Howell Honored With Retirement Reception
The business of running Clay County ground to a halt Thursday, Dec. 22, as a retirement reception was held for Judge Gary Howell. The eastern district courthouse in Piggott was the site of the latest reception, as Howell had also been recognized at the quorum court meeting earlier in the week and by members of the NEARK Solid Waste Management District board of directors, at their meeting in Paragould.
Thursday afternoon the elected officials, and employees, of Clay County gathered with family and friends to pay homage to Howell as he is set to retire after 20 years of service on Dec. 31. Early last year Howell announced to the quorum court that he did not intend to seek re-election and would leave office at the conclusion of his 10th two-year term. He was first elected in 1996 and took office on Jan. 1, 1997.
OEM Coordinator Alan Vaughn, who shares office space with the judge, offered the welcome to the packed courtroom and provided the blessing on the buffet. Afterward, Howell offered a few words of thanks, noting he couldn't have done the job without the assistance of the county employees and officials.
Sheriff Terry Miller then took over as MC, and introduced State Senator Blake Johnson, of Corning.
He related one of his first acts in the world of politics was to complain to the newly-elected Howell about an issue, which was later resolved. "I've always enjoyed a great working relationship with Gary, and wish him the best in retirement," he offered. "Johnson also presented Howell with a Senate Citation, passed by the body of lawmakers earlier this year.
Piggott Mayor Jim Poole was also in attendance to recognize Howell, noting in addition to his public service he also operated a local trucking business for many years. In honor of his retirement, Poole presented Howell with a key to the city.
Representing the other members of the Quorum Court was JP David Cagle, who noted that he and Howell were both elected the same year, and took office at the same time. He thanked the judge for his service and commitment, and presented him with a gift certificate on behalf of the other members of the court, most of whom were in attendance.
Next, Howell was presented with a special citation from the Arkansas Veteran's Services Department, presented by District Officer Mark Frank, of Jonesboro. He was joined by the current county Veteran Services Officer, Tommy Huggins, and the man he replaced, Pharris Edwards.
The recognition was afforded Howell for service above and beyond in helping veteran's in Clay County. It bestowed upon him the title of Honorary Veteran's Services Officer for the State of Arkansas.
Eastern District Road Crew Supervisor Daniel Landrum made a presentation on behalf of the road crews, presenting the judge with a photo of a custom belt buckle currently on order. The other elected officials also offered recognition to the outgoing judge, presenting him with a brick which will be placed in the historic walkway on the south side of the courthouse lawn. The brick is inscribed, "County Judge Gary Howell, 1997-2016."
The final recognition was a Capitol Citation from Secretary of State Mark Martin, with Miller making the presentation on his behalf.
"You know I've really enjoyed my time as judge, but I couldn't have done any of it without great elected officials and employees," he surmised later. "It's these people that have made me successful, and I'll never forget them."
The large crowd then enjoyed the buffet of tasty treats, and a piece of Howell's retirement cake.
He'll officially leave office at midnight on Saturday, Dec. 31, as judge-elect Mike Patterson will be sworn-in.