I hope this note finds you well.
One of my friends often repeats a quote from Jack Meriwether, city manager of Little Rock in the early 1970s. “In public life, you can either go about solving problems or engaging in yahoo-ery.” It seems that a number of our national and statewide leaders have chosen the path of destructive, divisive yahoo-ery. Whether it is for money or power, they seem to have lost their way.
We seem to have been somewhat lucky in Saline County to have had leaders who have chosen to take the path of problem solving and inclusiveness; some in a public way and some in a not-so-public way. I am pleased to count a number of these men and women as my friends.
John Young, a local businessman, has spent countless hours over the last fifty years bolstering the institutions of Saline County. He has served on a variety of boards and commissions both public and private. He and his family helped to establish the UALR—Benton Branch and he has worked tirelessly at the re-vitalization of downtown Benton.
Sam and Pam Gibson, both lawyers in Saline County, have provided an example of how a power couple can have an impact on the daily lives of the people of this county. Sam, a general in the U. S. Army, served in the Middle East and the Balkans during the conflicts in the 1990s. He also served first as Municipal Judge and then as City Attorney for twenty-plus years. Pam Gibson serves as head of the Benton Planning Commission and has been active in Rotary International, serving as Regional Governor.
Paul Johnston, a local healthcare provider, is active in the Royal Theater. He presently serves as the President of the organization helping to bring live theater to our growing community.
Ray Baxter, a local attorney, noted significant problems in his home political ward several years ago. Rather than complain and grouse about the problems, he took time out of his practice, ran for office and went about helping to solve those problems.
George “Bucky” Ellis served as the head of the Benton Planning Commission for many years and he now writes a weekly column for the Saline Courier. In his articles, he provides a voice of reason amidst the ongoing and sometimes raucous political debate.
Tom and Mary Dillard—he a historian and she a political organizer—are involved in a grassroots project in Hot Springs County to engage young people in the political process, one school district at a time. Tom has remarked how impressed he is with the young people who are getting involved in the political process.
The nature of life is that we assume our adult roles in the community, and then after a period of time someone else comes along and takes our place. As I move around the community, I see adults whom I served as small children, many now running for political office, serving on boards and taking leadership positions in their churches.
I think, in the end, we are
going to do okay.
Have a good journey,
Dr. Sam Taggart is a retired doctor/ writer/ marathon runner in practice in Benton for the last 35 years. He recently published The Public’s Health: A narrative history of health and disease in Arkansas, published by the Arkansas Times. His two other books, With a Heavy Heart and We All Hear Voices are available at your local booksellers or online at Amazon.com.