BY MELANIE BUCK –
Polk County Circuit Clerk Sharon Simmons has announced an early retirement from her 14-year service to the county and it’s citizens. Simmons said, “I’ve enjoyed the ride and ready for retirement. I came in, and this office wasn’t up to par, and I did what I said I was going to do. When Mickey retired, I decided to as well. The office is being left in good hands.”
Simmons said the people are what she will miss the most, and being able to brighten their day with hugs and making them feel special. She also stated how proud she was of the efforts put in by her and her staff during her career as Circuit Clerk. “Everything is going to computers and we’ve logged back to the 1940’s and will continue to do so. Everything doesn’t always run smooth, but everything’s correct. It’s such a big change; I don’t know how they did it by hand before. It amazes me how they kept up without it being computerized. Because of computers, everything is now accessible to the public and the attorneys and such.”
Simmons’ term is actually set to end on December 31, 2016; however, she plans for April 29, 2016 to be her last day. The task of replacing Simmons is up to the Quorum Court, and is complicated by an Arkansas law that prevents Michelle Heath-Schnell from taking office early. Although Schnell won the run-off election on March 22nd to take Simmons’ place on January 1, 2017, a state law says she cannot succeed herself. Polk County Judge Brandon Ellison explained that the law says that when a county elected official leaves a seat, the succeeding person that finishes the term cannot succeed their self in the next term. Therefore, the Quorum Court will need to appoint a replacement to finish Simmons term before Schnell takes the seat in January.
Ellison said the Quorum Court will first have to declare a vacancy and then consider an appointment. He also explained that, in addition to not succeeding themselves, the appointee cannot be a family member of any Justice of the Peace and cannot be unqualified. The Court next meets on Tuesday, April 26th, and is expected to make a decision then, insuring that someone will be ready when Simmons leaves office on the 29th.
So what will Simmons do in retirement? She plans to fish and take a vacation with her husband, recently retired, long-time Arkansas State Trooper Mickey Simmons. “Mickey and I have never been on the same schedule for 27 years so I don’t know how that’s going to work,” laughed Simmons. “I feel very fortunate. I was raised in Polk County and never left. I just love Polk County; it’s been very good to me and I wouldn’t live anywhere else.”