congress under the Clean Air Act to issue its Clean Power Plan (CPP). The Clean Air Act gave the EPA the authority to implement air-pollution standards for “the best system of emission reduction” (BSER). In 2015, the EPA issued the CPP, stating that the BSER for existing power plants was “generation-shifting” from coal power plants to


natural gas, wind and solar energy sources.

In the Court’s opinion, Chief Justice John Roberts said the Clean Air Act did not give the EPA “clear congressional authorization” to regulate in such a sweeping manner. While almost anything could arguably be defined as a “system,” “clear congressional authorization” was required in a case of this magnitude, due to the “history and breadth of the authority” asserted by the EPA as well as the “economic and political sig-

nificance” of the EPA’s action. The Court noted that the EPA had never claimed this type of overarching power before in a long-standing statute, giving doubt to Congress’s intent to grant the agency power that broad. Finally, the Court noted that the EPA’s action under its perceived authority allowed it to completely transform the national energy market by implementing regulation that Congress had repeatedly declined to pass itself.

The Arkansas Opioid Recovery Partnership

The newly formed Arkansas Opioid Recovery Partnership (ARORP) held its inaugural Advisory Board meeting on Nov. 4. Board members include Lafayette County Judge Danny Ormand; Attorney Tom Barron; Opioid Stewardship Committee-UAMS Chairman, Dr. Johnathan Goree; LiveRamp Chief Legal and Ethics Officer and Executive Vice President Jerry Jones; Strong-Huttig School Board President Cindy Smith; Grant Writer and Researcher Gloria Gordon; Blytheville Mayor James Sanders; Arkansas Municipal League General Counsel John Wilkerson; AAC Litigation Counsel Colin Jorgensen; Retired Director of the State Opioid Response Project, Dr. Virginia Stanick; Washington County Sheriff Tim Helder; and Retired North Little Rock Police Chief Danny Bradley. The Board meeting was followed by a news conference during which ARORP Director Kirk Lane announced grant opportunities and ARORP Deputy Director Tenesha Barnes unveiled the ARORP website.


In 2021, the federal courts in Arkansas saw more civil rights cases filed by prisoners than any other state in the Eighth Circuit. Although the courts are required to screen these complaints under the Prisoner Litigation Reform Act (PLRA), we still see hundreds of cases filed against county employees in Arkansas each year. With these sorts of numbers, the chances are good that you will be served with at least one lawsuit alleging a civil rights violation by law enforcement or detention officers in your county. It is always good practice to make sure you and your staff understand what to do when you are sued and some simple ways to help us provide the best defense for you in court.

You cannot wait until the day you are served to start preparing for litigation. The best defense is really created and established before the suit is filed. Here are some tips to help us help you.

Understand and Recognize Service

A lawsuit is officially served when a “SUMMONS” is delivered to a person or entity named in the attached “COMPLAINT.” This is often done via certified mail from the U.S. Marshals. If you receive mail from the Court and are not sure what you need to do, please call us and we will help you identify what it is. Delivery of a Summons and Complaint starts the clock on the limited time for the served defendant to file a timely Answer. Once service is accepted, whether by certified mail or in person, an Answer must be filed (within 21 days if suit is filed in Federal Court, or 30 days if suit is filed in State Court.) If an Answer is not timely filed, the plaintiff can ask the court to enter a Default Judgment.

If the person named in the suit no longer works for the county, refuse service. If you cannot identify the person to whom service is directed, (for instance, “Officer Roberts” is named, but you have more than one officer with the last name “Roberts,”) refuse service. If the person named in the suit still works for the county, accept service, notify the person, and give them a copy immediately. For claims of civil rights violations, it is critical that you notify us right away so we can confirm coverage and, if covered, make sure the attorney assigned to the case gets an Answer filed on time. The best way to notify us is by emailing a copy of the Summons and Complaint.

Document. Document. Document.

No one wants to add to the workload of already busy county employees, create more paperwork, or stay longer on a shift to create a record or report. However, those are the very things that will save you time and effort should the case move to litigation. Documents often allow your lawyers to present evidence to the Court on a pre-trial motion such as a Motion for Summary Judgment, that could result in a dismissal of the case. Make sure your officers are trained in report writing.

In addition, because the statute of limitations in civil rights

cases is three years, chances are the memories of those involved will fade. Reports and memos will preserve a person’s testimony and provide details that will be important in providing a full and complete picture for the judge or jury. Especially in situations where litigation seems likely, whether due to the situation or due to a litigious plaintiff, the time it takes employees to write a report or memo may save the employee and the county months in litigation.

Preserve everything (Documents, video, and photographs)

Discarding or destroying evidence, or allowing it to be destroyed, in a pending or anticipated lawsuit is illegal and counterproductive to your case. Allowing evidence to spoil (be deleted or discarded) may subject the parties or lawyers to sanctions by the Court. Also, the law allows the Court to instruct the jury to presume that the “spoiled” evidence would have supported the allegations in the plaintiff’s Complaint. That presumption is very hard to overcome.

Modern judges and juries expect to see video or photographic evidence. When it is missing, there can be an unspoken suspicion that can hurt your defense. The irony is that, more often than not, video evidence usually supports your position. When an incident occurs that is likely to lead to litigation, promptly identify and preserve any photo or video evidence that is relevant. It may not show the entire incident, or it may show that the “incident” did not actually happen. Even photos or video that appear of limited value should be preserved. If more than one camera recorded the event or parts of it, save the video from each camera. Most counties do not have unlimited storage and may only be able to access video for a limited period after an alleged event. This is why it is critical to identify and preserve the video as soon as possible. Do not allow over-recording to occur. You are always welcome to go ahead and pull any available video evidence and send us an electronic copy or DVD — even before suit is filed — so we can duplicate your efforts to preserve this critical evidence.

