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AAC F A M I L Y & F R I E N D S


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Successful meetings happen with leadership, organization


“If you had to identify, in one word, the rea- son why the human race has not achieved, and will never achieve, its full potential that word would be ‘meetings.’” — Dave Barry


Meetings can and should accomplish the intended purpose. But it takes planning, organization and leadership to have a smooth, effective and successful meeting. A few years ago I penned an article for County Lines called “Smooth, Effective Meetings” as a meeting guide for the chair, as well as other participants in county quorum court meetings. With a large turnover in county and dis- trict officials for the term that started January 2017, now is a good time to rehash some of that information — and to add a few additional thoughts. Over the past few election cycles there has been a huge


T


turnover in county elected officials. Beginning Jan. 1, Arkan- sas county government welcomed 11 new county clerks, 16 new county judges, five new county treasurers and 155 new justices of the peace. And, of course, there are many more who have only one or two terms under their belts. I men- tion these particular offices because they are the ones most involved in quorum court meetings. If you’re like me, you have sat dumbfounded and appalled, or maybe embarrassed, while a meeting tumbled off a cliff into a deep ravine. You know what happened, even if the meeting participants don’t: stories, side issues, chitchat and lack of preparation overran the good intentions of those who were trying to accomplish something. It may be that the chair and/or the participants were not


properly prepared for the meeting. Maybe the meeting started with a clear goal, a real agenda and at least a majority of the participants prepared. But somehow it ended up a fail- ure. Why? Te reason is that a meeting can be led or misled from any chair in the room. Individual contributions, or the lack thereof, determine the net result produced in a public meeting — or in a meeting of any kind. During my 36 years in county government work, I have attended hundreds of quorum court meetings, and I have chaired dozens of meetings in various capacities. I have seen it all — the good, the bad and the ugly. Let’s take a look at what it takes to have smooth, effective meetings. We are talk-


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hrough the years people have developed hundreds of jokes and one-liners about meetings and com- mittees — primarily because so many meetings tend to run amuck. It doesn’t have to be that way.


Seems To Me...


ing in particular about quorum court meetings or other county government public meetings. However, most of what we say will be applicable to almost any kind of meeting in which business is being conducted. We are going to be looking from both sides of the table. It takes not only a compe- tent and prepared chair, but also participants that are prepared and ready to take care of business in a professional manner. One of the most difficult tasks for an elected official is being called upon to run a public meeting, be it a county quorum court meeting, a committee thereof, or some other type of county government public meeting or hearing. In Arkansas you must understand not only the Open Meetings Law (Freedom of Information Laws ACA 25-19-101, et seq), but also your own rules of order. Many people are under the misconception that “Robert’s Rules of Order” are the mandatory rules of order in Arkansas county government. Tat is not so. Every quorum court in Arkansas is authorized under ACA 14-14-801(b)(12) and ACA 14-14-904(e) to provide for their own organization and management and to determine their own rules of procedure, except as otherwise provided by law. Most counties do find that “Robert’s Rules of Order” is a good starting point and an adequate default in the event that its own adopted rules of procedure do not address an issue. In that case, it is imperative that the county actually have a copy of “Robert’s Rules or Order” on hand to serve as a reference and guide. According to Arkansas law, specifically ACA 14-14-904(d), the county judge is the presiding officer, or chair, of the quo- rum court without a vote but with the power of veto. How- ever, in the absence of the county judge, a quorum of the justices by majority vote shall elect one of their number to preside or chair the meeting but without the power of veto. A justice retains the right to vote on a measure even though he or she is serving as chair. So, it behooves the county judge and each member of the quorum court to be prepared and ready to conduct a great meeting — smooth and effective. Te legalities of the Open Meetings Law and your own


Eddie A. Jones County Consultant


rules of procedure are not everything you need to know. Tere is a part of presiding over a meeting that is not in a law or rule. For lack of a better term it amounts to style. American Poet, Robert Frost defined style as “the mind skating circles


COUNTY LINES, WINTER 2017


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