Connecting with our colleagues is one benefit of attending conference

By Debbie Wise, AAC Board President

I am still invigorated by the 51st annual AAC Conference held in August in Hot Springs/Garland County. There’s an excitement, an energy surrounding conference. And this year more people than ever had the opportunity to experience that feeling. Close to 900 attended this year’s conference. That’s a new attendance record.

That’s close to 900 people who came to learn and to become more effective leaders in their counties. Conference always reminds me of the importance of our role as public servants. From the remarks made by National Association of Counties 1st Vice President Judge Gary Moore to the association meetings to the breakout sessions, each element of this year’s conference emphasized the responsibility bestowed upon us by our constituents. It is our duty to remain informed and engaged so we can act in their best interest.

We heard the Senate and House City, County, and Local Affairs committees discuss the spring flooding and the condition of our state’s levees. The Joint Committee on Public Retirement and Social Security discussed the status of the Arkansas Public Employees Retirement System (APERS). This is such an important issue, and any changes to the current system could greatly impact current and retired county officials and employees. I urge you to attend one of the committee’s fall town hall meetings. You can find the times, dates and locations of those meetings under the new “Retirement” tab on the AAC web site (

I was impressed with author Sam Quinones, who wrote the book “Dreamland: The True Tale of America’s Opioid Epidemic.” He opened my eyes a little wider about the state of drug addiction in our nation. I thought each breakout session — from the quorum court’s session with Attorney Mike Rainwater to the panel discussion of The Future of County Roads and Bridges — offered useful and meaningful information to attendees. The new Jail Track training for jail employees was a perfect addition to the conference this year, and it is something we plan to continue to offer in the future.

It was a delight to watch Sen. Jason Rapert and Rep. Michelle Gray being honored for their work on the 911 reform bill during the regular legislative session. And it was a pleasure to present the 2019 Wes Fowler Advocacy Award to Madison County Judge Frank Weaver.

I thank Gov. Asa Hutchinson and Arkansas Democrat-Gazette Senior Editor Rex Nelson for joining us. The Governor recounted what a successful legislative session the counties had this year, and Nelson took us on a fun ride through Arkansas history.

I thank the AAC staff, in particular Anne Baker, for their work both before and during conference. The staff works passionately every year to craft an event that will leave an impression on us. If you get a chance, please commend them on a job well done.

The fellowship with other county and district officials is such an important element of conference. The relationships we establish with those in our county family are so important. We are our greatest allies and sources of support. You can’t put a price tag on the experience of those who have been serving the public for numerous years. With their sage wisdom, we all can be more effective servants to our public.

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