Finally, make sure that you provide the lawyer handling your case with complete and legible copies of anything and everything that may be pertinent to your case. Make a full copy of what you provide so that you can be absolutely sure that you have given them every page. If in doubt, go ahead and provide the information so the lawyer can evaluate the relevance to the case. We would always rather get too much information than not enough.

JANAN Thomas Risk Management Litigation Counsel
Litigation 101
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Mississippi County Courthouse gets a facelift

The renovation project included a new museum-grade addition.

The Mississippi County Courthouse in Blytheville has been part of the framework of the community for more than 100 years and thanks to a recent project, the historical building will continue to be a resource for many years to come.

The project, which has been in the works for years, involved the restoration of the courthouse, along with the construction of additional square footage at the space.

Mississippi County Judge John Alan Nelson said the goal of the project was to create a museum-grade facility that can also be used by the community. Since the project’s completion, Nelson said he has only heard compliments and praise about the courthouse. He said pictures of the building do not do it justice.

When asked why the decision was made to renovate the historic building instead of constructing a new courthouse, Nelson said he feels historical buildings are an important resource for communities. The architectural elements of the building, such as the elaborate marble and limestone, also could not be recreated at a new courthouse.

“This endeavor will be a landmark in the history of Mississippi County. Preserving our past pays tribute to those who have come before us and leaves a message to those who follow. We take on this tremendous responsibility with highest respect. The citizens of our county have entrusted us with their hard-earned money to make those decisions that will prove to carry this project to a successful completion we can all be proud of,” Nelson said in a press release about the bond for the renovation.

The county bond totaled about $18 million, with $2 million going to improvements to the county’s second courthouse in Osceola. Since the Blytheville project came in under

Above: Rather than building a new courthouse in Blytheville, the county opted to preserve and add on to the more than 100-year-old original building. This photo shows the new addition in the foreground plus the landscaping around the courthouse. A crew is working on a display to honor the county’s veterans, in particular a World War II hero and Medal of Honor recipient who is entombed on the courthouse campus. Story by Sarah Perry AAC Communications Coordinator
Photos by Ken West Photography

budget, the remaining funds will be used to make more improvements in Osceola, Nelson said.

Aaron Ruby, founder and firm principal with Revival Architecture, said his firm became involved in the project after submitting a request for qualifications prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. The staff at the firm in Scott specialize in the restoration of historic properties, and they especially enjoy working on county courthouses.

Historic properties have unique limitations that are not involved in projects with modern buildings or new construction.

Ruby noted that historic buildings usually are not built to accommodate modern conveniences such as heating and air conditioning, so space is limited for ductwork and other equipment. Insulation is also usually not in place within the building walls.

The Mississippi County Courthouse, a Colonial Revival style building, was constructed between 1919 and 1921. It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1996.

According to the registration information filed with the U.S. Department of Interior, the courthouse was designed by the Selligman and Ellesvard architectural firm in Pine Bluff.

With this project, Ruby said his team was tasked with adding as much square footage as possible within the county’s budget.

“A lot of work went into something like this,” he said.

One new courtroom was added, and the original grand courtroom was restored.

The addition had to match the style, look and the location of the floors within the historic courthouse.

Top: The Mississippi County Courthouse, a Colonial Revival style building, was constructed between 1919 and 1921. The courthouse was designed by the Selligman and Ellesvard architectural firm in Pine Bluff. It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1996. Bottom: Revival Architecture of Scott submitted a request for qualifications prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. The firm, founded by Aaron Ruby, specializes in the restoration of historic properties, which have unique limitations not involved in projects with modern buildings or new construction. For instance, Ruby said historic buildings usually are not built to accommodate modern conveniences such as ductwork and other equipment for heating and air conditioning. With this project, Ruby’s staff was tasked with adding as much square footage as possible, but the new addition had to match the style, look, and the location of floors in the historic courthouse. See “COURTHOUSE” on Page

“While clearly discernible from the original courthouse, the compatible addition makes use of similar materials and features while remaining

>>> COUNTY LINES, FALL 2022 29


Top: During the renovation process, one new courtroom was added, and the original courtroom was restored to a more historically accurate version. Bottom: Mississippi County Judge Nelson said his favorite aspect of the project was the restoration of the original courtroom, calling the space “ornate” and the hub of the courthouse. He said he also liked that the county had the opportunity to display pieces of the county’s history throughout the courthouse.

Continued From Page 29

subservient to the original, taller and more substantial courthouse. The use of glass at the new public entrance provides a level of transparency important in government buildings,” according to the project description by Revival Architecture.

During the restoration, Ruby said he also had the opportunity to display older records and other pieces of the county’s history at the building.

Nelson said he liked that the county had the opportunity to display some of those historic records. A crew currently is working on a display to honor the county’s veterans, especially a World War II hero and Medal of Honor recipient who is entombed on the courthouse campus.

Nelson said his favorite aspect of the project was the restoration of the original courtroom. He called this space “ornate” and the hub of the courthouse.

As part of the project, the staff at Revival Architecture and Renaissance Roofing also made some improvements to the county’s second courthouse in Osceola, including replacing the copper dome at the top of the courthouse.

“After careful study and evaluation, and years of maintenance and repeated ‘repair’ projects, it was determined the copper cladding of the dome required full replacement,” according to the architectural firm’s description of the project.

For their work on both courthouses, the staff at Revival Architecture has received various awards including being recognized by the Copper Development Association.

While he understands funding is limited, Ruby said he hopes that other county officials follow Mississippi County’s lead and ensure county courthouses receive needed tender loving care.


Outgoing Board members honored for service

During its December meeting, the AAC Board of Directors honored two members with Diamond Awards for their service.

Crittenden County Collector Ellen Foote has stepped down, as her tenure as president of the Arkansas Tax Collectors Association has ended. Foote served on the AAC Board of Directors for six years.

