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Bollinger, Luhtanen on ballot for Benton County District 7 justice of the peace

by Mike Jones | October 12, 2022 at 4:05 a.m.
Republican Joseph Bollinger (left) and Democrat Sarah Luhtanen will face off for the Benton County District 7 justice of the peace seat in November.

BENTONVILLE -- Republican Joseph Bollinger and Democrat Sarah Luhtanen will face off for the Benton County District 7 justice of the peace seat in November.

The district stretches from the Missouri/Arkansas state line to northern Bentonville. Its southern border stops along Northwest 12th Street and Tiger Boulevard. Its western border is U.S. 71B. This district covers a portion of unincorporated Benton County and northeastern Bella Vista.

Early voting starts Oct. 24. Election Day is Nov. 8.

The Quorum Court is the legislative body of county government whose members are called justices of the peace and who are elected to two-year terms. The Benton County Quorum Court is made up of 15 Republicans.

Three issues the county faces in the next five years are growth, cost of living and relatively high taxes, Bollinger said.

Bollinger, who currently serves on the Quorum Court, said the county jail is overcrowded, so the current jail population relative to its capacity is an issue that needs to be addressed.

There are temporary solutions -- though they are expensive in the short term -- such as jail trailers that can help with capacity issues, he said. He also supports the different types of diversion programs used in Benton County and has sponsored several ordinances to help fund and expand these programs, he said.

"It is important to keep in mind that even if the jail expansion passes, it will take at least three years before our capacity is increased," Bollinger said. "It is vital we find solutions to resolve our jail capacity issue with more immediate results."

There are many aspects of the jail expansion project he supports, such as the increased room for programs to reduce recidivism and criminal courts being next to the jail.

Bollinger said he is seeking reelection because residents want elected officials who aren't afraid to speak up for them and their interests.

"I am the best person for the job because I am a principled conservative who listens to my constituents through public sit downs and polling and seeks their input on critical issues," he said.

"Due to my technical background, I am able to take a deep look into the issues, ask the right questions and propose solutions that would otherwise possibly not be considered. Most importantly, I work for my constituents and recognize that I am a public servant for them, and I take that role very seriously."

Luhtanen said traditionally rural areas have become more densely populated, straining traffic, roads and bridges. The Quorum Court needs to look at ways to ease this stress, whether it's expanding the public transit system into smaller communities, timely fixes for county roads in disrepair or ensuring bike trails have safe access points to lanes on busy roads.

Housing also is a problem, she said.

"All families should have the opportunity to live in affordable housing, and while this will require coordination across many agencies in the area, the Quorum Court should take the lead in addressing this issue," she said.

Luhtanen is not in favor of jail expansion. The county needs to make smart, financial decisions that support all Benton County residents. Raising the sales tax for a jail expansion negatively affects people in this community on several levels, she said.

Data related to the jail's population show many of the inmates are nonviolent offenders awaiting trial, she said, adding most people in jail suffer from addiction or untreated mental illness, and/or are living in poverty and cannot afford bail.

"We must look at cost-effective ways to lessen the need for detaining people for pretrial, nonviolent offenses, especially when there is apparent need in our community for addiction and mental health services," she said.

"Benton County has an opportunity and responsibility to work on these issues within the community, which will help prevent crisis-related crime, thus alleviating any overcrowding concerns."

Luhtanen said she is the better person to represent District 7 because as a former teacher, she saw firsthand how inequality affected children in her classroom. Teaching virtually during the early days of covid-19 allowed educators to see the far-reaching effects of economic disparity among students, she said.

Benton County justices of the peace receive $267 per meeting of the Quorum Court, Committee of the Whole and Finance Committee.

Benton County Justice of the Peace District 7

Sarah Luhtanen, D

Age: 39

Residency: Bentonville for 14 years

Occupation: Stay-at-home mom; former teacher

Education: Master’s degree in teaching, secondary English, from the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville

Political Experience: None

Joseph Bollinger, R

Age: 39

Residency: Bella Vista; has lived in District 7 for eight years

Occupation: Small business owner and systems engineer

Education: Associate degree in computer information systems from Northwest Technical Institute in Springdale

Political Experience: Benton County Quorum Court, 2021 to present; ran unsuccessfully for the Quorum Court in 2018


Print Headline: Bollinger, Luhtanen seek JP District 7 seat


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