County candidates address voters
The Democratic Party of Carroll County and the Republican Party of Carroll County partnered to offer a bipartisan political forum on Thursday, Oct. 11, where candidates running for county offices answered questions from constituents.
Charles Templeton, chairman of the Democratic Party of Carroll County, welcomed everyone and said he enjoyed working with local Republicans to pull the event together. The folks in Washington could learn a lot from those who live in Carroll County, Templeton said.
“Reasonable people can disagree with each other but still work together to affect change in the community,” Templeton said. “It’s things like being supportive of one another and being respectful to people who have the courage and the calling to run for office.”
Templeton added, “After November, it doesn’t matter who has an ‘R’ or a ‘D’ on their name. They’re going to be serving the people of Carroll County, and I couldn’t be prouder of all of them.”
The forum kicked off with County Judge candidates Sam Barr and Charlie Reece. Barr said he has been blessed to serve the people of Carroll County for five terms and hopes to be re-elected. During his time as Carroll County Judge, Barr said, he has seen the county pay off debt and upgrade its equipment for road maintenance.
“I enjoy this job. I take it very seriously,” Barr said.
Reece said his record as Green Forest mayor speaks for itself, saying he’s helped turn a struggling town into a growing town. If elected county judge, Reece said, he would be sure to avoid doing several things.
“I will not be an advocate for county zoning. I will not be disrespectful to any citizen who comes to me with a question,” Reece said. “I will never bypass Quorum Court on purchases, as has been done in the past.”
The two were asked what they would do to bring economic development to Carroll County, and Barr said the county judge’s main objective is the roads.
“I don’t feel like it’s his job to look for outside business or housing, though I think that would be a good idea if he had the time and could,” Barr said.
Reece said he has a history of reaching out to corporate executives to bring more business to the county and would continue to do so if elected.
“The county judge’s responsibility is to place the county in a favorable light for all who might want to relocate here,” Reece said. “By doing so, we will see economic growth. I think the judge can have a dramatic impact on making sure we get people here who are interested investors.”
When asked what they’d do if the county received a $1 million grant, Barr and Reece said they’d be surprised if that ever happened. Reece said he’d use the money for county roads.
“They are the lifeblood of the county,” Reece said. “I would definitely look to pave as many of those dirt roads as possible, then look at the equipment we might need and see where we need to go from there.”
Barr agreed. It costs $50,000 per mile to double chip and seal a road, Barr said, and $100,000 to put down a two-inch overlay on a road. He said he’s recently been working to repair several county, receiving extra funding from the quorum court to do so.
“It is so expensive. We’re trying to correct them before we lose them,” Barr said. “What we’ve got left will take about $4 million to catch up.”
Mark Bailey and Jim Ross spoke on the race for county sheriff, with Ross saying he worked for the U.S. Postal Service before getting into law enforcement. When he started working for the Berryville Police Department, Ross said, he wondered why he hadn’t been doing that his whole life.
“Upon reflection, my history has prepared me uniquely for this job,” Ross said. “There’s so many things the sheriff’s office needs. Leadership is absolutely lacking.”
Bailey said he has worked as the police chief in Alpena and with the Carroll County Sheriff’s Office. He has special training in forensics, Bailey said, and is the only crime scene-certified officer at the sheriff’s office.
“We have some challenges at the sheriff’s office,” Bailey said. “We will get through those.”
When asked how to provide better coverage to outlying areas of the county, Ross said he would work to restore cooperation between the sheriff’s office and local law enforcement agencies. Everyone used to get along, Ross said.
“We trusted one another with our lives, our reputations, our honor. We can do that again,” Ross said. “I believe I’m the only one who can make that happen.”
Bailey said the sheriff’s office is implementing a new computer system in police cars, so it should help improve communication.
“Many areas are more problematic than others. If you key into those areas and patrol others as needed,” Bailey said, “I believe you’re going to take care of that problem.”
The two were then asked what the sheriff’s office’s biggest need is, and Bailey said he wants to offer better pay. The best way to do that, Bailey said, is to start collecting outstanding warrants. The county has more than $1 million to collect, he said.
“What if the quorum court had another million dollars they could put in the budget?” Bailey said. “Do you think that would help some of that situation? It’s going to be a better county, and that’s what I’m going to do.”
Ross said it all comes down to leadership.
“If we had all the money and all the people and all the cars we said we needed to patrol all the roads, that would not take the place of good leadership,” Ross said. “We’ve got to have leadership that says we will not hire a person just to fill a position, we will not retain a person that has proven untrustworthy and we won’t put people on the street without training … all of that is happening, folks.”
County clerk and treasurer
County clerk candidates Jamie Correia and Connie Doss said they are running for a better Carroll County. Correia, who has been county clerk for 10 years, said she’s been scanning records to get everything online.
“Our website is getting updated, and I would like it to be a little simpler for y’all,” Correia said.
Doss said she has experience consulting for businesses, saying she has degrees in business and business administration. The way the clerk’s office runs needs to change, Doss said.
“It must be an election year. We’re in there getting things scanned that should have been done 10 years ago when we had all this information going,” Doss said.
The two were asked if they supported voting by mail and both said no. To improve the efficiency of the clerk’s office, Doss said she would first look at the processes.