Also stepping down is Faulkner County Justice of the Peace Randy Higgins. Higgins joined the AAC Board of Directors in Spring 2021. In the new year, he will serve as county administrator under Faulkner County Judge-Elect Allen Dodson.

AAC Board President and Randolph County Circuit Clerk Debbie Wise and AAC Executive Director Chris Villines presented the awards.


Meet the leadership in the 94th General Assembly

The state’s 94th General Assembly will convene Jan. 9, 2022. Pre-filing of bills and resolutions began on Nov. 16, 2020. As this edition of County Lines was planned, it was decided to introduce Senate and House leadership to our readers.

On the following pages you will read more about President Senate Pro Tempore Bart Hester, Speaker of the House

Matthew Shepherd, Senate and House Majority Leaders Sen. Blake Johnson and Rep. Marcus Richmond, and Senate and House Minority Leaders Sen. Greg Leding and Rep. Jay Richardson. County and district elected officials will encounter these legislators on the hill.

This will be the first legislative session held under Arkansas’ incoming governor, Sarah Huckabee Sanders.

Sen. Hester, R-Cave City, succeeds Sen. Jimmy Hickey, R-Texarkana, as President Senate Pro Tempore in the 94th General Assembly. He was elected to the senate in 2012.

During the 94th General Assembly, he will serve on the State Agencies, Children and Youth, and Efficiency committees.

Hester believes in holding down the size of government and reducing government debt. He has been a consistent sponsor of legislation to lower taxes and reduce regulatory burdens on business. Also, his legislative priorities have included bills to improve foster care and adoption services.

In recent interviews, Hester has indicated that the 94th General Assembly will focus on education — including teacher raises, cutting income taxes, parole reform, and building a new prison.

“Some people say 1,000 beds. I say we need 3,000 beds, right? And we’ll continue to talk about that as the legislature. But the good news is when you have a significant amount of savings, and we do, we’ve got a couple of billion dollars that are available to us, you really have options,” he said in a November interview with Talk Business & Politics.

Rep. Matthew Shepherd, R-El Dorado, was first elected Speaker of the House in 2018. He presided over the House durng the 92nd and 93rd General Assemblies, and won re-relection as Speaker this year.

Shepherd has served in the House since 2011. He is a practicing attorney.

Shepherd will serve on the Public Transportation and the Agriculture, Forestry and Economic Development committees in the upcoming session.

Shepherd and Hester are on the same page regarding priorities for the legislature, which will have a total of 40 (13 senators and 27 representatives) new members, in 2023. He has said that criminal and prison reform, education, and continuing to cut taxes will be major issues.

Shepherd said in a December interview with the Arkansas DemocratGazette that Gov.-elect Sarah Huckabee Sanders’ preference will be vital in setting the pace for the session.

“We want to be ready to move forward from day one” and to be as efficient as possible, he told the newspaper.

Arkansas State Sen. Blake Johnson, R-Corning, will serve as Senate Majority Leader during the 94th General Assembly. He was elected to the Arkansas Senate in 2014 and took the oath of office on the first day of the 2015 legislative session.

During the 2021 regular session Johnson sponsored legislation to mandate inspections of abortion facilities and to limit drag racing motor vehicles on a public highway. He was the Senate sponsor of legislation to cut in half the annual registration fee on hybrid vehicles.

Johnson previously has sponsored bills affecting public schools, such as creating options for issuing a standard teaching license for nontraditional licensure programs, changing the number of professional development days required for teachers and strengthening background checks for public school teachers and employees.

In the upcoming session, Johnson will serve on the Senate’s Revenue & Tax, Rules, and Energy Committees. In addition, he will serve as chairman of the Transportation Committee.

Sen. Bart Hester Senate President Pro Tempore Rep. Matthew Shepherd Speaker of the House Sen. Blake Johnson Senate Majority Leader

Rep. Marcus Richmond, R-Harvey, will reprise his role as House Majority Leader in the 94th General Assembly. His first term in the House was in 2015. He served as 4th District Assistant Speaker Pro Tem in 2017 and as House Majority Leader in 2018.

During the 2019 session, Richmond was a primary sponsor of SB544 (now Act 1110), which requires a person in the custody of a correctional facility to use funds from federal relief or stimulus programs to first pay outstanding fines, fees, costs, or restitution. He also sponsored several House bills regarding public education, voting, law enforcement, and sex trafficking.

During the 94th General Assembly, Richmond will continue to serve on the House Judiciary, and State Agencies & Governmental Affairs committees.

Sen. Greg Leding, D-Fayetteville, has enjoyed a long career in public service. He served four terms in the state House of Representatives — in 2011, 2013, 2015, and 2017. Leding was Minority Leader for one term when he was a member of the House.

He was first elected to the Senate in 2019. As of this printing, he has not filed any bills for the 2023 Regular Session.

In the past he has advocated for raisting teacher salaries and for giving teachers an income tax deduction for buying certain items for their classrooms, among other education-related issues.

During the 94th General Assembly, he will serve on the House Education; Agriculture, Forestry and Economic Development; and Children and Youth committees. He also will be vice-chairman of the Retirement Committee.

Rep. Jay Richardson, D-Fort Smith, will enter his third term in the House when the body convenes in January.

During the 2021 Regular Session, Richardson was primary sponsor for several bills regarding law enforcement officers. He was co-sponsor of HB1516 (now Act 587), permitting law enforcement officers to transport persons in crisis to a sobering center. In 2019, He was a co-sponsor of HB1145 (now Act 170), known as the teacher salary enhancement act. He also co-sponsored HB1409 (now Act 641), to “allow for extended learning opportunities through unstructured social time; to require a certain amount of time for recess; and to consider supervision during unstructured social time as instructional.

