New Jefferson County Judge Henry “Hank” Wilkins IV, serving as chairman for his first meeting of Quorum Court committees Tuesday afternoon, promised an open door policy and said he “wants us [the Quorum Court] to work together.”
“I look forward to an exciting year of achievement,” Wilkins said.
Tuesday was also the first day for five new members of the county’s legislative body, as Brenda Bishop Gaddy, Melanie Johnson Dumas, Cedric Jackson, Danny Holcomb and Jimmy Fisher were welcomed.
Bishop Gaddy replaced former JP Edward Spears, who did not seek re-election; Johnson Dumas replaced Bruce Lockett, who was elected to the Pine Bluff City Council; Jackson replaced Paul Jones, who did not seek reelection; Holcomb replaced Sissy Granderson, who also did not seek another term; and Fisher replaced Lloyd Franklin Jr., who ran unsuccessfully for a seat on the Pine Bluff City Council in the March Democratic primary, and as an independent for Pine Bluff City Treasurer in November.
In brief remarks, Wilkins said that he wanted to develop a plan to help the new members understand how the county operates and announced that brief information sessions will be held at 5 p.m. before the regular meetings of the Quorum Court, giving senior members of the legislative body a chance to share information.
He also noted that while a national publication recently listed Pine Bluff as the second-fastest shrinking city in the country, “we want to move forward.”
He said that when people think of county government, they think only of roads, but “there are so many things we can do to improve the quality of life.”
There were only two items on Tuesday’s agenda — both of them were quickly recommended for approval by the full court when they meet next Monday.
One of those was an emergency ordinance to establish and adopt procedures for conducting business during the next two years.
Finance Committee Chairman Dr. Herman Ginger said the proposed ordinance is “something we have to do at the beginning of each new session.”
The second item was a resolution supporting the wood energy industry and specifically mentioned Highland Pellets, which is producing wood pellets for export to Europe.
Its sponsor, Justice of the Peace Ted Harden, said the resolution is one that is recommended by the National Association of Counties. Jefferson County will be the first in the state to adopt it.
In a related matter, Wilkins sent letters in mid-December to all the employees in various departments that work under the county judge, telling them they needed to reapply for their positions by Dec. 31, and on social media, said the action was recommended by the Arkansas Association of Counties.
Tuesday, social media and county employees were reporting that several employees at the road department and elsewhere had been let go.
Similar actions were taken by previous county judges when they assumed office for the first time.