“How can the communication between the treasurer and myself work more smoothly?” Doss said. “There has to be cooperation within the offices to be efficient.”
Correia said everyone in the clerk’s office does the best they can with what they are given.
“Working closely with your elected officials is very important,” Correia said. “When you have some leadership that’s not there to help you with that, it’s pretty tough. I think I’ve done a pretty good job with some leadership that needs some help.”
Makita Williams and Kathryn Merry spoke on why they’d be a good candidate for county treasurer. Merry said she has years of experience in accounting and understands everything works on a deadline.
“You don’t tell the Federal Reserve, ‘I’m sorry, I can’t do that 16-page report,’ ” Merry said. “No, you work your butt off and get it in that day. I have done that, and I want to do that for Carroll County.”
Williams said she has been a lifelong resident of Carroll County and has worked under the current county treasurer for seven years.
“I have been part of the budget process as well as the revenue forecast,” Williams said. “It is of utmost important to keep concise records of county expenditures. I’m confident and ready to do all the duties of this office.”
To increase efficiency in the treasurer’s office, Merry said she’d automate everything. Interdepartmental transfers would be automated, Merry said, and payroll would be, too.
“I have used automated payroll since the 1990s, and it’s great,” Merry said. “Everything is done for you, it saves time and it’s efficient.”
Williams said she’d like to automate county processes but would be sure to protect the funds first.
“These days I have a fear of hackers,” Williams said. “You guys would be so disappointed in me if I allowed that, and the next thing you know, I can’t get payroll to your employee. I guess we’re in a day and age where life needs to be as simple as all get out. I’ll do that for you, but I’ll make sure they can’t drain the bank before I do.”
Harrie Farrow and Ferguson Stewart, who are running for District 3 Justice of the Peace, described their qualifications. Farrow said she has gotten in “good trouble” protesting policies in Washington, D.C., saying she even spoke with Sen. Tom Cotton.
“I just started talking and stopped and listened,” Farrow said. “We didn’t agree, but it’s important for you to know I can be that representative of Eureka Springs, which is a place where we really respect diversity, but I can also talk to people who are different from me.”
Stewart said he used to manage a testing lab for Verizon, saying his office had the lowest turnover of any Verizon office worldwide.
“I know how to deal with employees. I know how to deal with issues. I know how to work with the government,” Stewart said. “I’m here to help, and that’s what I do.”
Farrow said she’s well-acquainted with Carroll County after working for the Eureka Springs Independent as a reporter and attending several quorum court meetings before deciding to run for office.
“I know the county. I love the county,” Farrow said. “I like to put my head together to make sure we can protect the county from losing its personality, and I’d like to put some things in place to protect the county in the future.”
Stewart said he’s dedicated to representing the community.
“All the people who live and work in Eureka Springs know me,” Stewart said. “I represent you and your district, and I’ll ensure your tax dollars are wisely spent.”
The most important project the quorum court needs to fund, Stewart said, is the airport.
“I’d like to see us embrace that as a business and look at how we can grow the county,” Stewart said.
Farrow said she’s focused on the roads and the sheriff’s office.
“I think funding the sheriff’s department to take care of drug issues and domestic violence issues is very important,” Farrow said.
Doug Hausler, who is running for District 4 Justice of the Peace, said he hopes to bring his experience on the Arkansas Wine Producers Council to the quorum court. Hausler said he’s noticed communication problems with the quorum court and hopes to rectify that.
“They should be doing research and a lot of work on how to better all aspects of the county’s operations and feeding that into the decision-making process,” Hausler said.
To fund projects better, Hausler said, the quorum court could look at how money is allocated.
“We’ve got a fixed income, so how to distribute that income is how you want to set your priorities,” Hausler said. “A lot of it is dictated. By the time you take that out, the amount of money you have to distribute is a lot smaller.”
Kellie Stevens Matt and Colin Stimson said they are running for District 7 Justice of the Peace to help the people. Stimson said the $18 garbage fee should be reassessed and unaccounted spending should be taken care of. The Carroll County Airport should either be completely in the county’s control or on its own, Stimson said. What he’d bring to Quorum Court, Stimson said, is the willingness to learn.
“My brain is basically a sponge. I retain information quickly,” Stimson said. “I am currently taking business classes and will be continuing my education.”
Matt said she believes in strong law enforcement presence and total accountability from all office holders at a local level. Her dedication to the community, Matt said, is why she’s qualified for the job. She’s been running a business in Berryville for nearly 20 years, Matt said.
“This county has been very good to me. I want to give back to my community and do my part,” Matt said. “I’m excited to learn more about the county and be part of the whole process.”
The most important project the quorum court needs to fund, Matt said, is getting more money to law enforcement officers.
“They’re out there risking their lives every day. The things they have to go through to keep us safe … they deserve to make more money,” Matt said.
Stimson said he’s focused on the airport.
“The county ought to either completely pull its funding of the project or take the reins of the situation,” Stimson said. “I believe that would be the main way we could drive profit for our county.”
If you missed this event, one other forum is slated for October. The Carroll County League of Women Voters will host a town hall at 6 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 25, at the Holiday Island Ballroom.