He will serve on the House Judiciary, and Insurance & Commerce committees during the 94th General Assembly.

2023 Regular Session Dates and Deadlines

Jan. 9 — Legislature convenes

Jan. 23 — Deadline to file retirement legislation, certain health care legislation, and employee benefits plans legislation

Feb. 8 — Deadline to file constitutional amendments

*Feb. 27 — Deadline to file appropriation bills

*Deadline may be extended

2023 Legislative Session Resources

Look up bills and meeting times: https://www.arkleg.state.ar.us

Find your state representative: https://www.arkansashouse.org

Find your state senator: https://senate.arkansas.gov

Rep. Marcus Richmond House Majority Leader Rep. Jay Richardson House Minority Leader Sen. Greg Leding Senate Minority Leader
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Left: Former AAC Executive Director Brenda Pruitt was recognized during the 50th Annual AAC Conference in 2018. She worked at the AAC for 18 years and has been the only female executive director in the association’s history. Pruitt passed away on Nov. 15, at the age of 80.

Former AAC director remembered for work ethic, kindness

When the news of former AAC Executive Director Brenda Pruitt’s passing was posted to the association’s social media platforms, the comment section was filled with people sharing kind words and memories about her.

Brenda, who lived in Judsonia, died Nov. 15, at the age of 80. She is survived by her husband of 64 years, Buddy Pruitt; two sons, Mark (Kathleen) Pruitt of Beebe, and Tim (Claire) Pruitt of Olive Branch, Mississippi; six grandchildren: Drew Pruitt, Miriam Pruitt, Allison Pruitt, Hunter Pruitt, Emma Pruitt, and Cody Wood; five great-grandchildren; brother, Mitchell (Marie) Wood of El Dorado, Kansas, and several nephews, according to her obituary.

Brenda worked for AAC for a total of 18 years, including as an administrative assistant to Director Jim Baker. She also managed the AAC Risk Management Program and Workers’ Comp Trust for several years. During her tenure as the AAC’s only female executive director, she worked to set aside funding for a future expansion of the facility, which was later completed debt free.

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Prior to joining the AAC, Brenda worked for the White County Judge’s Office.

Both current AAC Executive Director Chris Villines and former AAC Executive Director Eddie Jones praised Brenda’s worth ethic.

“Brenda epitomized class and was a good friend, solid leader and dedicated servant to counties. She will be missed, and prayers abound for Buddy and family,” Villines said.

When asked about Brenda, Jones wrote these comments:

“Brenda was loyal and committed to the job to a fault. She was tiny but mighty. She would have tangled with a grizzly if that’s what it took to get the job done. And even though she worked hard every day with a form of crippling arthritis you never heard her complain. She would walk the marble halls of the Capitol all day with the toughest — even in her high heels and never complain. She’s the one for which you can truly say, ‘She did her job — and she did it well.’”

Current AAC Board President Debbie Wise called Brenda “an inspiration to many.”

Did an aspect of county government “make news” recently in your county? Did any of your county officials or staff get an award, appointment or pat on the back? Please let us know about it for the next edition of County Lines magazine. You can write up a couple of paragraphs about it, or if something ran in your local paper, call and ask them to forward the story to us. We encourage you or your newspaper to attach a good quality photo, too: e-mail csmith@arcounties.org.


Rebecca Talbert

Garland County Collector new to AAC board

Having worked as the Garland County Tax Collector for the past 16 years, Rebecca Talbert has a lot of experience with the Arkansas County Tax Collectors Association, but soon she will be taking on a new experience as the president of the association and a member of the Association of Arkansas Counties (AAC) Board of Directors.

During the Arkansas Tax Collectors Association Fall/ Winter meeting last month, Talbert was elected to serve as the association’s president. She had served as secretary/ treasurer since 2017 and first vice president before that. She succeeds Crittenden County Tax Collector Ellen Foote, who served as association president for more than five years.

Talbert said in the upcoming year she is looking forward to helping the newly elected collectors and facilitating the needed training for members of the association.

She said she also is looking forward to the upcoming legislative session for political reasons.

Talbert decided to run for county collector after working in the Garland County Collector’s Office for nine years. She had considered running for the collector’s position and when the collector at the time announced he was retiring, her chance arose.

The collector position gave her the opportunity to advance herself while serving the community, she said.

“I could serve the office and the people of Garland County,” she said.

She said the biggest accomplishment so far in her career has been the modernization of the office, including a new computer system and the capability to take credit card payments.

Talbert hopes to make some improvements for the Collectors Association during her time as president. She mentioned that she and other fellow board members would like to make some changes to how things are being done, including some revisions to meetings. With newly elected

collectors coming into office, she feels now is a good time to make some changes such as having longer meetings, if they can.

The association’s Continuing Education Board sets the agenda for upcoming meetings based on feedback that they receive from members.

With the number of new collectors that are coming into office, Talbert feels training will be crucial.

“Until you get into office, you don’t know what your questions are going to be, and when you get there [to meetings] and talk to people face to face, it’s easier to ask questions,” she said. “When I was first elected, that’s how I learned.”

While she has a plan for her time as president of the Collectors Association, Talbert is in for a new adventure as she joins the AAC Board of Directors. She plans to first learn from other board members to figure out where and when she can jump in to help.

“It’s going to be a learning experience first, and then I’ll see what they need from me,” she said.

According to the Collectors Association bylaws, the association president automatically serves on the AAC board and selects another person to serve with him or her.

Talbert has selected Pulaski County Collector/Treasurer Debra Buckner to serve alongside her. Buckner has served on the board for several years, and Talbert feels that Buckner does a fine job.

“She will be a great person to help me to be on the board,” Talbert said.

