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Looking ahead to 50th anniversary, 2017 retirements


AAC Executive Director Chris Villines shares details on next year's 50th-anniversary conference and thanks retiring officials.


By Chris Villines
AAC Executive Director

Pop quiz … what do jungles, symphonies, board games, construction and carnivals all have in common? For those of you who know, chances are likely you’ve attended many of our annual conferences, and you easily identified this as a list of recent conference themes. We hope you had the chance to participate in the 2017 conference that just wrapped up. If you did, you heard from a fantastic slate of speakers for both the general and breakout sessions. We extend our gratitude to state legislators, Attorney General Leslie Rutledge and Gov. Asa Hutchinson for speaking to and interacting with county officials.

For those of you who could not make it to Pulaski County this year, we hope you are saving your energy to attend our biggest and best-ever conference next year. Next year will mark our 50th year of existence at the AAC — and, therefore, our 50th annual conference. What a great time for our counties to shine. In honor of our golden anniversary, we are relocating the conference but staying in northwest Arkansas. In 2018, we will move to the Embassy Suites Northwest Arkansas Hotel, Spa and Convention Center in Rogers.

Many of you have had an opportunity over the past few years to visit this facility, and we think you’d agree it is perfect for our needs. It is entirely contained indoors, and the convention space is ideal for a conference of our size.

I’d also like to thank county members for participating in a vote at our conference to add a second board member from the Arkansas Coroners’ Association to the AAC board of directors. This group has made great strides in recent years to become more engaged in county government and to be better educated to handle complicated cases arising in the medicolegal death investigation world. With the addition of one coroner, the AAC board now is comprised of 18 folks — two members from each of our member associations.

Often we talk about the great times we had at our conferences, and I certainly think we all value those moments we spend with our friends from across the state. But it is a great thing when I look in on a breakout session to find a standing-room-only crowd in the room. We will add more seats in 2018. I am glad the county officials who attended the conference were engaged and interested in the topics we had to offer.

The AAC staff did an outstanding job organizing breakout sessions focusing on topics that resonate with our counties. Medical marijuana, legislative committee meetings, HR Best Practices, personal development, courthouse security and retirement/Social Security are meaty issues that attracted many of you. Nelson Mandela said, “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” It rings especially true when you, our civic leaders across the state, take knowledge home to all corners of Arkansas.

We are always planning the next year’s conference, and we depend on you to find out what topics interest you. Please call or email anybody at the AAC about programming you would like to see at the 2018 conference. We are committed to quality education and will work hard to find good material for you all.

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As we start looking to the fall and winter of 2017, I want to thank our AAC Board President Judy Beth Hutcherson for all the hard work she has done for our association. Madame President also has represented us well on a national level at National Association of Counties (NACo) events. Arkansas is well respected because of banner carriers like Judy Beth and Debbie Wise, as both serve as directors on the NACo board.

So it is with a tinge of selfish sadness that I tell you (many of you already know) President Hutcherson will be retiring at the end of 2017 to spend more time with family and friends. The tinge of sadness is overshadowed by happiness only when we consider the great times in store for Judy Beth as she spends more time cruising the streets of Arkadelphia in her convertible.

Judy Beth, you are a gift to county government. We look forward to honoring you this fall as the time for retirement eases closer. Job well done!

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Another retirement of note this fall is that of Arkansas Sheriff’s Association Executive Director Mike Godfrey. Sheriff Godfrey took the reins last year when previous Executive Director Ronnie Baldwin passed away, and Sheriff Godfrey has done an admirable job building on Ronnie’s great success.

It has been a pleasure to get to know the former Polk County sheriff over the last year, and I know he looks forward to returning home to his family. The Sheriff’s Association recently met and has announced that Van Buren County Sheriff Scott Bradley will take over as the next executive director this fall. We welcome aboard Sheriff Bradley, and we pass on kudos for a job well done to Sheriff Godfrey. Thank you, both for your service.

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Finally, as you all consider budgets for next year, if you are one of a handful of counties not in the AAC Risk Management Program, please give us a call for a quote. We continue to improve the program and build on our progressive benefits package, including the only state association-sponsored free inmate tracking and codification services in the country … soon to be joined by a groundbreaking video arraignment bridge service at no cost to our member counties.

Please call Debbie Norman, Becky Comet or myself to let us walk you through the quote process. We have saved many counties a lot of money; don’t be left out.

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