FAYETTEVILLE -- Voters in District 14 will have a new justice of the peace representing them on the Washington County Quorum Court.
Dawn Cannon, the Democratic Party nominee, was unopposed in the party primary. She faces Gary Ricker, who won a four-way race for the Republican party nomination. Jim Wilson, the incumbent justice of the peace, choose to run for the House District 23 seat in the state Legislature.
Ricker said he's running for the Quorum Court after retiring from law enforcement, serving as Greenland chief of police.
"Policemen shouldn't be involved in politics," Ricker said. "But I was involved in city government for the last 30 years. The Quorum Court is like city government, on a county level. I've handled budgets and day-to-day operations."
Cannon said she wants to serve the community and make sure residents are heard by county officials.
"I believe listening is a skill that can help with government just as much, if not more, than in your normal life," she said. "I'm a good listener, and I believe in building bridges instead of dividing people."
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.
District 14 includes parts of south-central Washington County from southern Fayetteville and includes the towns of Greenland, West Fork and Winslow.
Early voting starts Monday. Election Day is Nov. 8.
Both candidates agreed that giving voters the final say on a proposed jail expansion is the right choice, but they differed on the plans presented by the county.
The Quorum Court in July approved setting a Nov. 8 special election on a proposal to issue 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.
Cannon said she has questions and concerns about the jail that go beyond the construction plan.
"My concern is with it being a temporary sales tax, only for construction, how will the overhead of the jail be paid for once it is completed?" Cannon said. "I am not for an expansion with no plan. Also, I believe there are services and programs that could reduce overcrowding, benefiting the community, and cost us much less."
Ricker said he believes the jail expansion is needed to handle the population growth in Washington County, and he supports the proposal.
"With our population increasing, everything is increasing, including crime," Ricker said. "There has got to be consequences for your actions. I tend to be for the expansion of the jail and of the juvenile courts. It's part of the range of services the county has to provide."
Ricker said with much of District 14 being rural, county infrastructure, roads, bridges, water and sewer, the county library and others are important issues to the voters of the district.
"The district I'm running in, the magic word is infrastructure," he said. "We can fix everything, but there's only a certain amount of money, and we have to prioritize things."
Cannon said voters she has talked to also say county road and other infrastructure projects are a big issue. She also said voters want someone who can make government work.
"I just hope that no matter who wins, the next Quorum Court will be able to work together instead of yell at each other," she said.
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 justices of the peace are paid $200 per meeting for Quorum Court and committee meetings they attend.
Benton County Justice of the Peace, District 14
Gary Ricker (R)
Residency: Greenland area for 30 years
Occupation: Retired, Greenland chief of police
Education: Attended Arkansas Tech University in Russellville
Political Experience: None
Dawn Cannon (D)
Residency: Fayetteville, has lived in district 14 for six years
Occupation: Receptionist for a nurse practitioner
Education: Attended the University of Arkansas
Political Experience: None