FAYETTEVILLE -- Aaron Howerton and Fred Anderson are aiming to fill the District 4 seat on the Washington County Quorum Court.
Howerton was unopposed in the Democratic party primary election. Anderson was chosen as the Republic Party nominee in a special county convention after Sarah Henley, who ran unopposed in the party primary, moved out of the district.
Bill Ussery was appointed to fill the seat in early 2021 after Judith Yanez resigned and isn't eligible to run for the position in this election cycle.
The Quorum Court is the legislative body of county government and is composed of members called justices of the peace, who are elected to two-year terms. The 15-member Washington County Quorum Court has four Democrats and 11 Republicans.
Early voting starts Oct. 24. Election Day is Nov. 8.
Anderson said he volunteered to run after Henley moved out of the district because he wanted to make sure voters had their choice of representation in local government.
"The Quorum Court is really our representative body," he said.
Howerton said he ran after observing a number of Quorum Court meetings and seeing the justices of the peace failing to deal with county business in a nonpartisan manner.
"There was a lack of professionalism and courtesy," he said. "That tends to lead to a lack of compromise and discipline where people don't feel the need to think critically."
The candidates disagreed on one of the biggest issues now facing Washington County, a proposal to expand the county's Detention Center.
The Quorum Court in July approved setting a Nov. 8 special election on a proposal to issue of up to $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 increase that would expire when the bonds are paid.
Howerton said he thinks the county shouldn't act on the jail expansion now.
"The sales tax is only for the construction, not the ongoing operation of the jail," he said. "The Quorum Court has not given any sort of concern about how they would fund this. I'm against doing it without any plan to provide long-term stability."
Anderson said he supports the jail expansion plan, saying the county can't continue to release people who are arrested just because the jail is crowded.
"I'm against releasing people early," he said. "They end up committing more crimes. We have exploded in population, and our facilities have got to grow to match with the population."
Howerton said he wants to improve the transparency of county government and make information more accessible to the public.
"The website is not searchable, so it's hard to see what your justices of the peace are doing," he said. "When information is difficult to find it creates a wall between what is happening in government and the public's ability to see and to understand."
Anderson said he's thinks the county should do more work on rural roads.
"We've got some pretty rough roads that need to be addressed," he said. "And I'm not talking about just the paved county roads. We've got a lot of gravel roads in the county that need maintenance."
Each justice of the peace represents a district of roughly equal population. Redistricting for justice of the peace seats took place late last year. District 4 includes parts of eastern Springdale from just west of Thompson Street east to Butterfield Coach Road and north of Robinson Avenue to the area north of Huntsville Avenue.
Washington County justices of the peace are paid $200 per meeting for Quorum Court and committee meetings they attend.
Justice of the Peace
Fred Anderson (R)
Residency: Springdale resident for 23 years
Occupation: Semiretired aircraft pilot; works in property maintenance and food delivery for the Springdale School District
Education: Attended Johnson County Junior College in Kansas
Political Experience: Ran unsuccessfully for the District 4 seat in 2020
Aaron Howerton (D)
Residency: Springdale resident for two years
Occupation: Operations manager for a computer software company
Education: Master of arts degree from West Texas A&M
Political Experience: None