District Two State Representative Elect Trey Steimel treated Sharp County law enforcement to lunch on Nov. 30 at Pillbox for an information exchange to learn how he may be able to assist them when he gets to Little Rock.
By: Tammy Curtis, Managing Editor
District Two State Representative-Elect Trey Steimel wasted no time in reaching out to make himself available to law enforcement officers in his district with an information seeking meeting Nov. 30 at Pillbox Cafe in Highland.
Steimel, who defeated incumbent State Representative Marsh Davis, invited Sharp County law enforcement officers to introduce himself to those who may not have met him during the campaign. Steimel opened the meeting commending the men and women for their dedication and service to their communities.
Steimel introduced himself and explained he was born and raised in Pocahontas and works as an insurance agent whose dreams included getting into politics to serve rural communities. He went on to detail the purpose of the information exchange meeting.“I want you to have my phone number so when legislation comes up that deals with law enforcement, law enforcement retirement or benefits, even on a state level, I can partner with you all and find out what is best for you.” He went on to explain his voice stands with the people who voted him in and can also vote him out. “I want to be the voice for you in Little Rock, my voice isn’t with Little Rock it is with you.”
Steimel told the large crowd that he was picking up the tab for their lunches as his way of showing appreciation to them for serving their communities, stating law enforcement is not appreciated enough. “I have paid my debt to society from an Ash Flat officer. I got pulled over on the way home from the Sharp County Fair. He was very professional and I will be going 40 miles per hour going down a hill going forward,” he said laughing.
Arkansas Fraternal Order (FOP) Police President Kevin “Bart” Simpson, who will be Sharp County Chief Deputy under Sheriff Shane Russell’s Administration, explained law enforcement related legislation that is currently being introduced at the state level. “We are working on a couple of PTSD bills, and also one that has to do with death on fentanyl and other narcotics, charging the person who sold it and enhancing the crime law. The biggest thing with my job is working on the retirement system, keeping what we have and improving that.” Simpson said he would be reaching out to Steimel regarding these bills and through his position as chief deputy and with the FOP, he believes through this type of networking, he can greatly assist area law enforcement with their needs related to possible legislation.
Discussion about possible legislation regarding police officer retirement being offered at 25 years of service, as opposed to 28 was one of the largest topics of discussion among the group. A 25 year retirement option could possibly help with retention and keep quality law enforcement officers and prevent the “revolving door,” Steimel explained.
Sheriff Elect Shane Russell explained that by the time officers and investigators have reached that milestone, many times they are already expressing burnout from the often tragic things they see on a day to day basis. “By that time, they are in their mid 40s or 50s and may not be able to start a new career.” He said the three years less on retirement age could make a huge difference in retention and keeping good officers before they reach the burn out stage.
“The best ideas come from the people in the business,” Steimel explained of Russell’s comments and needing the help of law enforcement to help him in forming legislation that will assist them.
Russell said with Simpson, who lives in Highland. “We will have a very strong advocate for us in Little Rock coming out of Sharp County, beginning in January. He will be able to partner with Trey and Bart Schulz and some of the other representatives in Little Rock.” Russell said by having a strong group working together, the county should be able to have a real voice in upcoming legislation.
Hardy Police Chief Scott Rose said he would like to see some type of revamping to the police insurance after retirement. Simpson explained that the insurance issue varies from municipality to municipality. He said at the National FOP is currently working on a double health insurance possibility for all FOP members and all police officers.
Steimel said revamped insurance could greatly benefit cities with recruitment and retention. Discussion about the struggles cities already have financially
Incoming Hardy Mayor Ethan Barnes spoke of the lack of representation Sharp Count has had for many years. He asked Steimel to challenge the new administration on fiscal policy and with the $1.5 billion surplus to consider law enforcement retirement. “I just want to put a challenge on you because we have not have had a lot of representation here. We have had a void here in this community for quite some time. So thank you for coming out and talking to everybody.”
Steimel agreed the coming together in mass as they did is not something that is feasible often but asked that law enforcement keep him updated with their concerns and needs and to form a group to work as a team to help address and update the county’s law enforcement needs.
One of the things Steimel said he was amazed by, after doing research for the job as state representative was the various different retirement and insurance options available for state employees. The large crowd consisted of chiefs and officers from Ash Flat, Cherokee Village, Highland and Hardy Police Departments, Sharp County investigator Dennis Gaye as well as Sheriff Mark Counts and Sheriff Elect Shane Russell. Incoming Mayors Steven Rose from Cherokee Village, Ethan Barnes from Hardy and Kyle Highland were also present along with Ash Flat Mayor Larry Fowler also attended the meeting.