Story and Photo by Sarah Perry AAC Communications Coordinator

Michael Roys

AAC welcomes new continuing education program manager

Michael Roys became familiar with the Association of Arkansas Counties (AAC) over a decade ago while working for Arkansas Tech University. At the time, he was working as the director of the Professional Development Institute at the campus, and he worked with the Arkansas Collectors Association for their training sessions. Years later, as the newly hired ACE Program Coordinator, Roys had the opportunity to again work with the Arkansas Collectors Association, as his first day at the office was also the second day of the association’s Fall/Winter meeting. He said he hopes to harken back to his Tech days as he now will be responsible for coordinating continuing education for all of the associations for elected officials.

Roys is currently working alongside current program coordinator Karan Skarda, who is retiring at the end of the year. While on a bike ride, Roys received a call he never thought he would receive. AAC Executive Director Chris Villines approached him about the ACE Program Coordinator position since Villines remembered Roys from his time working with the collectors.

“In the years around 2008 to 2010, I was president of the Arkansas Collectors Association, and Michael worked as our liaison with Arkansas Tech University. Our meetings were always organized and Michael was very personable and easy to work with,” Villines explained.

Roys jumped at the new job opportunity.

Prior to joining AAC, Roys worked for 12 years as a middle school teacher in the Russellville School District. He taught language arts and geography.

Roys said the job offer “checked all of the boxes of things that I still am interested in doing and passionate about.” He said he also feels his position at the AAC aligns with his goals of helping others as a servant leader, and he is looking forward to serving the elected officials in any way that he can.

In his new position, Roys wants to help the various associations provide meaningful trainings, so that elected officials can be the best they can be.

“I’m really excited about that,” he said. “I want them to leave the meetings, taking back information to make their counties even better.”

He mentioned that he knows the elected officials are working hard and under a lot of stress. He hopes through continued trainings they can learn new things to make their jobs easier, less stressful, more efficient and more fun.

Roys has his own experience serving as an elected official. He was elected to the city council in Russellville for two terms.

Looking to the upcoming year, Roys said he has big shoes to fill after the retirement of Skarda, but he is looking forward to connecting with elected officials across the state, establishing relationships with them and facilitating “some really good quality meetings.”

“Hiring Michael to replace Karan is like a baseball player hitting back-to-back home runs. We are lucky to have had both of them tied into the ACE Program,” Villines said.

Roys said that in his time with the AAC, he has enjoyed the vibe of the office. All the staff has been nice, helpful, and supportive, he said.

In his free time, Roys is an avid outdoorsman, and he enjoys climbing, mountain biking and paddleboarding. He also serves as the coach for the Cyclone Mountain Bike Team.

Roys is the proud father of daughter, Grace. She and her husband, Sawyer, have two sons: Ridge, 5, and Drew, 7 months.


Misty Petrus

New Workers Compensation Claims Manager joins AAC staff

Coming to work at the Association of Arkansas Counties, Misty Petrus said she feels like she is back with family just at a different home. Having worked at the Arkansas Municipal League (ARML) for 16 years, Petrus is excited to get back to the government side of the Worker’s Compensation field.

“Although I don’t know all the ins and outs of the AAC, I have a feeling that the setup is likely very similar [to that of the Arkansas Municipal League],” she said.

After graduating from Lonoke High School in 1996, Petrus jumped into the Worker’s Comp arena at the ARML. She started working in clerical support and over her 16 years there, she made her way up the ladder until she became a senior adjuster. At the beginning of her career at the ARML, Petrus worked under Sheryll Lipscomb, who became a mentor.

“She mentored me and over time I fell in love with what I was doing,” she said.

Petrus then worked for a broker briefly before joining the staff at Cannon Cochran Management Services, Inc. She has worked in management for the past five years.

“I have grown up in the Worker’s Compensation industry. It’s what I live and breathe and what I know,” she said.

Petrus was recently hired to step in the role of Worker’s Compensation claims manager at AAC following the retirement of Debbie Lakey, who Petrus has known for years.

“We travel in the same group. We go to the same conferences. We attend the same events, so we know each other … It’s a small pond when you have been doing it for this long,” she said, adding that she also serves alongside Lakey on the Arkansas Self Insurance Association (ASIA) Board.

She learned of Lakey’s retirement and that the position at

AAC would be available through ASIA.

Petrus said she is under some pressure coming in after Lakey.

“I’m sure that she is extremely loved by everyone that she works with and deals with. There is some nervousness, but I am also extremely excited to have people who trust me enough to be able to take that on,” she said.

Petrus knows that Lakey has done an amazing job over the years and hopes to continue with the wonderful things she has done, but she is also looking forward to putting a fresh set of eyes on the job.

She hopes that maybe with a new spin on things, she may be able to make things even better.

“Ultimately, I’m going to be a good steward of the counties’ money,” she said.

Petrus said she is excited about learning everything that her new job will entail and meeting the people she will be working with in the office and across the state. She wants people to feel comfortable with her as she learns how and where she can help people with their needs. Petrus said she plans to work for AAC until she retires.

Petrus has three adult children and they all live out-of-state. Lexi is an attorney in Florida. Marcus lives in Utah, and Aly works at a public relations firm in Chicago.

Petrus, a resident of North Little Rock, describes herself as “Dogtown proud.” She lives in a historic home that she is restoring with her husband, Wes. They have two dogs, Juno and Spanner.



Where were you born and raised? Southern Louisiana. I was born in Baton Rouge but spent much of my childhood in Houma, Louisiana.

Family information: My husband, Rick, and I have been married for eight years. We live in Saline County with our two children: Eli, who is 6, and Olivia, who is 2. We recently bought a labradoodle puppy named Coco.

My favorite meal: Spaghetti

When I’m not working: I’m spending time with my family, watching Disney movies or running.

The accomplishments of which I am most proud: My children. Being a mom is not an easy job, but it is the most rewarding.

