FAYETTEVILLE — Voters will select a new representative as Democrat Kenley Haley-Casey and Republican Jim Wilson face each other in the race for justice of the peace for District 14 on the Washington County Quorum Court.
District 14 covers south-central Washington County. Ann Harbison, the incumbent, chose not to run for reelection.
Justices of the peace serve two-year terms. The Washington County Quorum Court is made up of eight Republicans and seven Democrats.
Justices of the peace are paid $200 per diem on days they attend Quorum Court or committee meetings.
Election Day is Nov. 3. Early voting begins Oct. 19 and runs through Nov. 2.
The Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette emailed the same questions to the candidates. Their responses are below. Candidates were limited to 200 words per answer.
Question: Why did you decide to run for justice of the peace and what makes you the best candidate for the position?
Haley-Casey: I decided to run for justice of the peace because I know the issues that matter to District 14, and I am willing to work hard to solve those issues. I am ready to do what is required to serve my community.
I actively support activities in the Greenland and West Fork school systems along with our rural fire departments and events that are organized by people that live in the district. I have local government experience having previously served as a Washington County justice of the peace.
I also served on the Washington County Planning Board and the Washington County Juvenile Justice Advisory Board. I know how to take common sense and apply it to making practical decisions.
Wilson: I wanted to lend my knowledge of budgeting and finances to the county Quorum Court. I have an accounting education from the University of Arkansas and many years of experience managing budgets.
I hope to help the county operate in such a fashion as to not require raising taxes.
Question: What area of county government are you most interested in and what specific plans or goals do you have in that area?
Wilson: My interest is more of a general nature. My hope is that we can see the county operate efficiently so that raising taxes is not necessary.
Two of the general responsibility areas that must be administered successfully are county roads maintenance and new paving, and law enforcement. I support law enforcement and the rule of law.
Haley-Casey: I am most interested in maintaining our rural roads, funding our police officers, maintaining a safe detention center for staff and detainees and funding our rural fire departments.
My goal is to ensure these areas are adequately funded by the quorum court.
Question: County Treasurer Bobby Hill is projecting a drop of about $1 million in Washington County’s share of the revenue from the county-wide 1% sales tax after the results of the 2020 census are in. How can the Quorum Court deal with that drop in revenue while maintaining services?
Haley-Casey: Just like in our personal lives, we will have to tighten our belts and be more conservative with our spending.
We must prioritize what is important, I feel having a rural police presence, maintaining our rural roads and funding our rural fire departments should be our top priorities.
Wilson: Another major impact to the budget will be from the reappraisal that has now been completed.
Assessor Russell Hill estimates a 30% average increase in appraised values. An estimate of the additional revenue for the general fund is $1 million.
Actually, the loss of sales tax revenue will be between $500,000 and $600,000 from the general fund and the remainder from the road fund. Both changes will hit for 2021.
Question: The Quorum Court has been discussing an ongoing problem with overcrowding at the Washington County Detention Center. A study recently commissioned by the Quorum Court offers some recommendations on ways to address the problem. What do you think the county should do to better manage the population at the jail?
Wilson: I have not had an opportunity to review the study. I am seeking a copy of it.
Some of the ideas that I think we might want to explore would avoid the citizens of Washington County from spending approximately $38 million alone.
Some of those ideas include: 1. Building a facility for nonviolent offenders at a lesser cost. I think Benton County has also mentioned that. 2. Attempting to get the state to build a prison in our region so that they can house their prisoners that we now house. 3. Explore a partnership of two to four counties in Northwest Arkansas so that multiple counties can contribute to the cost of housing a larger prisoner population rather than each county taking it on individually.
Haley-Casey: I feel it is the elected sheriff’s responsibility to operate the jail and implement processes that effectively serve both the citizens of Washington County and the detainees.
We must continue to keep our citizens safe and operate the jail within our budget. Increases in the length of sentences have contributed to the jail being overcrowded.
We must work with the state Legislature to reduce sentencing for minor offenses, thus reducing the jail population.
Kenley Haley-Casey (D)
• Age: 63
• Residency: Has lived in District 14 for 40 years
• Employment: Worked in higher education for the last 25 years
• Education: Attended University of Arkansas
• Political Experience: Served as Washington County justice of the peace in the 1990s; served on the Washington County Planning board and the Washington County Juvenile Justice Advisory Board
Jim Wilson (R)
• Age: 68
• Residency: Has lived in District 14 for 42 years
• Employment: Retired, Arkansas Health Department
• Education: Bachelor of science in business administration, University of Arkansas
• Political Experience: Unsuccessful candidate for justice of the peace for District 14 in 2018
Tom Sissom can be reached by email at [email protected] or on Twitter @NWATom.