Welcome and teach new officials coming into the fold
By Chris Villines
AAC Executive Director
As we turn the corner to the end of our year, there is much attention given at the AAC to two main things. Firstly, a legislative session is soon to come, and we are working hard to prepare our legislative package based on each of your associations’ offerings. And secondly, we are witnessing and participating in the ritual of elected officials retiring and new ones coming in.
For the first time we are approaching the end of four-year terms in office. This obviously means that the turnover is approaching double of what our historic two-year turnovers have been. In some of our associations nearly half of the elected officials are moving on. The loss of institutional knowledge is going to be profound and here at the AAC we recognize this and will be giving great effort to help train new elected officials.
What we ask from those of you retiring is that you please stay in touch with your replacements, offer guidance when asked, and encourage them to stay in contact with the AAC team should they have any questions. We will do our best to indoctrinate them into county government at our new-elects training in December, but nothing helps like that lifeline to you or to their counterparts in adjoining counties.
For those of you staying around, welcome back! We look forward to continuing to work with you and together make county government better than ever. And get ready for a lot of new faces at association meetings next year where each group will welcome its largest new class ever.
Those of you who are transitioning to retirement on January 1, we hope you enjoy a hard-earned reward for your service to your constituents. In my opinion, you’ve braved some of the most difficult times to ever serve in public office. Covid has been extremely hard to maneuver through. Managing an office staff during a time when all the normal rules were thrown out the window has been amazingly hard.
In addition, some of the respect for public servants has eroded over the past decade or two as a vitriolic tenor in federal politics has spilled down to state and local levels. You deserve better than that and true civil communication begins and is rooted in local service. Your calm voices are important to us who continue in local government, and we hope you will lead in your communities to impart dialogue with respect and civility, though not from the public office you once served.
The good news for retirees is that there are some great perks for you. As we wish you well into your new season of life consider the following great aspects of reaching retirement:
Kidnappers are not very interested in you.
In a hostage situation, you are likely to be released first.
No one expects you to run — anywhere.
People call at 9 p.m. and ask, “Did I wake you?”
People no longer view you as a hypochondriac.
There is nothing left to learn “the hard way.”
Things you buy now won’t wear out.
You can eat dinner at 4 p.m.
You cannot live without your glasses.
You enjoy hearing about other people’s operations.
You get into heated arguments about pension plans and social security.
You no longer think of speed limits as a challenge.
You quit trying to hold your stomach in, no matter who walks into the room.
You sing along with elevator music.
Your eyes won’t get much worse.
Your investment in health insurance is finally beginning to pay off.
Your joints are more accurate meteorologists than the National Weather Service.
Your secrets are safe with your friends because they can’t remember them either.
Your supply of brain cells is finally down to a manageable size. And,
You won’t remember where you saw this list.
As I wrote that, I saw laughing faces of many of you who have become great friends over my 24 years of service in county government. I will miss you. We have been in the trenches together and emerged tired yet stronger because of these battles.
I am proud to have served alongside you all and will miss walking into your next association meetings and not seeing your faces. You have all taught me and all of us at the AAC along the way, and we wish you the best and hope that your retired life offers the chance to do whatever it is that you always wanted to do but didn’t get to.
As you know, our partnership with the Arkansas Municipal League has strengthened even more with the recent announcement of the Arkansas Opioid Recovery Partnership (AORP) and the hiring of State Drug Director Kirk Lane to oversee the utilization of county and city opioid settlement dollars. More can be found on this strategic and historic move in Colin Jorgensen’s article in this issue of County Lines.
The AAC Board of Directors has been instrumental in having the foresight to move ahead even before the settlement dollars arrive. This way we can develop a plan to wisely and strategically empower local government to fix a problem that has plagued us for too long. More will be coming on this but suffice it to say that we could not be better positioned. Thank you all for believing in us and trusting the AAC to fight this battle in a way that will yield meaningful results — and at a local level.