The hardest thing I have ever done is: Starting a family

with my husband in central Arkansas. With both of our families hours away, we moved to Saline County to follow a job opportunity. We had to learn to depend on each other and figure out day-to-day things together.

At the top of my bucket list is to: Visit Europe, especially the Vatican.

You might be surpised to learn that: Growing up, I moved 11 times because my dad worked as a manager in retail.

My pet peeve is: People who are unkind.

Motto or favorite quote: “All our dreams can come true, if we have the courage to pursue them.” — Walt Disney

When did you start at the AAC and what projects have you been working on? I began on Nov. 14. I have been covering stories for this magazine and attending association conferences.


Where were you born and raised? I was born and raised in Texarkana, Arkansas. I also lived in Seattle, Washington, for 13 years after finishing college. I moved back to Arkansas in 2019.

Family information: I come from a large family and have nine siblings. I have a beauti ful 3-year-old daughter named Addison aka Addie-bug.

My favorite meal: Vietnamese Pho

When I’m not working: I enjoy fixing stuff — mostly cars. I’m the family mechanic.

The accomplishments of which I am most proud: Finishing college with no debt.

The hardest thing I have ever done is: I started and opened my own business, which I operated for two years until market conditions became too unfavorable.

At the top of my bucket list is to: Go to Fiji or Maldives

You might be surpised to learn that: I’m a piantist/composer.

My pet peeve: Laziness

Motto or favorite quote: Sometimes a mansion can become a prison.

When did you start at the AAC and what projects have you been working on? I started AAC on Sept. 12, 2022, and I have been learning the Claims Analyst role to take over for Riley Groover.

Sarah Perry

LAW CLERK — Taylor Handford

Where were you born and raised? Batesville, Arkansas.

Family information: My mother is Elizabeth Bunch, and my father is Brant Handford. I am an only child.

My favorite meal: My favorite meal is corn bread and black-eyed peas.

When I’m not working: I’m reading, play ing tennis, doomscrolling on Twitter, and practicing very amateur photography of places around the state.

The accomplishments of which I am most proud: Remaining optimistic.

The hardest thing I have ever done is: Watch Razorback football games.

At the top of my bucket list is to: Convince somone in

the Italian government to let me walk inside Trajan’s Column in Rome or somehow have a countryside villa with some olive groves or grapevines in Italy, France or Spain. The villa can be a shack. I don’t need anything fancy.

You might be surpised to learn that: People contain multitudes, learning things is never a surprise.

My pet peeve is: Dependent on my mood.

Motto or favorite quote: “Do all the good you can, by all the means you can, in all the ways you can, in all the places you can, at all the times you can, to all the people you can, as long as ever you can.”

When did you start at the AAC and what projects have you been working on? I started on Sept. 7, and I have been working on a County Lines article and county publication survey.

Taylor Handford


The Arkansas Tax Collectors Association met Nov. 28-29, with the election of new officers on the agenda.

Association elected

are Treasurer Lori Pennington (Ashley County), 1st Vice President Teresa Smith (Baxter County), Secretary Amy Jenkins (Boone County), President Rebecca Talbert (Garland County), 2nd Vice President Debra Buckner (Pulaski County), Hospitality Organizer Beth Dorton (White County), and Past President Ellen Foote (Crittenden County).

Right: During a dinner to honor them, retiring collectors received Capitol Citations from the Secretary of State’s Office. Pictured are (from left to right) Charlotte Ratliffe (Sharp County), Debbie Davis (Cross County), Brenda Black (Dallas County), Gail Seamons (Chicot County), C.J. Hays (Greene County), Amy Harris (Franklin County), and Leta Willis (Johnson County). Pictured in the back is Outreach Coordinator Ralph Burns of the Secretary of State’s Office. The theme of the retirement dinner, held Nov. 28 at the AAC building, was thankfulness.



Before the program began, these ladies posed for a photo. They are from left to right, Ashley County Collector Lori Pennington; Drew County Collector Tonya Loveless and Desha County Collector Lisa Hutchison, both of whom will serve on the association’s continuing education board in the upcoming year; and Chicot County Collector Gail Seamons, who is retiring this year.

Left: Members of the Arkansas Tax Collectors new officers for the upcoming year. From left to right, they The Collector’s meeting was held at the Wyndham Riverfront Hotel in North Rock/Pulaski County.


The Assessment Coordination Department hosted the 68th Annual Fall Assessors Conference in Craighead County.

The 2022-2023 Arkansas Assessors Association executive board was

an awards

on Nov. 17. Pictured from left to right: District 4 Representative Becky Hogan (Lee County), District 3 Representative Sheila Ridley (Sevier County), District 2 Representative Gail Snyder (White County), District 1 Representative Shannon Cotton (Logan County), President Kim Hollowell (Crittenden County), Vice President Diann Ballard (Jackson County), Secretary/Treasurer Russell Hill (Washington County), four-year AAC Board Representative Dana Baker (Pope County), and two-year AAC Board Representative Heather Stevens (Stone County).

Right top: Retiring Jefferson County Assessor Yvonne

Humphrey and retiring

Ouachita County Assessor

Debbie Lambert pose for a photo in the exhibitor area.

