I would like to apologize in advance; this week’s column is going to deviate from my typical format. In my first column, I expressed a desire to take the topics my students and I cover in the classroom and share them with a wider audience—in the hope of promoting informative, interesting (I can only hope), and objective (I try my best) discussion on politics and public policy. In addition to the column, I have sought to create a group, modeled after similar clubs in other parts of the state, where, from time to time, people interested in talking about politics and policy concerning Arkansas could meet in an informal, non-partisan setting. On Monday, March 14, the first meeting of the Southeast Arkansas Political Animals convened at Western Sizzlin in Monticello.

The goal of the Southeast Arkansas Political Animals is simple: to bring people in our region together to discuss and become more informed of political and policy matters concerning Arkansas. This “club” is open to any and all interested political observers in our area. There are no dues (you only pay for your lunch), and minimal responsibility to members—you simply show up, listen, engage in conversation, respect the non-partisan nature of the group, and have a good time among friends.

In the weeks leading up to the first meeting, I was nervous. While I knew we would have an excellent guest speaker, I was unsure as to whether or not people would show up. To say I was pleased with the number of those in attendance would be an understatement—I was thrilled with the turnout. Approximately 30 people came to the first meeting. Among those present were county and local political officials and other residents of Southeast Arkansas.

The meeting’s featured speaker was Roby Brock of Arkansas Talk Business and Politics. As expected, Mr. Brock’s presentation was insightful and engaging as he covered several topics of interest to those of us who enjoy timely political discussion concerning our state, such as the recent preferential primary election and nonpartisan election. He also discussed the upcoming state legislative fiscal session and the one or two special sessions likely to also be convened.

Based on the feedback from those who attended, and others who have expressed interest in future meetings, I plan for the Southeast Arkansas Political Animals to meet every few months, on average. Your feedback, ideas, suggestions for future speakers, and thoughts regarding format would be greatly appreciated—I want this group to thrive, and your input and participation are needed to make this happen.

Now, this is where I provide you with a shameless plug for the next meeting of the Southeast Arkansas Political Animals. While the date and the featured speaker are to be determined, I sincerely hope you take an interest in the group and join us. If you have any questions or ideas, please do not hesitate to email me at [email protected]

John C. Davis is an assistant professor of political science at the University of Arkansas at Monticello and writes a regular column for Southeast Arkansas media outlets.