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Washington County voters select Deakins for county judge; he’ll take office in January

He beats Democrat Moody for Washington County post by Tom Sissom | November 9, 2022 at 5:35 a.m.
Voters cast their ballots Friday Oct. 28, 2022 while voting early at the Washington County Courthouse in Fayetteville. (NWA Democrat-Gazette/J.T. Wampler)

FAYETTEVILLE -- Patrick Deakins was the choice of Washington County voters for county judge Tuesday as he led Josh Moody for the county's top job.

Final, but unofficial, results show Deakins leading Moody.

Deakins 36,424 (52%)

Moody 33,294 (48%)

Deakins won the Republican nomination after defeating Mark Scalise in a runoff election in June.

Moody defeated Charles Ward in the May party primary election to win the Democratic nomination.

Incumbent County Judge Joseph Wood ran unsuccessfully for lieutenant governor.

County judges are the chief executive officers for Arkansas county governments, overseeing the county road department and other departments and maintaining county facilities. County judges serve four-year terms. The Washington County judge's salary is $141,470 annually.

Deakins ran for county judge after having served on the Quorum Court since 2019. He said he understands county government and wants to bring his business experience as a certified public accountant to local government.

"I've seen some of the opportunities and challenges that Washington County is going to face in the next few years. I've served as chairman of the county's Finance Committee. I want to bring my experience and background as a CPA to government. I will treat the taxpayers' dollars as if it's coming out of my own pocket," Deakins said before the election.

Moody, a teacher in the Fayetteville School District and at the county's Juvenile Detention Center, ran as an agent of change in county government. Having worked at the Juvenile Detention Center for eight years, he said he's seen county government up close and described it as "dysfunctional" in many instances.

The two men split on the question of expanding the county's jail, with Deakins favoring the project and Moody questioning the size, scope and cost.

The jail has a design capacity of 710 beds. With the legal requirements to keep different categories of prisoners separate, the jail is operationally full when the number of prisoners is around 580. In recent years, the jail has seen the population rise to more than 800 prisoners.

The Quorum Court in July set a special election that was held Tuesday for voters to decide on $113.5 million in bonds for a jail expansion and up to $28.5 million in bonds for a Juvenile Justice Center expansion project. The bonds would be paid by a 0.25% sales tax that would expire when the bonds are paid.

Voters rejected the proposal Tuesday.

"I think we've gotten to the point where it's an absolute necessity," Deakins said before the election. "We have got to do something with our jail. I hope we can make a good enough case to the voters. With all the growth in our area in a few years, we're going to be a Dallas or an Austin. Let's try to have all the good things that growth brings without some of the bad things. A functioning jail is a cornerstone of our justice system, and we have to have one that meets our needs."

Moody said the county has alternatives to building a bigger jail that haven't been tried, and voters shouldn't be taxed in the wake of the covid-19 pandemic and the recent spike in inflation.

Both candidates said Washington County needs to focus more on county planning and zoning and on infrastructure, including county roads, to keep up with the population growth of the county and Northwest Arkansas.

Print Headline: Voters pick Deakins as county judge


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