Right bottom: Scott County Assessor Terri Churchill and Scott County Deputy Assessor Vanna Cardenas make their magazine debut. Far

Right: Outgoing association

President Beth Rush (Ashley County) and retiring Pike County Assessor Becky

Alden smile for the camera.

sworn in during banquent


AAC Risk Management Services hosted its annual Guardian User Training on Oct. 25 at the AAC headquarters. Above left: Sgt. Asia Brockman and Lt. Tyroneisha Collins with the Faulkner County Sheriff’s Office attended the seminar. Above right: Pictured are (from left to right) Sgt. Cigi Scott, Lt. Antonio Waters, Dep. Takeika Henry, Sgt. Jawaski Connors, and Lt. Derrick Freeman of the Pulaski County Sheriff’s Office. A total of 15 from Pulaski County were in attendance. Above left: RMF Members Services Manager James Mirus welcomes everyone. Above middle: Sgt. Tabitha Maze and Sgt. Jacob Zappa represent Baxter County. Above right: Corrections Officers James Leadingham and Ashley Bradley are from Perry County.
Right: Jail Supervisor Amanda Rodgers and Jailer Alesia Etheridge traveled from Lincoln County. Far right: The Faulkner County Sheriff’s Office was well represented. Pictured are Sgt. Chris Watkins and Sgt. Anngelica Beyers.


The Arkansas Coroners’ Association hosted a Crime Scene Photography class Oct. 24-25 in Pulaski County. Above left: ALETA Instructor Kelvin Sergeant sits in on the Crime Scene Photography class. Above right: Carroll County Deputy Coroner Walt Phelps examines the settings on his digital camera. Above left: ALETA Instructor Juan Reyes leads the Crime Scene Photography class, providing instruction on everything from proper camera settings to how to take photos in unfavorable conditions. Above right: Phillips County Deputy Coroner Phillip Taylor, Jr. participates in the photography class. Right: Hot Spring County Deputy Coroner Christina O’Keefe listens intently to the instructor. Far right: Pictured are Faulkner County Deputy Coroners
Kelsey McEuen and Amanda Jolly.


The Arkansas Circuit Clerks Association held its Fall meeting Oct. 11-14 in Jonesboro/Craighead County.

Left: Automated Records Systems Fund Grant Awards were presented to (from left to right, front row) Yell County Circuit Clerk Sharon Barnett, Van Buren County Administrative Assistant Sandi Eskridge, Phillips County Circuit Clerk-elect Tamekia Franklin, Ouachita County Circuit Clerk Gladys Nettles, Franklin County Circuit Clerk Janice King, and Columbia County Circuit Clerk Angela Keith. The grant committe includes (from left to right, back row) Sebastian County Circuit Clerk Sharon Brooks, Benton County Circuit Clerk Brenda DeShields, Washington County Circuit Clerk Kyle Sylvester, Faulkner County Circuit Clerk Crystal Taylor, and Saline County Circuit Clerk Myka Bono Sample.

Right: Retiring circuit clerks received Capitol Citations from the Secretary of State’s Office. Pictured are (front row) Jimmy Cummings (Cleveland) and Crystal Taylor (Faulkner). On the second row are Pam Barnes (Dallas), Persundra Hood (Perry), Sharon Barnett (Yell), Cheryl Wilson (Union), Barbara Whitley (Scott), Jean Burkett (Woodruff), Jan Griffith (Greene), Ralph Burns with the Secretary of State’s Office, Chief Deputy Clerk Katy Vickers accepting a citation on behalf of Mary Pankey (Miller), Chief Deputy Clerk Kristie Womble accepting a citation on behalf of Jeanne Pike (Garland), and Chief Deputy Clerk and Circuit Clerk-elect Temekia Franklin accepting a citation on behalf of Lynn Stillwell (Phillips).

Right: Saline County Circuit Clerk Myka Bono Sample and Faulkner County Circuit Clerk-elect Nancy Eastham pose for a photo. Far Right: Pictured are Poinsett County Circuit Clerk Misty Russell and Randolph County Circuit Clerk and AAC Board President Debbie Wise.



County Clerks met Sept. 26-28 in Mountain View/Stone County for their fall continuing education conference.

break in the meeting.

Right: Retiring county clerks were presented with Capitol Citations on the final day of their meeting. Pictured are (back row) Phillips County Clerk Linda WhiteWinfield, Cross County Clerk Melanie Winkler, Perry County Clerk Persundra

Hood, Polk County Clerk Terri Harrison, Cleveland County Clerk Jimmy Cummings, Hot Spring County Clerk Sandy Boyette, Dallas County Clerk Pam Barnes, (front row) Lawrence County Clerk Tina Stowers, Nevada County Clerk Julie Oliver, Yell County Clerk Sharon Barnett, Chicot County Clerk Pam Donaldson, and Sevier County Clerk Debbie Akin. The retirees were also honored during a dinner the previous evening.

Right: Columbia County Clerk Tammy Wiltz, Columbia County Deputy Clerk Renee Deen, and Clark County Clerk Mona Vance fuel up for the day.

Far right: Van Buren County was well represented by Administrative Assistant Tonya Bonds and Clerk Pam Bradley.

Montgomery County Chief Deputy Clerks Misty Tweedie and Shelby Owens pose for a photo during a Phillips County Clerk-elect Shakira Winfield and retiring Phillips County Clerk Linda White-Winfield are pictured in the exhibit area.


County Treasurers’ fall continuing education meet-

Right: Retiring treasurers were presented Capitol Citations during a 1950’s themed retirement dinner. Pictured are (back row)

Crawford County Treasurer Beverly Pyle, Cleburne County Treasurer Pam Gray, Saline County Treasurer Larry Davis, Ralph Burns of the Secretary of State’s office, Arkansas County Treasurer Charles Horton, (front row) Johnson County Treasurer

Leta Willis, Perry County Treasurer Jan Moore, Greene County Treasurer Debbie Cross, Hot Spring County Treasurer Mary Cansler, Montgomery County Treasurer

Betty Boling, Woodruff County Treasurer

Marlene Stracner, and Logan County Treasurer Mickey Oates.

Right: Fulton County Treasurer Barry Abney makes a comment during the open mic period. Far right: Appointed Cross County Treasurer Tammy Crouch and Cross County Treasurer-elect Peg Hess show off their county pride in matching sweatshirts.

