Marvin Day knew exactly what he wanted to do when he graduated from high school. He’d dreamed of becoming a pilot, and he enrolled in college to study aeronautic engineering. The end of the Cold War led to a decrease in military spending, so Day changed his focus to civil engineering.
Day, 48, spent a number of years working in the construction business and as a senior engineer at City Water and Light in Jonesboro. Craighead County voters elected him as the new county judge last year. He may not have had a career as a pilot, but he’s grateful voters chose him to lead one of the largest counties in the state for the next four years.
“I’ve always believed in serving your community and to give back to your community,” he said.
Day replaced outgoing Craighead County Judge Ed Hill. Day got a unique opportunity after he won the Republican primary election in May over opponent Jeff Presley. There was no Democratic candidate in the November general election.
Hill’s administrative assistant Tony Thomas resigned after he found another job, and Hill asked Day to take the position. He started working for the county on July 1.
“Ed has got a big heart, and he loves the county,” Day said. “He’s helped me a lot.”
Efficiency and long-term planning will be a part of his approach to the job, he said. The county is one of the fastest growing in the state and its financial resources will come under strain, he predicts.
Craighead County’s budget is $30.41 million for 2018. The number of county employees fluctuates from 280 to 324 based on how full- and part-time jobs are calculated, and if elected officials such as justices of the peace are added to the rolls. The budget will grow to $30.6 million in 2019.
Updating the county’s phone systems, updating the county’s website and streamlining processes will be among his first priorities. Elected officials allocated money to hire a human resources director, and Day believes that will lead to a critical change in the way the county hires, trains and treats employees. Offering more services online, such as paying taxes, assessing property and giving citizens the ability to keep up with decisions made by county government will be a priority for him as well.
One decision that may come early could concern a crisis stabilization unit (CSU) that might be built in Craighead County. Act 423, which established the CSU pilot program, was a part of Gov. Asa Hutchinson’s 2017 legislative agenda and received bipartisan support in the legislature. He signed it into law on March 8, 2017. CSUs aim to provide mental health services for those in county jail facilities.
The governor has committed $1.4 million from the state’s Rainy Day Fund to support units, in addition to the $5 million already committed to the project. The additional $1.4 million in funding will go before the Arkansas Legislative Council for approval.
Each CSU unit will have up to 16 beds. Craighead, Pulaski, Sebastian and Washington counties will house the units, and each county will receive $1.6 million in funding.
The aim is to reduce the burden on county jails and hospitals. Without crisis stabilization units in place, people experiencing a mental health crisis who come into contact with law enforcement are often taken to jail, which causes crowding in county jails that are unequipped to provide treatment. The units were suggested by the Interagency Criminal Justice Commission.
The CSU unit will cost about $700,000 to build, according to the latest estimates by architects. How much it will cost to operate will be determined once the final plans are laid out.
Day said he thinks the CSU unit is a good idea, but how much money the state will dedicate long-term to fund them is an issue that needs to be resolved, he said. Day expects the issue to be decided in the first part of the new year, he added.
The county budget will be another issue Day plans to tackle. Sales tax revenue growth has been stagnant this year, and when inflation is figured in, it could become a worrisome problem if the economy slows, he said. Crime and expenses relating to the Craighead County Detention Center are also a concern, he added.
“We’ve got to be very careful with our spending,” he said.
Day has served as a member and as chairman of the Metropolitan Area Planning Commission, served on the City of Jonesboro Land Use Advisory Committee, worked as the vice chairman of the Master Street Plan Committee, and served as the vice chairman of the Storm Water Advisory Board.
Day is a hunter and outdoorsman. He and his wife, Ashley Thompson Day, have two sons, Alex and Zac.