Voice of County Leadership: Donnie Willis, Jackson County Commissioner
How long have you been a county commissioner?
I took office in January 2021, so I’ve been a commissioner just a little under two years.
Can you tell us about yourself?
I am 39 years old, married to my wife Nicole and have two girls Kynnedy 12 and Kyndall 7.
What is your professional background?
I have worked in both Corrections Administration Operational Management areas. Before becoming a commissioner, I was Director Of Operations at the Jackson County Prosecutors Office.
What other elected positions have you held?
This is my first time holding an elected position.
Why did you first run?
I felt there was an increasing need for new, energetic leadership in our county.
Why did you want to be a commissioner?
I believed my overall operations knowledge of the county would be a valuable asset to the commission.
What are you most proud of for having achieved in your time as commissioner?
On day one, we began streamlining county procedures. Taking advantage of modern technology allowed our office to be more efficient and we cut wasteful spending. When I became commissioner I inherited a lot of aging and failing infrastructure, including “Leaky Roofs.” Just a year and a half into my first term, we have made amazing gains and are now leak free!
What has been the biggest challenge you’ve dealt with as a county commissioner?
The influx of federal money during and after the pandemic has been my biggest challenge. Being a rural county we have very little staff so we are the grant writer, project manager and Commissioner all in one. CCAO was a major asset to rural counties overcoming this hurdle.
What was the biggest surprise or adjustment after taking office?
How much I loved the job; I enjoy the multi-faceted fast pace that comes with being a commissioner. Our days are never boring!
One of the primary responsibilities of a commissioner is to develop a balanced budget and provide adequate resources to deliver county services. What has been one of the biggest challenges in that area?
One of the biggest challenges in this area is knowing we need to invest more in certain services within our county without the ability to do so.
How have you or what has your county been doing to participate in the state-county partnership?
We are constantly in conversation with our state leaders putting our best efforts into establishing solid working relationships.
Could you discuss your involvement with CCAO as well as the benefits of being an active member?
I am currently serving on the Board of Directors as well as three committee appointments. CCAO is an invaluable tool especially for new commissioners. The amount of information flowing through to commissioners would be impossible for us to stay ahead of. CCAO does an amazing job of taking that information and disseminating it in a tactful way. The staff at CCAO are truly amazing; they are the main benefit of being active.
What are your main priorities or personal causes? What is it about those particular issues that matter so much?
My main priority as I move forward is working with CCAO and state officials on a list of topics that center around public safety and criminal justice. The current state of our system is flawed at best, and I hope serious action can be taken by the state to fix the current imbalance in our system.
What do you find are the most successful methods for reaching out to the residents of your county to communicate what your office is doing and why your office is doing it?
Direct engagement, seeing people out and about and striking up conversation will always be the best way to communicate with your constituents. In a pinch, social media works as a faster alternative.