Sebastian County has hired an administrator for the Sebastian County Criminal Justice Coordinating Committee.

Fort Smith resident Mark S. Allen, 51, was hired as the Sebastian County criminal justice coordinator/administrator June 29, according to County Judge David Hudson. He started work Monday. The county position was authorized in the 2018 budget by the Quorum Court.

Under limited supervision, the criminal justice coordinator/administrator performs professional and technical work in criminal justice planning, which serves as staff support to the county judge and the criminal justice coordinating committee, according to the job description provided by Hudson. The job involves systems planning and meeting facilitation, data and policy analysis, legal and scientific research, oral and written presentation of material, management of long- and short-term projects of high complexity, collection and distribution of information and consultation to entities in the local criminal justice systems.

Hudson said the county worked on fine-tuning how it was going to recruit for the position in January and February. The county started recruiting from January to April and began to interview different people during this time.

"It proved to be a challenging hiring process because there is not a coordinator for a criminal justice coordinating committee in the state of Arkansas that I know of," Hudson said. "This is a new function, a new job, and some of the scope of the areas that would be addressed by the position in supporting the criminal justice coordinating committee can be intimidating to individuals that are coming into a new job that is not clearly defined, so I think that just finding the right job fit took a period of months longer than what I had wanted."

However, Hudson said the county felt it was important to deliberately work through this process to get the right person who can work with a number of different parties that need to be consulted in this "rather complex" challenge on how to address the overall criminal justice system and how that impacts the crowded Sebastian County Adult Detention Center.

Hudson said he had interviewed applicants in collaboration with some of the members of the criminal justice coordinating committee, including Prosecuting Attorney Daniel Shue, Sheriff Bill Hollenbeck and circuit judges James Cox and Michael Fitzhugh, to obtain, as best as he could, a consensus on who was going to be brought in to the position. He estimated the county had at least 40 applicants.

Allen was ultimately chosen for the position, Hudson said, because he has a background in getting things done and working well with people. He also has a willingness to learn the criminal justice system and how to address these issues.

Allen said he worked at the 188th Wing in the Arkansas Air National Guard for more than 28 years. In a statement he provided, he said his background has been largely providing administrative leadership and guidance throughout the aircraft maintenance and personnel areas. Aside from Allen's almost seven years as first sergeant, the portion of his career of which he is probably most proud was during the 188th Wing's total mission conversion from 2013 to 2016.

"I was privileged to operate as the human resources office-remote during the most comprehensive and complete mission conversion in the 188th Wing's history, ..." Allen stated. "About 70 percent of all positions assigned had to change jobs, reclassify, go to school, graduate, and return to the base and start on-the-job training because we were needed by the Air Force to support an even bigger mission — the Global War on Terrorism — every day"

Allen stated he re-established the working relationship with the state human resources office at Camp Robinson in North Little Rock and quickly found they could work together.

"I suppose I became a pretty well-trusted adviser and could find the heart of our common problem, and in my own special way, began to find win-win solutions, ..." Allen stated. "I was a pivotal leader, and with the help of HRO, the people part of the change, and was able to translate HRO-speak and our commander's direction to help shepherd a successful conversion — with lots of help along the way"

Allen stated he retired in January as a master sergeant. He completed his bachelor of science degree in organizational management at John Brown University in 2000.

What initially intrigued Allen about the criminal justice coordinator/administrator role, he stated, was it was a new position dealing with an age-old problem of jail overcrowding, with a new emphasis to find innovative ways to address this dilemma.

The yearly salary for the position is $45,000, Hudson said.