75 counties standing as one

By Debbie Wise
AAC Board President

We continue to find ourselves in challenging times. All 75 counties are making tough decisions about how to keep county government afloat and continue to provide the services we are mandated to provide.

I would be remiss if I did not recognize our counties’ first responders. Our sheriffs, jailers, emergency management staff, and fire fighters are working diligently to ensure the safety, health and well-being of our communities. Our rural hospitals are struggling, but doctors, nurses and other medical personnel are making great sacrifices for our communities. And so are our county and district officials.

The COVID-19 situation is ever-evolving, and I am impressed with how our elected officials are working together to brainstorm and to solve the new challenges we face.

At this time, we do not know the full impact this pandemic will have. We do know that each county will be touched in different, yet similar, ways. Some counties continue to struggle with the aftereffects of recent storms. Those same counties will find themselves struggling alongside other counties with revenue shortfalls, layoffs, reduced funding for roads, changes in court operations, and more.

We all are touched by this pandemic both professionally and personally. Our greatest strength has always been our relationships with one another. Currently, we cannot attend our various association meetings to seek the solace, guidance, and community we need.

But I wish to offer you hope as we walk through the COVID-19 pandemic together — hope that what may eventually come out of this situation will be a better normal.

The COVID-19 team at the Association of Arkansas Counties (AAC) — Chris Villines, Mark Whitmore, Lindsey Bailey, Brandy McAllister, JaNan Thomas, Camille Neemann, Josh Curtis, and Eddie Jones — are working tirelessly to keep us armed with knowledge and tools to weather this storm. They are in constant contact with state and federal officials and are advocating on our behalf for assistance. I appreciate the best practices they are sharing with us during their weekly conference calls — if you have not joined these Thursday conference calls, I encourage you to do so. Watch your email for call-in information. I have no doubt some of the best practices related to budgeting, jail operations, employment, county cooperation, and more will be helpful to us even after we escape the grips of this pandemic.

Finally, I encourage you all to take care of yourselves and to check on your friends, co-workers, and family members. Social distancing, loneliness and isolation will affect many of us and our loved ones both mentally and emotionally. In her column for this issue of County Lines, AAC Member Benefits Coordinator Becky Comet provides valuable mental health resources for those who are suffering at this time — and those who will suffer after the crisis passes. There are still so many ways to connect with one another while social distancing.

We all are in this together. We are 75 counties, yet we are one.

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