Friday, June 19, 2009

TOP STORY >> Pope installs commander from LRAFB

Leader editor-in-chief

“Look over your shoulder now and then to be sure someone’s following you.”

—Henry Gilmer

Col. John McDonald, the top commander at Pope Air Force Base in North Carolina who had once been a squadron commander here, lost the confidence of his superiors and was dismissed from his post a week ago Friday, apparently for showing poor leadership.

Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Norton Schwartz, also previously assigned to Little Rock Air Force Base, signed off on the firing.

The Air Force didn’t have to look far for a replacement: Col. James C. Johnson, who until last weekend was vice commander of the 19th Airlift Wing at Little Rock Air Force Base, was named commander of the 43rd Airlift Wing at Pope AFB.

Johnson moved into his new post on Monday morning. The change of command happened so quickly — the Air Force does move fast — there was no time for a ceremony, where military leaders and local dignitaries watch parades and a display of colorful flags, listen to military music and wish the new commander all the best.

Johnson missed out on that ceremony this time, but he will lead some 5,000 men and women at Pope. His job includes command of a sprawling complex, where the Army’s XVIII Airborne Corps, the 82nd Airborne Division and the U.S. Special Forces Command are ready to deploy at a moment’s notice.

The C-130s at Pope provide tactical airlift for those forces, although the Defense Base Closure and Realignment Commission has assigned Pope’s active-duty C-130s to LRAFB. A reserve wing at Pope still has 16 C-130s available for combat duty.

Johnson’s new duties at Pope also include air mobility and airdrop testing, joint-force training and supporting the 440th Airlift Wing, Combat Control School, 21st and 24th Special Tactics squadrons and 18th Air Support Operations Group.

It’s a huge responsibility, but Johnson is a natural leader: He’s smart but unpretentious, looks you straight in the eye and knows how to get the job done.

The job may have been too much for McDonald: There’s buzz on the Internet that he abused his position of power and lost the respect of those he commanded.

McDonald “was removed for cause,” according to a terse Air Force statement. That means he was dismissed for job-related improprieties.

Maj. Gen. Winfield W. “Skip” Scott III, his commanding officer at the 18th Air Force at Scott Air Force Base in Illinois, decided McDonald’s “actions rendered him ineffective as the 43rd Airlift Wing commander,” according to the statement. The general is in charge of Pope AFB and Little Rock AFB.

McDonald will get a desk job as an assistant to Gen. Scott and will probably retire soon. The Air Force isn’t saying much else about McDonald’s dismissal.

McDonald also has ties to Little Rock Air Force Base. He was director of operations of the 50th Airlift Squadron and commander of the 61st Airlift Squadron from 1998-2000.

You don’t often hear about commanders who are dismissed for poor leadership, but it does happen once in a while, and apparently those serving under McDonald were fed up with him.

According to a blogger named Nathan Hale, when McDonald was assigned to Kuwait to oversee cargo operations into Iraq, his subordinates thought there was “something wrong” with him, pointing to “his rigid discipline and inflexible personality.”

“They paint a picture of a commander who often ran roughshod over his troops, ignored his own directives, and punished subordinates for petty infractions,” Hale wrote.

McDonald was demanding — he forced airmen to spend up to 12 hours out in the desert heat — and wouldn’t let them eat in a cafeteria for Army personnel, where the food was considered better than what the Air Force contractor had to offer.

McDonald, you guessed it, ate at the Army chow hall.

But that was a while back, so McDonald may have stumbled more recently — seriously enough so that his commanding general and the Air Force chief decided they’d seen enough.

TOP STORY >> Sheriff nets 58 pounds of marijuana

Six Beebe residents were arrested this week after undercover narcotic officers delivered to their homes 58 pounds of marijuana that had been intercepted in Conway.

White County sheriff’s detectives received information from the Conway Police Department on Wednesday that the marijuana was supposed to be delivered to three different addresses in Beebe.

The marijuana was taken to the sheriff’s department before White County deputies — with the assistance of the Beebe Police Department, Searcy Police Department and Central Arkansas Drug Task Force — delivered it and also served search warrants.

Amy Lindsey, 22, and Dewayne Lockhart, 22, were arrested at 604 Arkansas St. and charged with conspiracy to deliver marijuana.

Bonds were set at $25,000 and $50,000 respectively.

Larry Green, 41, and Vicky Brown, 33, were arrested at 104 Fox St. and charged with conspiracy to deliver marijuana. Bonds were set at $50,000.

Tosha Baskin, 29, and her husband Marcellus Baskin, 33, were arrested at 119 E. Church St.

Tosha Baskin was charged with conspiracy to deliver marijuana. Bond was set at $50,000.

