The Winner’s Circle — Dennis Milligan, Saline County Circuit Clerk
Milligan is in a jovial mood these days, and why not? He defeated incumbent circuit clerk Doug Kidd, making him one of the Republican candidates swept into office in Arkansas during last week’s historic elections.
Historic? Yep. Arkansas was represented in Congress by five Democrats and one Republican prior to Tuesday and is now has four Republicans and two Democrats in the U.S. House and Senate. Republicans won three of the seven constitutional offices — lieutenant governor, secretary of state and land commissioner — won all seven contested races for the state Senate and picked up 16 seats in the state House.
Indeed, 15 of the 35 members of the state Senate are now Republicans and the 100-member house has 44 Republicans.
Milligan, who was chairman of the Republican Party of Arkansas from 2007-2008, said he believes part of the reason the Republicans won is because of the efforts that he — and others — took to make sure the party was developing a solid “farm team” of candidates. The emphasis a few years ago was on getting Republican candidates running for smaller offices throughout the state in hopes of developing a qualified slate of candidates who could go on to larger offices in the future. That effort is ongoing, Milligan said.
“You can’t imagine the smile on my face,” he said. “I had a part and I knew (the candidates). I was like a proud papa. … The ‘R’ label meant a lot this year.”
Milligan said Republicans had a banner year, but cautioned the newly-elected candidates from squandering what he calls an opportunity. He said Americans expect some changes and Republicans had better deliver.
“The pendulum never stops swinging,” Milligan said, adding Republicans must act quickly to deliver on what they promised voters who are concerned about government spending, a floundering economy and a host of othes issues. “We’ve got to stop the bleeding and we’ve got to stop it quick. I don’t think we have years. I think we have months.”
Milligan said he made more than a few promises when running for the Saline County Circuit Clerk’s office — a position that has been held by Democrats for decades — and he’s making plans to fulfill them. Milligan said he’s giving part of his salary back to the county through programs that will benefit the Human Society of Saline County and senior citizens in area.
Also, Milligan said he’s establishing scholarships for graduating seniors attending high schools in Bauxite, Benton, Bryant and Harmony Grove. He said Saline County residents can also expect a quarterly newsletter documenting changes and improvements in his office. Essentially, Milligan said the emphasis will be on transparency and customer service.
“We will be in that office. I will greeting customers in that office,” he said. “I will be readily accessible to the citizens of Saline County and the people who have business there. … I look forward to that honor and pleasure.”
Milligan said he plans to implement some technological changes, too. For example, attorneys can expect to take advantage of the somewhat low-tech method of filing pleadings by fax (something they can’t do now) to a system the Arkansas Supreme Court is pushing that allows lawyers to file cases electronically.
Milligan said he’s formed a transition team that will soon go to work so he can learn the office from the inside-out before he starts his job at the first of 2011. Additionally, Milligan has set up some time to visit the Hempstead County Circuit Clerk’s office to get some pointers on how to run things in Saline County.
“The campaign is over,” he said. “Now I’ve got to produce.”
Milligan said he’s well aware that people will be watching him — and other newly elected officials — closely. He said he invites that scrutiny. In fact, he said the recent elections proved that voters do watch their elected officials closely and want choices when they head to the polls.
“Competition breeds excellence,” he said, adding that he hopes the times when Democrats held offices for year and rarely drew opponents have come to an end. “This county is not your dad’s old county, so to speak. There are a lot of changes.”
Saline County, he said, is changing into a conservative area and the 2010 elections are proof of that. He may well be right. A review of the vote totals in Saline County reveals some major support for Republicans and something that is a bit surprising. Democrats that had no Republican competition saw there vote totals cut into by Green Party candidates — less an endorsement of the Green Party than a rejection of the Democratic Party, one might argue.
Milligan said the Republicans have leveled the playing field by gaining support in a state that has favored Democrats for decades. The question, he said, is what they will make of their opportunity — will they make those promised changes and build on their support? Only time will tell.
This is the first in a series of ‘The Winner’s Circle‘ posts featuring candidates who won their races on Nov. 2. We’ll have more in the weeks to come and you can always access the latest ‘Winner’s Circle’ posts by clicking here.
Benton resident. Rogue journalist. Recovering attorney. Email = Ethan@FirstArkansasNews.net.