One Monticello Life – Sheriff Mark GoberMay 20th, 2012 by Mandy Moss
Growing up, Sheriff Gober said that his family often moved every year due to his father’s career in the ARMY. It was a move to Alaska that put him on a path right back to Drew County.
“Dad worked there as an executive with North West Gas Line in Alaska, so I got to go work there as a driller. I stayed for 15yrs. I got home sick. Both of my grandfathers had passed away and I had one son and one on the way and I wanted my kids to know their grandmothers. “
Knowing he would need a job when he came back south, he began making some phone calls. An interesting turn of events led him to employment at Arkansas Department of Corrections Delta Regional Unit.
“I called them looking to see if they had any job openings and they told me that Warden Frank Thompson was in Anchorage, Alaska visiting his sister. I just laughed and said, “I’m in Alaska!” We set up a meeting at Denny’s in Anchorage and by the end of the meeting he told me, “I can tell you right now I’m going to hire you.” So I came home and I had a job.”
“I worked for ADC for 11.5 years and I enjoyed that job. When I left I was a Sargent Supervisor; I was over 5 different areas at the prison. Three of those areas had large budgets I had to manage, and I did a good job at that.”
“I kept seeing these young guys come to prison, and rightfully so, for the crimes they did, but I wanted to do something more… try to educate kids on how to stay away from drugs, and maybe the ones that were doing wrong, try to show them that this is not the way to live their lives or raise their families. I felt like the Sheriff, of all people, was a way to touch different people in a positive way. So I ran for Sheriff and I left the ADC when I got elected in 2005. I’ve been Sheriff ever since.”
Helping people make good decisions in life isn’t Sheriff Gober’s concern only when at work. He is the father of four sons, Gold (21), Shiloh (18), Noah (16) and Rain (13).
“I love being a dad. When they all get together it’s just like a comedy fest. Lots of picking on each other and it’s all in good fun. They are always healthy, and that’s the most important thing. As long as my kids are healthy, I’m good.”
Though spending time with his children is main priority now, he used to have a quite artistic hobby.
“I used to love wood carving, but I stopped a few years ago just because of the time it takes. I liked it because it’s really relaxing. I never started with a plan because it never worked out. I would just start whittling and the wood would start taking shape and I would just go with. I started with drawing, then the wood burning, and then the carving.”
Of all of the characteristics that form a qualified Sheriff, Mark Gober said that one trumps all of the others in his book – compassion.
“You have to have a big heart, because you have to understand people’s feelings, regardless. That allows you to have compassion. You still have to do your job, but you have to have compassion. Otherwise you would have blinders on and be narrow-minded and it wouldn’t help you make the right decision. Just because you have compassion it doesn’t mean you won’t do your job. It helps you understand people, and if you understand people you can do your job better.”
“You have to be honest, and sometimes brutally honest. You have to be trustworthy… you need to gain the trust of the people. And, you need to be fair. By being fair, by what the law says, you gain people’s trust.”
Though several issues came to Sheriff Gober’s mind, when asked what he felt the top law enforcement issues for Drew County currently are he said,
“The number one issue all along has been the selling and use of illegal drugs. Today it is developing into prescription drugs, and it affects people’s lives in a negative way. I don’t like a community where you have drugs sold on the street or the neighborhoods, or abusing prescription drugs, it affects families and the entire community. It creates a problem with crime, as far as thefts and domestic abuse, and child neglect. Most things stem back to some type of drug abuse. Everybody pays the price.”
When asked how his own background impacts his ability to serve the County as Sheriff, Mark Gober stated,
“On the personal level, moving around a lot and living amongst different cultures, walks, and race has led me to believe that we’re all just one people, and people need to be treated equally. I thank God for differences… what a world we would live in if people weren’t different. It’s helped me form relationships with the community, I think. I’m known for being able to run suspects down in my cowboy boots, even though they might be 30 years younger than me. I really get a thrill when a young kid smiles and asks “You want to race?” because they’ve heard I run. More young people know me I think than adults, because of my kids going to school. I may not know them but they know me by name, and that is such a thrill. They don’t turn away from me, they’re not afraid. I love that.”
“When I worked in Alaska, I worked in the bush… outside all of the time. It might be 20 below zero but you’re working. You learn to deal with the harsh environments and working conditions, and it helped me learn to continue to work and overcome obstacles. Just get the job done and get it done right.”
Though he has been Sheriff for many years, MLive asked if he foresaw any changes being made in the coming year if reelected.
“I want to see improvements. I set goals, but when I reach those goals I try to make bigger goals. I feel I’ve done a good job reaching out to the community and getting feedback. This department working with other agencies has done a good job making drug arrests, but there’s still a lot of work to be done. I’m always trying to improve that.”
“I still want to get the drug education to the schools and keep working to get the trash picked up off the streets of Drew County. We’ve made some good strides at it, but I believe by this summer we will have an even better solution. It will take working with the District Judge to allow me to decide who can actually pay a fine vs. who can’t. The ones that I know can’t, I want them assigned to community service.”
MLive then asked the Sheriff, “How do you believe financial issues should be addressed, such as jail funding and collecting of fines, both new and old?”
“I manage two budgets here. Last year I was nearly $38,000 under budget at the Sheriff’s department, so even though it’s appropriated, it doesn’t mean I’m going to spend it. At the jail I was $46,000 under budget. I’m looking at additional savings at the jail this year; I’m very consciences of the money I spend. With my experience at ADC I know what can and can’t be done. There are certain cuts you really can’t make because we don’t want to wind up in Federal Court. There is a fine line to walk and I know that line. With appointing Susan Potts, we run a good jail. We get high ratings from Jail Standards. Over the years the Quorum Court has said they appreciate what the jail is doing and they don’t have many complaints. They like the way it’s running.”
“As for the fines, I’m encouraged right now. I want to see more done and more fines collected. I don’t want to see them stay on the books as long as they have in the past. I look forward to the District Court clerks assisting in making sure that people are brought to court in a timely manner, or their fines being paid in a timely manner. There are fines on the books from 1987….. People need to come in and start paying on their fines, or wages will be garnished and licenses will be suspended.”
In closing, Sheriff Gober was asked to address Drew County and tell them anything he felt it was important they be aware of before casting their vote.
“Drew County Sheriff is the chief law enforcement in Drew County. I serve every person from every corner of Drew County equally. I want to make sure that everyone is provided with good law enforcement and patrol in every area. Some say Deputies shouldn’t be in city limits, but all people in Drew County deserve the service of the Sheriff’s Department because they all vote for Sheriff. I realize Monticello Police Department does a great job, but there’s nothing wrong with having a few more patrols in certain areas. They pay taxes and they vote; they deserve our services. I see no city limits, just people and their needs. I tell the guys that 70-80% of the time needs to be out in the county, but if they see a need to be in city limits I have no problem with them doing that. “
“In 2006 I was cut a patrol deputy because of Quorum Court cuts, and that took us from 7 to 6, so we only have one guy out now when we used to have two at any given time. There are 833 square miles to patrol and we have calls coming in that take them off of patrol. I’d like to see more deputies put in place, but I don’t see money coming in the near future to provide for that, so I do the best with what I have, and try to put my guys into areas that we see are troubled and have them there before crime happens. “
“I love my job. Besides having my 4 sons, this is the best thing I’ve ever had. I feel that I am a public servant and my service is to protect and provide the community with good law enforcement. It’s not about the gun or the badge; it’s about providing people with some peace.”