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Effective county executives share commitment to training, mentoring RESEARCH


t is often said that effective local officials and employees demonstrate leadership and commitment to their community. Their jobs are often thankless, yet hundreds of county officials and county employees commit to serve their communities each year. However, effective public service requires even more — effective public servants demonstrate a continuous drive for learning. As was said by Benjamin Franklin: “An investment in knowledge pays the best interest.” I’ve witnessed first hand the formidable task placed upon


each county elective office. Even a spouse may not fully appreciate the scope to which county officials are charged to know the body of laws imposed upon them. They must have a working knowledge of the various laws setting forth their affirmative duties to execute. Additionally, they must be mindful of the ever-increasing body of laws and regulations that constrain them. The voluminous Arkansas County Compliance Guide issued by the AAC and the procedural guide AAC issues for each county office demonstrate the scope of laws. In contrast, cities are not a subdivision of the state and city officials are not generally directed to perform duties on behalf of the state. Arkansans are truly blessed with many county officials and employees that possess a drive to assimilate a mountain of information and establish depth of understanding. They work to become familiar with new laws as they come into effect, and they make frequent use of the AAC procedural guide, the Arkansas Compliance Guide and procedural guides. Many of the county executives that have excelled also participate in the meetings of their affiliate organizations. Those that do not attend the meetings of the affiliate organizations may not realize what they are missing. Brenda “Emmy” Emerson, AAC’s ARcounties Continuing Education Program Coordinator, has taken the education of our affiliate organizations to a higher level. The meetings offer good information and access to colleagues to help you along the way. Each association now offers more training/ mentoring than ever for incoming newly elected county officials in the new elect schools. Our affiliate organizations make good use of e-mail list serves. Many of our county officials find serving their communities rewarding, and they are equally generous in mentoring their fellow county officials. The process of mentoring benefits the teacher as well as the student. Participating in the legislative efforts of your affiliate organization can be an important part of serving your community. Through the affiliate organizations, our county officials and AAC staff make collective beneficial use of their depth of knowledge in shaping policy and legislation. We have championed scores of improvements in the law. This team effort requires knowing the law and how to make


the law better. Our working knowledge of the law and first- hand knowledge of the needs of the community are beneficial to state officials.

The Hon. Mike Jacobs served Johnson County as county judge for 24 years, served as president of the AAC Board of Directors for 15 years and is now serving his community as justice of the peace. By all accounts Judge Jacobs was an exceptionally effective county executive. He

Mark Whitmore AAC Chief Counsel

demonstrated the traits of a leader, a commitment to his community and a commitment for learning and improving the laws. In a word, he “engaged.” Judge Jacobs engaged at the state Capitol in support of the County Judges Association of Arkansas (CJAA) and AAC legislation. He engaged at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C. He visited with the Arkansas Congressional delegation on federal legislation and funding such as Payment in Lieu of Taxes (P.I.L.T.) and highway funding. He even testified before a Congressional committee on Secure Rural Schools funding. Judge Jacobs religiously attended National Association of Counties (NACo) annual and legislative conferences, and he served on NACo committees. The judge explained, “Participation in NACo helped me to find out what was going on in counties in other states and to try to get ahead of the curve. Also, NACo has many services that were useful for my county and other counties in Arkansas.” The Hon. Mary Lou Slinkard served Benton County as

county clerk for 28 years, state representative for six years and is currently serving as Benton County justice of the peace. While county clerk, she regularly attended NACo and Election

Notice: The upcoming 2016 edition of the Arkansas Compliance Guide will have a new feature. Each edition will include three access codes so that a copy of the laws in the compliance guide may be accessed and searched digitally. These tools and a working knowledge of the law are important to effective service. Contact Whitney Barket at or at (501) 372-7550 to pre-order your 2016 Arkansas County Compliance Guide or for more information. Cost is $70, which includes tax and postage.


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