The ing was held Sept. 14-16 at the Winthrop Rockefeller Institute atop Petit Jean Mountain. Above left: Clay County Treasurer-elect Brande Boyd and Jefferson County Treasurer Vonysha Goodwin smile for the camera. Above right: Polk County Treasurer Tanya Fretz and Little River County Treasurer Dayna Guthrie chat during a break in the continuing education meeting.


The County Judges Association of Arkansas held its fall conference June Sept. 7-9 in Benton/Saline County.

Right: More than 30 county judges will not be returning to office in 2023. Pictured here are 1/3 of them — (from left to right) Independence County Judge Robert Griffin, White County Judge Michael Lincoln, Washington County Judge Joseph Wood, Crawford County Judge Dennis Gilstrap, Lawrence County Judge John Thomison, Little River County Judge Mike Cranford, Madison County Judge Frank Weaver, Baxter County Judge Mickey Pendergrass, Howard County Judge Kevin Smith, and Drew County Judge Robert Akin. Secretary of State John Thurston honored each judge with a Capitol Citation during a retirement dinner held Thursday night.

Right: AAC Executive Director Chris Villines presents a Diamond Award to retiring Sebastian County Judge David Hudson for his dedicated work on the APERS Board. Far right: Benton County Judge Barry Moehring asks a question during one of the break-out sessions.

Above left: Pulaski County Judge Barry Hyde speaks to Gov. Asa Hutchinson, who served as the keynote speaker for the Thursday luncheon. Above right: U.S. Sen. John Boozman stopped by the judges’ meeting on Friday morning. Here he is pictured alongside Lonoke County Judge and CJAA President Doug Erwin.

When you participate in the AAC Workers’ Compensation Trust, you can relax in the hands of professional staff members who are going to take care of your needs. The AAC team has decades of experience in handling county government claims – they’re simply the best at what they do! Did we mention that participants in our plan are accustomed to getting money back? Since we started paying dividends in 1997, the AAC Workers’ Compensation Trust has declared almost $31.35 MILLION dollars in dividends, payable to members of the fund. In fact, we mailed $750,000 in savings back to member counties in July 2022. The service is available for any size county government and other county government-related entities. We’ve got you covered!

1415 West Third Street • Little Rock, Arkansas 72201
enjoy dividends! $31 Million paid since 1997 Experienced & licensed examiners covered We’ve got you Debbie Norman Risk Management & Insurance Director 501.375.8247 Misty Petrus Claims Manager 501.375.8698 Kim Nash Claims Adjuster 501.375.8805, ext. 546 Renee Turner Claims Adjuster 501.375.8805, ext. 545 Kim Mitchell Premium Analyst 501.375.8805, ext. 541 Ellen Wood Admin. Assistant 501.375.8805, ext. 540 Brandy McAllister RMF General Counsel 501.375.8694
Association of Arkansas Counties Workers’ Compensation Trust Members


About NACo – The Voice of America’s Counties National Association of Counties (NACo) is the only national organization that represents county governments in the U.S. NACo provides essential services to the nation’s 3,068 counties. NACo advances issues with a unified voice before the federal government, improves the public’s understanding of county government, assists counties in finding and sharing innovative solutions through education and research and provides value-added services to save counties and taxpayers money.

Counties directly eligible for $1.5 billion through U.S. Department of Transportation FY 2023 RAISE grants

$1.5 billion is available now through USDOT FY 2023 RAISE grants; January 30, 2023 deadline to apply Competitive RAISE grants help counties construct and improve critical transportation infrastructure.

On Nov. 30, the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) announced the availability of $1.5 billion in competitive funding through the Office of the Secretary’s Rebuilding American Infrastructure with Sustainability and Equity (RAISE) grants. Counties can apply directly to USDOT for RAISE grants, formerly known as BUILD and TIGER under previous administrations, to support surface transportation infrastructure projects with significant local or regional impacts.

The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (BIL/P.L. 117-58) pro-

vides up to $15 billion over five years for RAISE grants that allow counties and other eligible applicants to carry out a wide variety of activities, including highway, bridge, culvert, transit, port and airport surface transportation projects. The program’s flexibility has landed it amongst USDOT’s most oversubscribed grant programs since its creation in 2009. View more information and instructions for applying here.

As leaders in the nation’s transportation system, RAISE grants help counties construct and improve critical transportation infrastructure to foster safe and thriving communities. Owning and operating more roads and bridges than any other level of government and supporting over one-third of the nation’s airport and transit systems, counties are keeping Americans connected in every corner of the country and applaud opportunities like RAISE that help us meet our vast infrastructure responsibilities.

This publication was made possible with the support of these advertising partners who have helped to underwrite the cost of County Lines. They deserve your consideration and patronage when making your purchasing decisions. For more information on how to partner with County Lines, please call Christy L. Smith at (501) 372-7550.

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Articles inside


pages 48-51


page 47


page 46


page 45


page 42


page 41

LAW CLERK — Taylor Handford

page 40


page 39


page 39

Misty Petrus

page 38

Michael Roys

page 37

Rebecca Talbert

page 36

Former AAC director remembered for work ethic, kindness

page 35

Meet the leadership in the 94th General Assembly

pages 32-33, 35

Outgoing Board members honored for service

page 31


page 30

Mississippi County Courthouse gets a facelift

pages 28-29

The Arkansas Opioid Recovery Partnership

pages 25-26

SCOTUS issues opinions in law enforcement and EPA cases

pages 24-25

Embrace the turnover

page 23


pages 18-22


pages 16-17

Make Arkansas safe AAC RESEARCH CORNER

pages 14-15

From publications to infamous crimes

page 13

Firearms and ammunition industry

page 11

Fidelity Bond Trust provides extra protection

pages 9-10

AAC Welcome to new officials and farewell to coworkers

pages 7-8
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