Michael McNeil has a busy schedule. When he is not working as the bailiff for Maumelle District Court he schedules community service workers, meets with those on probation and coordinates cases with other court systems.
His experience with the courts started many years ago when his father was charged with a federal crime and sentenced to prison. He knows the pain a family goes through when a relative is convicted of a crime and is ordered to pay restitution.
McNeil, 41, is the deputy clerk and probation officer for the District Court of Maumelle and works in Judge Roger Harrod’s courtroom. Every Tuesday afternoon, he is the bailiff in the courtroom and is in charge of court security. And, yes, you’ll see a gun at his side during court. But his job responsibilities extend far beyond those court dates that include those cited for simple traffic violations, driving while intoxicated, burglary, assault, battery, neighborhood disputes and even murder.
His job includes a lot of listening to the 25 to 30 people whose probation he is charged with managing any given month. He says he starts each person with a clean slate. "If they are straight with me, I’ll be straight with them," McNeil said." But they should never mistake my kindness as a weakness."
But don’t confuse his job with the troubled parole system. That is part of the Department of Community Corrections, a state agency. He works for the City of Maumelle.
Many of those on probation must come in on a regular basis to report their progress to Officer McNeil. Some take a drug test, some make payments on their fines and some are trying to turn their lives around after making a mistake.
The ones who are trying to turn their lives around are the ones he works the hardest to help. "I see every case as a challenge and I hate to lose a challenge," said McNeil. "The last place I want to see someone is in jail."
Besides meeting with those on probation, he collects money for the court and finds jobs for community service workers. He coordinates their service time by finding things the city needs done, including working for the Senior Wellness Center, the Police Department and cleaning up for the city.
But you can tell the most important job to him is working with those on probation, especially younger people. "I try to see to it that they are working, getting an education and living up to their probation mandates such as passing a regular drug test," he said. These days, drug tests are pretty sophisticated and can pick up a trace of everything from marijuana to methamphetamine.
His biggest concern for our youth is the increasing amount of prescription drug use, particularly Vicodin, Oxycontin and Xanax. "They are playing a dangerous game with these drugs and it just almost never turns out well, " he said.
McNeil overcame one of his own personal challenges in the past two years, losing over 70 pounds. He is faithful to work out everyday and consumes a very light diet.
But his challenge of working with those on probation is never ending. The courtroom will be busy next Tuesday and a new group of challenges will present themselves. His passion for helping people is evident when he describes some of the victories and some of the defeats. He takes it personally.
He’s just like his beloved LSU Tigers. You may get pummeled by Alabama one week, but you still have to suit up and play again. Those who fall under his supervision should consider themselves lucky. He wants you to win.
BJ’s offering Thanksgiving to go; stops weekday breakfast
BJ’s Café near Maumelle is continuing the tradition of Kierre’s and offering Thanksgiving dinners to go. You can order enough to feed a few or an army, but you have to get your order in. They are offering turkey, dressing, ham, veggies and pie. You have to order by Nov. 25 and pick it up on Nov. 27. Drop by and grab an order form.
They also have discontinued breakfast on weekdays, now serving it all day only on Saturdays. They are also now open on Monday for lunch and dinner. Check out their daily specials and hours at bjsmarketcafe.com.
See you on the Boulevard.
Neal Moore is COE (chief of everything) at Neal Moore Creative, a PR, advertising and marketing consultancy. He has lived in Maumelle over 10 years. If you have a community concern contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Facebook, Linkedin or Twitter, @kneelmore.