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

discussion on a complicated issue, for the chair to summarize with clarity the question being voted on.

• Don’t be afraid to say you don’t know. Hopefully, you’ll have done your research before the meeting starts, but there’s always a chance that someone will hit you with an issue you know nothing about. If this happens, remain calm. Use the old trick of repeating the ques- tion or using a phrase such as “that’s a very interesting point.” Tis gives you a few seconds to get your answer straight in your mind, reducing the possibility of stuttering or sounding unsure. If you don’t know the answer, admit it. Say, “I wasn’t aware of that particular issue, does anyone else here have any knowledge about it?” If nobody else speaks up, ask the questioner to see you after the meeting to give you some background. It could well be something important. Even if it’s not, you’ll look good in front of your audience.

• Tank your audience. Always thank attendees once the meeting is finished. It is common courtesy, and people appreciate it.

Here is something else that is very important — keeping a good and accurate record of the meeting. We call it “taking minutes.” It’s a boring job, but someone’s got to do it. Under Arkansas law the secretary of the quorum court is the county clerk unless the court, through ordinance, decides to hire someone else from the staff of either the county clerk or the county judge [ACA 14-14-902(a)(1)(2)(3)(A)(B)(C)]. Taking minutes may not be the most glamorous job in the world, but it’s absolutely necessary to avoid conflict and mixed messages later on. Here’s how to produce a good set of minutes.Minutes need to be:

• Accurate. Tey must be a true record of what occurred. Tat means no drifting off during finer points of


• Clear and unambiguous. Minutes cannot be open to interpretation or discussion. Otherwise, they’re point- less.

Consistently structured. Decide on a structure (bullet points or numbers are the most common) and stick to it. Your minutes will be a lot easier to read, and they will look a lot more professional.

• Brief. You should summarize discussions and decisions rather than attempt to get them down verbatim.

It’s also vital that whomever takes the minutes understands the subject. A confused note taker will produce confused minutes. If something is not clear, ask for clarification from the speaker or the chair. It could save a lot of time, confusion or disagreement later on. Te AAC has a Justice of the Peace Procedural Manual under the “Publications” tab on its website. Te manual contains a Procedural Guide for Arkansas County Quorum Court Meetings, found in Chapter 6. Tis is recommended reading and study for every quorum court justice and every county judge. I leave you with this last thought for a smooth and effec-

tive public meeting. Te “attitude” and “temper” should be checked at the door. Arthur Gordon relates this personal story, “At a turbulent meeting once I lost my temper and said some harsh and sarcastic things. Te proposal I was sup- porting was promptly defeated. My father who was there, said nothing, but that night, on my pillow I found a marked passage from Aristotle: ‘Anybody can become angry — that is easy, but to be angry with the right person and to the right degree and at the right time and for the right purpose, and in the right way — that is not within everybody’s power and is not easy.’”

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75 Counties - One Voice 46 COUNTY LINES, WINTER 2017

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