FAYETTEVILLE -- Sherry Main and Devonta Dickerson are running for the Democratic party nomination for the District 7 seat on the Washington County Quorum Court.
The winner of the May 24 primary will face Republican Party nominee Charles Dean in the November general election. Early voting starts May 9.
The Quorum Court is the legislative body of county government and is composed of 15 members called justices of the peace who are elected to two-year terms. Democrats hold four of the seats, and Republicans hold 11.
Each justice of the peace represents a district of roughly equal population. Redistricting for justice of the peace seats took place late last year.
Washington County went from a population of 203,065 in 2010 to 245,871 in 2020, according to information from Jeff Hawkins, Northwest Arkansas Regional Planning Commission executive director. The ideal population for a Quorum Court district after the 2020 census was 15,572.
District 7 includes part of western Fayetteville and areas both north and south of Arkansas 16.
Washington County justices of the peace are paid $200 per meeting for Quorum Court and committee meetings they attend.
The Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette asked each candidate the same three questions via email. They were told their answers would be limited to 300 words apiece and may be edited for clarity.
Dickerson did not provide responses to these questions after multiple attempts to contact him both by phone and by email.
QUESTION: Why did you decide to run for justice of the peace and what makes you the best person for the job?
MAIN: In 2005 the county judge, Jerry Hunton, started the idea of countywide zoning and mapping the undeveloped land in Washington County. I reached out to Washington County in 2002 about a red dirt pit adjacent to Riches Road in west Washington County. After a meeting with the judge, county administrator and county attorney, I was informed there wasn't anything the county could do to help me.
The county didn't have zoning ordinances to protect the residential and agricultural properties from high industrial uses. The only avenue at the time that would listen to my concerns was Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality. The permitting process for surface mining was a hurdle for the red dirt development company. I used every citizen appeal through ADEQ at the time, until the development company withdrew their mining application.
It was apparent that Washington County needed countywide zoning. I researched and attended meetings to further discuss the necessity of zoning. I did not want any citizen of Washington County to experience what I went through, without help or assistance from our county administration.
I am well versed in the countywide zoning implementation and the intent of the county to protect the citizens through planning and zoning. We must continue to hold any future planning/zoning changes accountable.
I am ready to hold that line for my community and neighbors!
I am seasoned and well versed with the Washington County Quorum Court policies and procedures. I have actively participated in public comment periods with concerns for my neighborhood and surrounding community. District 7 needs an advocate with a voice standing with them on the matters that impact our community and our quality of life.
QUESTION: The Quorum Court is considering an $18 million to $20 million jail expansion project. Justices of the peace have discussed using American Rescue Plan money to pay for the project. Do you favor the expansion project, and why or why not? Do you favor using American Rescue Plan money to pay for the project, and why or why not?
MAIN: The Washington County jail overcrowding has been a problem for the past five or six years. The covid-19 pandemic only exacerbated an existing issue. I don't believe an $18-20 million jail expansion will solve the problems in our jail at this time. The American Rescue Plan money should be spent on our judicial system; in a way that we see short term results quickly. We recently hired a criminal justice coordinator to head the 10-12 member committee. They need ample time to present a short-term plan to set our criminal justice system on a path of recovery. We need to fully staff our current jail, the safety for the employees and detainees should be our number one priority at this time. The super majority justices of the peace are wanting the jail expansion to alleviate the current overcrowding; however, it will not help the immediate problem.
QUESTION: What other areas of county government are you most interested in and what specifically would you like to see the county do in those areas?
MAIN: The other areas of county government that I would like to visit are: Prepare a balanced budget based on the needs of the county with costs adjusted for inflation. Staff all departments with employees making a living wage. Revisit and update the county planning and development ordinances. Advocate for professional courtesies and respect for fellow JPs at Quorum Court meetings.
Residency: Lifelong resident of Washington County
Occupation: Self-employed, bookkeeping and tax service
Education: Graduated from Farmington High School, certificate of enrollment to practice before the Internal Revenue Service
Political Experience: None