Sebastian County Sheriff Bill Hollenbeck is going back to school. He will soon be in charge of security for the around 15,000 Fort Smith Public School students in 19 elementary schools, four junior highs, two senior highs, one alternative learning center and one adult education center.
Hollenbeck, who will be the first director of security and facilities for the school district, will begin the job on Nov. 19. He will be paid around $104,000 a year. His sheriff salary was between $90,000 and $95,000.
The job is a result of May 22 voter approval of a district millage increase. Fort Smith voters said yes to a school millage increase, the first in 31 years, with approximately 62% of voters — around 78% of whom were Republicans, according to the county’s voter turnout numbers — approving the 5.558 millage gain.
The new millage rate will rise to 42.058 from 36.5 that was set in 1987. The new rate is expected to raise $120.822 million, $35 million of which will go toward district-wide safety improvements. The proposal calls for $10.365 million to secure the walls and doors of Barling, Cook, Morrison, and Woods elementary schools. An additional $5.5 million would be allocated for improvements to access controls, alarms, lighting, and accessibility measures across all campuses. The Board has said safety and security improvements are priority-one for implementation. The new millage would allow the changes to be completed by fall 2019.
Part of the security focus also includes the district hiring three certified school security officers in the next few weeks, increasing the number of licensed law-enforcement staffers from four to seven. Hollenbeck told Talk Business & Politics he’s proud to be part of the expanded effort to improve school security.
“That (first priority) will be contributing to a safe learning environment for our students. I’m very excited about having a small part” in developing security plans for the district, Hollenbeck said.
In his statement provided by the district, Hollenbeck, in law enforcement for 35 years, said the job allows him to continue in public service.
“I am very excited about this new challenge. I am grateful for the confidence that Dr. Brubaker has placed in me. Having the chance to stay in a public service and getting the honor to be in a position to protect our students and to help provide a safe learning environment is an opportunity of a lifetime.”
Fort Smith Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Doug Brubaker said the hire reflects the district’s focus on making security a priority.
“This reorganization and hire is another example of how we are retooling our leadership team to reflect the priorities of Vision 2023 and serve our community more effectively,” he said.
Hollenbeck was first elected sheriff in November 2010, but did not seek reelection in the 2018 cycle. He began his career with the Dallas Police Department and has served as a SWAT team trainer and team leader. He joined the Sebastian County Sheriff’s Department as supervisor of the Criminal Investigation Division in 1999. He has a bachelor’s degree in organizational management from John Brown University and is a graduate of the FBI National Academy and the Dallas Police Academy.
Hollenbeck will leave the Sheriff’s role about six weeks prior to Sheriff-elect Hobe Runion being sworn in. The Sebastian County Quorum Court will decide on who fills the post during those six weeks. Hollenbeck said there is no precedent for filling such a short period, but said Runion is “extremely knowledgeable” and it would be “common courtesy” to allow Runion the chance to begin the job six weeks early.