June 22, 2015: By Sandi Argo
The County Commissioners met today with an “almost standing room only crowd”. With a few exceptions, the onlookers came mostly from Precinct 1, where they waited eagerly to find out who would be the appointed temporary Commissioner of that Precinct. The vacancy is due to the passing of the late Commissioner, Fearl Smith. Services for Smith were held this past Friday.
The Commissioners heard from several that were vying for the job. In the public forum they were given 5 minutes to express their concerns for the condition of the roads in the precinct (and other matters) as well as give their statement as to why they felt they were qualified for the job. Former Constable, Keith McConahay began the process, followed by Brett Hull (who was not seeking the position but expressed his concerns) then Clint Craft, and lastly was Keith Umphress. Umphress, a former State Trooper, now a mortgage banker, made a very strong presentation to the commissioners.
McConahay started his bid with saying “As hard as it is to think about it, we must get on with the business of Precinct 1. We must work together. United we stand, divided we fall”. The sentiment was felt by the residents that were watching the process.
Craft then brought his interest in the job to the commissioners as well. In his statement he told the commissioners that he was an “expert at becoming an expert”. He also said that he would be available 24/7.
Last came Umphress, who gave an account for his background. A resident of Jack County since 1987, Umphress has been very involved with various causes in the county. A former State Trooper, Umphress is now in the banking industry.
After a closed session meeting, the commissioners brought the anxious crowd back into the courtroom and discussed publicly the situation. Commissioner Terry Ward then made the motion to appoint Keith Umphress as the temporary Interim Commissioner. The motion was approved by the other commissioners.
The decision was not an easy one, noted Commissioner Cozart “A lot of good people were interested”. After being sworn in, Umphress will hold the interim position until November of 2016, at which time elections will determine if he will continue. Filing for the election begins December of 2015.
Brett Hull inquired about revisiting the situation of money allocated by a grant that the late Smith had not taken part of. Judge Davenport advised that the issue could not be discussed without being added to an agenda, which the Judge then stated that the issue would be placed in as a future item.