Marcellus Baskin, a parolee, was charged with possession of marijuana with intent to deliver. He is being held under a $50,000 bond and a parole hold.

White County Sheriff Ricky Shourd called the cooperation among the various law enforcement agencies involved “an excellent case of different agencies working together to take drugs and criminals off the street.”

TOP STORY >> Austin painter’s work makes the regional stage

Leader staff writer

Austin-based artist Karlyn Holloway has earned a spot in a regional exhibit that will allow her work to be seen by visitors from across the region.

This accomplishment comes on the heels of recognition she’s received in Arkansas including from Gov. Mike Beebe.

Holloway’s work is on display through August in the Watercolor-USA exhibit at the Springfield Art Museum in Springfield, Mo.

Her painting, “More Than Meets the Eye,” was one of about 150 watercolor paintings chosen for the exhibit from a pool of more than 650 entries.

She is a 16-year resident of Austin. Although “there aren’t a whole lot of artists around in this little area,” she said that she “had good response” to her work.

She is best known for her paintings of flowers. She said her works are not so much about their particular subject, but rather on the “spiritual journey” that she has undertaken through the artistic process.

Some of her most noted works are of duotone flowers made from blacks and browns and void of color.

Holloway said she began drawing as a child, and didn’t pursue art seriously until she enrolled at Arkansas State University at
Beebe where she earned her associate’s degree in art.

She later continued her formal art education at the University of Central Arkansas in Conway.

She is a member of the Arkansas League of Artists, Mid-Southern Watercolorists and the Conway League of Artists.

Although Holloway has been painting professionally for only nine years, she has already garnered considerable success.

Her work was previously shown at the Springfield Art Museum in a regional exhibit and one of her paintings was included in the 2007 annual governor’s calendar. Another painting was recently selected to hang in the Governor’s Mansion from October through December.

Her work will also be shown at the Mid-Southern Watercolorists show this spring.

Though she focuses primarily on watercolor paintings of flowers, she also paints portraits and uses other mediums, such as oil, graphite, charcoal and pastel.

One of her oil paintings, “In His Hands,” was chosen last year as one of the top-10 pieces at Fellowship Bible Church’s annual art show in Little Rock.

More of her oil paintings will be on display at the Fine Arts Center of Hot Springs on Central Avenue through August. The opening night reception will be held at the gallery from 5-9 p.m. on Aug. 7.

Despite Holloway’s great success recently with exhibits, she said she is “also very focused on having paintings bought.” Those interested in her work can email her at

TOP STORY >> District changes mind

Leader senior staff writer

The Pulaski County Special School District Board voted 3 to 2 Friday to adjust its stimulus plan to provide $1 million for architectural designs for a new Jacksonville Middle School.

Jacksonville board member Bill Vasquez made the motion during an emergency meeting to amend the district’s American Recovery and Reinvestment Act plan to include the design money.

McAlmont board member Gwen Williams seconded the motion and board President Tim Clark of Maumelle furnished the third and decisive vote.

The vote moves the building plan up on the district’s priority list.

0Charlie Wood first brought up the idea of designing a Jacksonville Middle School about 10 days ago. But he complained, “I’ve been supporting and pushing (for it), and now I’m about to change my mind. The World Class Education (Organization) and

The Leader have been trying to pressure board members,” he complained.

“It doesn’t work. I’ve been turned. Nobody’s going to pressure me,” Wood insisted.

Williams added her complaints. “I’ll not be pressured by the World Class (Organization) or The Leader. If it happens again, I’m going to come out fighting,” she promised.

Williams said she was tired of Jacksonville always asking for something —its own district, exemption from paying part of the recently issued $81 million second-lien bond, and fixed boundaries for its own long-desired district.

In the end though, she voted for amending the district’s stimulus plan.

Jacksonville Mayor-elect Gary Fletcher had met earlier in the day with Clark, promising to work together. He tried to soothe ruffled feathers on the board.

Board member Mildred Tatum said the meeting was improperly called as an emergency meeting. She said she didn’t see the rush.

She also prevented Vasquez from amending his own motion to al-low the funds also to be used to design a new elementary school to replace Arnold Drive Elementary School on Little Rock Air Force Base and nearby Tolleson Elementary School.

Jacksonville Middle School has been in need of replacement for a decade or two. Vasquez was asked why there suddenly was an emergency meeting to pay for plans.

Interim Superintendent Rob McGill said that the stimulus plan needed to be amended and turned into Gov. Mike Beebe’s office by Monday or Tuesday.

