Leading in tough times

By Debbie Wise, AAC Board President

We find ourselves in trying times in the year 2020. COVID-19 seems to have taken over our daily lives. It is on the news constantly. It is on social media. Even if the virus itself is not mentioned directly, the effects of it are apparent everywhere — closed schools and businesses, restaurants changing the way they operate, empty grocery store shelves. Nothing seems normal right now. I remain hopeful we can return to a state of normalcy soon.

County officials should choose to lead in these difficult times. We were elected to lead. We have prepared for it over the course of our journey. We fostered relationships when we ran our political campaigns and were elected to office. We then forged good working relationships with the other county officials and employees, as well as our state legislators and federal officials. We daily build relationships with our constituents as we engage with them as they conduct business in our offices and when we work together in community events to make our counties good places to live and work. It is through these relationships that we are able to lead.

Even as we are being tested during this pandemic, I find it heartening to hear of the many ways our county and district officials are adjusting and adapting to continue serving the public. Many county offices offer online or telephone services to those who must continue to do their county business. Some county offices are offering curbside services — the constituent calls the county office, the county official comes outside to pick up the payment or document, takes it back to his or her office for processing, and then returns to the constituent with a receipt or the document.

As you all make these changes in your operations, I encourage you to rely on the COVID-19 team at the AAC. Chris Villines, Mark Whitmore, Lindsey Bailey, Brandy McAllister, JaNan Thomas, and Camille Neemann are working around the clock to answer your questions and to provide guidance about the unique situations you might find yourself in. Eddie Jones and Josh Curtis continue to help and refer COVID-19 questions to the team. I encourage you to continue seeking and heeding their advice. They will keep us on the proper course, as always. They are our “enablers” to lead and protect our constituents in a proper manner.

These are tough times and it should bring out the best attributes of a public servant. Today’s political, economic and pandemic climate calls for leaders who can develop a vision to lead through the troubled times and prepare our counties for the future. Regardless of what you do as a leader you will leave a legacy. And rather than leave a legacy, let’s live a legacy since the real challenge is to lead in a way that positively influences those around us. Public service must be more than doing a job efficiently and honestly. It must be a complete dedication to the people.

During my long tenure as an elected official and President of the Association of Arkansas Counties it has been the tough times that have really challenged me and made me focus to find solutions. We will weather this storm. We are all in this together, and we will get through it together.

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