Candidates offer their platforms

Thursday, October 16, 2008
Speaking at the Green Thumb Garden Club political forum in Green Forest Wednesday were, from left, Bob Grudek, David Stoppel, Tom Riddle, Sam Barr, Richard Williams, Chuck Medford, Gaylon Riggs, John Reeve and Bryan King. (Anna Mathews/Carroll County News)

GREEN FOREST -- Once again, the Green Thumb Garden Club hosted a political forum, just as it has for the past two decades.

This year's lineup of candidates invited to the Green Forest Library included those running for sheriff, county judge, and state representative, along with several seeking justice of the peace positions in the Green Forest area.

First up to speak for the allotted three minutes was incumbent County Judge Richard Williams, who said he had only missed two quorum court meetings since 2003, he's lived up to his campaign commitments, has dealt with four major storms that damaged county roads this year, noted that the county was in better financial shape than ever before with $4 million sitting in county coffers, and his plan for the future was to work on county roads and increase emergency management training.

His opponent, Sam Barr, who affectionately put his arm around Williams when asked to step closer for a picture, said he was raised between Alpena and Carrollton, served in the Air Force, and was co-owner of Davis-Barr Chevrolet Pontiac for 22 years where he was surrounded by "good people" prior to his retirement.

Barr said he missed serving the public, and when asked to run for county judge, he said he was honored, for it was his "heart's desire" to work for everyone in the county, and "with your help and God's, there is nothing we can't accomplish."

Incumbent Sheriff Bob Grudek spoke of his fiscal responsibility, saying his department was consistently within its budget and he presented quarterly reports to the quorum court outlining the expenses and the revenues received from inmate housing.

Since taking office, Grudek said he has established an 800 tip line, work furlough program for dead beat dads, a commissary program, warrant amnesty, drug awareness classes reaching 1,200 students and parents with the department's two new drug dogs, and a 10-most wanted program that has netted 17 felony captures so far.

His opponent Chuck Medford, said he has been in law enforcement 44 years, 27 with the Arkansas state police, and was elected Carroll County Sheriff in 1996, and served four terms since that time.

"My past record speaks for itself," Medford said, saying his office "busted more meth labs in the county's history" during his last tenure, meth busts that resulted in dozens of arrests and convictions. "My focus will be primarily on major crime," he commented.

If elected, Medford said he will re-establish a prisoner work crew that he set up during his first tenure, and he plans to make it rough on those who commit felony crimes involving drugs, rape and thefts.

Incumbent state Representative Bryan King, a 1986 Green Forest High School graduate, said he was part of a record-setting session on tax relief that resulted in a three-percent tax break on groceries because of a bill he co-sponsored. He said groceries should not be the only thing lawmakers look at -- they should continue to cut taxes on items such as energy for manufacturing to stay competitive with other states.

King said he is for cutting taxes, he will continue to work on the local access channel issue, he's worked hard, has the support of many Democrats in Little Rock, and the support of his fellow Republicans.

David Stoppel, who is challenging King for the state seat, said he was born and raised in Eureka Springs and had his first job as a bus boy at the age of 12. He recently moved to rural Berryville and he holds several degrees -- paramedic science, sociology and a masters in business, and was a full-time paid fire chief prior to his recent retirement.

He has served with the First Responder Alliance, PTA, Folk Fest Board, Eureka Springs City Council, and is active in his church.

Stoppel said King appointed him to serve on the Governor's Advisory Board for EMS, and said he was asked to run for King's position by those who were not happy with their representation.

Stoppel said he thought he could make a difference, and he is able to work with other people.

Those running for justice of the peace seats in the Green Forest area had their chance to speak.

Don McNeely, the District 9 incumbent, was unable to attend because of a work related commitment. His challenger, Gaylon Riggs, said he is known for being "brutally honest" and his goals would be economic development and work on county roads.

Tom Riddle, the District 7 incumbent, said it was his intent to take care of the county's money as best he could, he didn't have a "horse in the race" for a new courthouse, but wanted to be prudent because of the present financial policy that had this nation in a downward spiral to third-world country status. He said the courthouse issue should be carefully considered, and suggested Carroll County be an example, "instead of spend, spend, spend."

His opponent, John Reeve, said the job of JP is to represent the people and be a good steward. He said he has 30 years leadership training from the U.S. Army, and his time as scout master. In preparation for the JP position, Reeve said said he learned about the people he would represent by going door-to-door and the experience was "eye-opening" encountering young and old. "I learned to appreciate what they face," he said. According to Reeve, they say road maintenance is their biggest problem, with safety coming in second. Reeve also noted it was rude of Riddle to be talking to others in the room while Reeve had the floor.

The forum concluded with a question and answer session that followed.

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