Earlier in the day, Daniel Gray, vice president of the Jacksonville World Class Education Organization, suggested the sudden urgency to locate a site to build a new school may mean that the board realizes it has been caught red-handed showing favoritism for Maumelle at the expense of other zones, particularly Jacksonville.

The district built a new middle school in Maumelle recently. It is building a new high school in Maumelle with the aid of $81 million in second-lien bonds.

On Tuesday, the board jettisoned the proposed Robinson Middle School media center in favor of adding an eight-classroom wing at Maumelle’s Pine Forest Elementary School where Clark’s children went and where McGill served as principal until hired to be the acting superintendent.

“How blatant can this school board be with its favoring of one zone over another?” Gray asked. “They wait until they know (Robin-son area board member Shana Chaplin) has a conflict and call a special meeting. The rich get richer and the poor get poorer, and (Maumelle gets) $5 million in additions and we get five portables (at Jacksonville middle school).”

The board previously had committed to replacing Arnold Drive Elementary School at the request of former base commander Gen. Rowayne Schatz.

EDITORIAL >> UCA gets new start

Dr. Allen C. Meadors, the new president of the University of Central Arkansas, enjoys the best of jobs and the worst of jobs.

After 10 months of relentless revelations about the blunders and deceits of the previous president, Lu Hardin, how can Meadors not look good? It is like following a football coach who had three successive 0-12 seasons.

But he undertakes a job where his activities will be under unprecedented scrutiny, thanks again to Hardin. The media, government regulators, lawmakers and auditors learned the need to prowl through the contracts and receipts of the university to see why and how the administrator did business. In Hardin’s case, wherever they looked there was evidence of self-dealing and political back-scratching. It will be a while before that scrutiny subsides.

There also is the little matter of running an institution that is virtually bankrupt. The school has been running a deficit, which it must not do, and the president has few options for improving the receipts side of the ledger. He and his board can raise tuition and fees, but that has been overdone already. That leaves cutting expenses, and the interim president, Tommy Courtway, has been taking those steps, some hard but some easy, like canceling the contract for Hardin’s secret flak, whose job was to talk Hardin up with the media and get him good publicity, all on the taxpayers’ tab. The faculty has not had a raise in two years and morale is low and expectations high.

But Allen Meadors looks like a superb choice. He is an academician, not a politician, and he has taught and administered a large institution. When it hired Hardin nearly seven years ago, the board of trustees caved in to political pressures. Gov. Mike Huckabee wanted his friend and political ally, a former state senator who was ambitious for higher office, installed in the job, and Hardin resumed the political career that had been short-circuited by his defeat in the U. S. Senate race in 1996, but operating from the academe instead of the legislature. He ran the university like a canny politician would, cultivating his image, seeking and passing out favors and rewarding friends and supporters. He wanted the school to be the second largest institution, behind the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville, and have more a prestigious athletic program, so he manipulated enrollment and the accounting ledger to get them done. He laundered taxpayer funds into a private account to get around the ceiling on what he could pay a head football coach.

The new president knows that he will be scrutinized closely, and he welcomed it. He said Friday that he expected everything to be transparent and open and that when he made mistakes he would admit them. We remember how Hardin’s demise came. He worked out an illegal $300,000 bonus for himself with the trustees, hid it from the public (he flatly lied when reporters asked about the rumor), and then affixed the names of three subordinates to a memo that he wrote justifying his bonus.

Meadors takes the job with high praise from the trustees and to the great relief of students, faculty and alumni of the school.

The long ordeal seems to be over.

Lofty expectations are not bad, difficult as they are to live up to. But it is worth remembering that only a year ago Lu Hardin was enjoying regular plaudits from the UCA board, political leaders and the media. The Arkansas Democrat Gazette editorial page wondered why other institutions were not following the fantastic leadership of the president of the University of Central Arkansas. Sic transit gloria mundi.

SPORTS >> Piranhas pick up 2 early wins

Leader sportswriter

The Central Arkansas Swim League kicked off another summer of competitive swimming with three meets on June 6.

Otter Creek hosted Cabot and YMCA on the opening weekend, while Sherwood hosted Bryant and Lakewood hosted Maumelle and Lonoke.

The Cabot Piranhas won their first meet of the summer, collecting 510 points to Otter Creek’s 332 and 49 for YMCA. Cabot won the following weekend at a meet it hosted against Lakewood and Lonoke. The Piranhas had 618 points, while the Waves had 260 points and the Sharkrockets finished with 145 points.

The Sherwood Sharks, who are going for an unprecedented sixth straight CASL title, handily beat the Baracudas 701 to 435. Sherwood hosted Otter Creek and YMCA on June 13, and took the win with 873.5 points.

Maumelle captured the win at the Lakewood meet with 618 points, while the host Waves finished with 260 points. Lonoke was third with 123 points.

