An overview of the AAC Board: A body with a unified voice that never wavers

By Debbie Wise, AAC Board President

One of the greatest honors I’ve had since being elected Randolph County Circuit Clerk has been to serve on the Association of Arkansas Counties (AAC) Board of Directors. It’s also been a challenging opportunity, as the board is a true working board that comes together any time a pressing issue must be addressed, not just during one of its bimonthly meetings.

The board is comprised of 18 members — two representatives from each of the AAC’s nine affiliate associations. There are two county judges, two county clerks, two circuit clerks, two sheriffs, two collectors, two treasurers, two assessors, two coroners, and two justices of the peace. The affiliate associations elect these officials to serve on the board, with trust and confidence that they will do what is best, not only for their individual associations, but for county government as a whole.

These board members are your voice — the collective voice referred to in the AAC motto, “75 Counties. One Voice.” The board members might change, but the collective voice never wavers.

I have served on the AAC Board since 2012, and I have been impressed by the knowledge, leadership, dedication, and loyalty of my fellow board members. Each brings to the table years of experience in his or her position. They know well the issues affecting their offices, and they readily share that knowledge to help everyone understand the larger picture of county government, not just our own offices.

AAC Board members demonstrate an admirable level of leadership. The board has four standing committees: the Scholarship Committee, the Strategic Planning Committee, the Budget Committee, and the Personnel Committee. Each board member serves on at least one standing committee, with one serving in the capacity of chairman.

Our board members are leaders at the state level, serving on commissions at the behest of the Governor and advocating at the state Capitol on behalf of county government. It’s amazing to watch these individuals working in tandem to gain the best outcomes for counties.

Several of our board members exercise their leadership skills on the national level by serving on National Association of Counties (NACo) committees. The AAC Board president and vice-president are automatic members of the NACo Board of Directors. So, at NACo conferences and meetings, the AAC Board gives Arkansas counties a voice at the federal level.

The dedication of our board members is remarkable. As I said previously, the AAC Board is a working board. Each member has a day job, which they balance with committee and other meetings outside of the regular bimonthly board meetings. For instance, the Budget Committee recently met to set the AAC’s annual budget. The process works much like that of a county quorum court. Members of the committee review financials and consider future goals before the committee even meets. Then they come together to draw up a budget recommendation that the full board eventually votes on. That vote is rarely a quick vote, as questions arise and discussion continues among the full board.

Regardless of the situation, our board is always loyal to county government. That is on full display during a legislative session.

The board’s Legislative Committee is made up of three representatives from each of the nine affiliate associations. Those affiliate associations develop their legislative priorities. Then their appointed Legislative Committee representatives gather to discuss the needs of the different associations, how legislation might affect each association, how all the associations can best work together to achieve a shared priority, and more. The Legislative Committee polishes the affiliate associations’ proposals, then recommends those proposals to the AAC Board. The board meets with the Legislative Committee to further refine what will become the AAC’s legislative package.

Throughout the legislative session, AAC Board members remain steadfast in their efforts to achieve the priorities outlined in that package. They maintain a regular presence at the state Capitol to underscore the seriousness of the items included in the package — items such as 911 reform, retirement, voting equipment, and more. They also regularly participate in impromptu conference calls to discuss strategy toward harmful legislation introduced during the session.

So, you see why I call serving on the AAC Board of Directors an honor and a challenge, but I welcome the opportunity to serve. I do not take this commitment lightly. I understand the responsibility that comes with being part of the collective voice of county government. And I will continue to humbly serve the interests of not only my fellow circuit clerks, but of all county and district elected officials — just as I know my fellow board members will.

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