Jefferson County Judge Booker Clemons said that work on a website for the county is delayed because the name of an employee who was terminated when Clemons took office is “all over the contract.”
Speaking to the Downtown Rotary Club at the Pine Bluff Country Club on May 8, Clemons said, “I feel like that name should not be there,” adding that the county is seeking legal advice on how to proceed.
Clemons, who was selected by the Jefferson County Quorum Court to replace Henry “Hank” Wilkins IV, who resigned in March and has since been charged in federal court with bribery, also said he wanted to “Keep down bad publicity about the election commission. People are tired of the negative things that have been said.”
Regarding his decision to accept the position, Clemons said when he was initially approached he said no because he was enjoying retirement, which included fishing, watching row crops grow at his farm and spending a lot of time watching his granddaughter, who was named the number one girl’s basketball player in the nation play.
“I got a call from an elected official who ask me to put my name in for county judge and I said, ‘hell no,’” Clemons said. “That person talked to me for about an hour and then I got calls from seven other people asking me to consider it.”
He said he called Dr. Herman Ginger, a justice of the peace who was presiding over the Quorum Court’s effort to find a replacement for Wilkins, and was told he needed to come to the meeting and to bring a resume.
“I was in shock that the 13 members of the Quorum Court appointed me to the position,” Clemons said. “I found out the next day that the office manager had quit and the chief of staff was terminated so the office had no staff.”
He said he met with Pine Bluff Mayor Shirley Washington and together decided to give employees Good Friday off, and later learned that Wilkins had approved county employees also getting off Monday after Easter.
Clemons described his job as being like the CEO of the county.
“Without my signature, nothing gets paid,” he said.
Clemons also said that when he took office, the county had two law firms representing it, and now has just one.
“We’ve also stopped making payments to five employees,” he said. “We’ve got 17 county buildings, 900 miles of roads and 300 bridges and we have to move forward with what we have to work with.”
Beginning in June, Clemons said the county will undertake a major cleanup campaign, partnering with teen court and using juveniles to pick up litter, along with detainees at the adult jail.
“We’re also going to be stationing large containers at certain locations so people can drop off items instead of dumping them along the streets or highways,” he said.