to start with unity before entering into division, or he or she may prefer the other way around. Te point is to be aware of the choice and to make it consciously, because it is apt to make a difference to the whole atmosphere of the meeting. It is almost always a good idea to find a unifying item with which to end the meeting.

All items should be thought of and thought about in

advance if they are to be usefully discussed. Listing “Any other business” on the agenda is an invitation to waste time. Tis does not preclude the presiding officer’s announcing an extra agenda item at a meeting if something really urgent and unforeseen crops up or is suggested to him or her by a court member, provided it is fairly simple and straightforward. If the chairperson is to make sure that the meeting achieves

valuable objectives, he or she will be more effective seeing their self as the servant of the group rather than as its master. Te role then becomes that of assisting the court toward the best conclusion or decision in the most efficient manner pos- sible: to interpret and clarify; to move the discussion forward; and to bring it to a resolution that everyone understands and accepts as being the will of the meeting — even if some individual members do not necessarily agree with it. Te presiding officer’s true source of authority with members of the quorum court is the strength of his or her perceived commitment to their combined objective and his or her skill and efficiency in helping and guiding them to its achievement. Just as the driver of a car has two tasks — to follow the route and to manage the vehicle, so the chairperson’s job can be di- vided into two corresponding tasks — dealing with the subject or subjects and dealing with the people. At the end of the discussion of each agenda item, the presiding officer should give a brief and clear summary of what has been agreed on. Tis can act as the dictation of the actual minutes. It serves not merely to put the item on record, but also to help the court realize that something worthwhile has been achieved. If the summary involves action by a member of the meeting, he or she should be asked to confirm their acceptance of the summary. Part of dealing with the people is starting the meeting on time. Tere is only one way to ensure that a meeting starts on time, and that is to start it on time. Latecomers who find that the meeting has begun without them soon learn the lesson.


Te alternative is that the prompt and punctual members will soon realize that a meeting never starts until 10 minutes after the scheduled time, and they will also learn the lesson. Start the meeting on time. When you close the meeting, close it on a note of achieve- ment. Even if the final item was contentious or left unre- solved, you can refer to an earlier item that was well resolved as you close the meeting and thank the court for their work and service.

Te need for meetings of the quorum courts of Arkansas is clearly something more positive than just a legacy from our past. We are a representative government, therefore local legislation; policy; and spending authority is governed by a group representing the residents of each county. All power is not vested in one person. Tese meetings are necessary, not just because the law mandates them, but because county government is a very important level of government, and decisions must be made in a corporate manner in a represen- tative government. Without elaborating I’ll summarize with a few tips for con- ducting concise, highly effective quorum court meetings:

• Come prepared; • Encourage participation; • Stay on schedule; • Wrap up thoroughly; and • Always — both the presiding officer and court mem- bers — remain civil!

Civility is the way we treat each other with respect, even when we disagree. Even though disagreement and confronta- tion play a role in government and politics, the issue is how that disagreement is expressed. Te key is to focus on the strengths and weaknesses of proposed solutions to county problems and issues, not to engage in personal attacks against those who favor different solutions. I have been in Quorum Court meetings where civility was

not present. Tat should not be. Te presiding officer should never be put in the position to say, “Is there a second to Ted’s motion to ignore Mike’s ideas?” Run a meeting and partici- pate in a meeting the right way.

75 Counties - One Voice COUNTY LINES, FALL 2020 17

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