Winners are listed on 3B

SPORTS >> Centennial has easy time of it in 12-4 win

Leader sportswriter

Centennial Bank put Morrilton out of its misery early with a run-ruled 12-4 win through five innings on Thursday night at Brian Wade Conrade Memorial Baseball Field.

Morrilton struggled both offensively and defensively, but avoided a shutout with a four-run flurry in the top of the third inning. The rest was all Cabot.

Cabot (6-9-2) wasted no time taking the advantage in the opening frame of the junior American Legion matchup, sending Morrilton three up and three down in the top of the first before putting up three in the bottom half.

Leadoff batter Zach Uhiren singled, stole second and scored when Brandon Surdam singled him in. Surdam then scored on a groundout by Justin Goff.

Tyler Carter drew a walk and was driven in on a single by Spencer Roberg.

Singles by Josh Graham and Bryson Morris made it 4-0 in the second. Uhiren reached on an error, and one out later, Tyler Carter got the biggest hit of the night for Centennial Bank with a ground-rule double that scored Uhiren and Surdam to make it 6-0.

Tyler Cole followed with a single to left that scored Carter for the final run of the frame, but Cabot picked right back up an inning later.

James McRainey got things started for Centennial Bank in the bottom of the third when he took first base after getting hit by a pitch. Graham reached on an error to advance McRainey. Morris doubled down the third base line to score McRainey, and Graham came in on a single to left by Uhiren. Surdam grounded out to second to bring in Uhiren and extend the lead to 11-0.

Centennial Bank was set up for a four-inning win before Morrilton’s last gasp in the top of the fourth extended the lopsided affair for one more inning. Morrilton took advantage of two walks, as well as an error and a single to close the gap to 11-4.

Centennial Bank needed only one more run in the bottom of the fourth, and got it with a single by Graham that scored Cole.
Daniel Fox earned the win for Cabot. Fox kept Morrilton scoreless through three innings.

Uhiren was 2 of 2 with two RBI and three runs to lead Centennial Bank. Graham was 2 of 2 with a RBI and two runs, while Morris was 2 of 2 with a double and an RBI.

SPORTS >> Zimmerman hangs on for match play crown

Leader sports editor

Call it the Zimmerman Slam if you want.

Sylvan Hills’ Nick Zimmerman currently owns both the junior match play and stroke play titles after holding on for a 2-and-1 win over Conway’s Ethan King on Thursday morning at the ASGA Junior Match Play Championship at Foxwood Country Club.

“It was my home course and I was hitting it good enough,” Zimmerman said of his chances of winning the 64-player field when it started on Monday. “My short game is really what won me the tournament.”

The Sylvan Hills alum dropped in a clinching 15-foot birdie putt on the 17th hole after King had staged a furious comeback and closed a 4-down deficit to a mere 1-down with two holes to play.

Zimmerman adds Thursday’s match play championship to his ASGA stroke play crown from last July, when he cruised to a 12-shot victory at Pine Bluff.

It’s as close as Zimmerman can come to a slam in the two events as he turns 18 on Wednesday and will be too old to defend his stroke play championship next month.

Along about the 10th hole on Thursday, that Zimmerman Slam was beginning to look like a slam dunk. After falling one down to King, who will be a senior at Conway High School, Zimmerman won holes 6 through 10 to take a commanding 4-up lead heading into the 11th hole. But Zimmerman left the door open for King when he missed a six-foot putt that would have increased his lead to 5-up with just seven holes remaining.

King burst through the door by making par on the 12th hole, which was good enough to narrow the lead to 3 after Zimmerman plunked his second shot into the lake.

“I think that second shot on 12 is what let him back into it,” Zimmerman said. “I had a terrible lie.”

Zimmerman made a good chip on 13 to draw a halve on the hole and maintain his 3-up lead, but King stuck it stiff on the par-3 14th and Zimmerman conceded the birdie putt to drop to a 2-up lead.

Things got even dicier when Zimmerman hooked his approach out of bounds on 15 and the once-comfortable lead was down to a precarious one hole, still with three to play.

It appeared Zimmerman had steered the ship back on course when he hit a good drive on 16, then knocked his approach to four feet. King, meanwhile, was forced to hit a knockdown shot from under the trees and came up short of the green.

But King made a nice up and down for par and Zimmerman ran his birdie putt well past the hole and faced a five-foot comeback to try to hold on to his 1-up lead.

“I thought I’d hit (the birdie putt) soft enough not to have a comebacker, but it just kept going,” Zimmerman said.

Zimmerman curled the comeback putt into the left edge to maintain a 1-up lead as the two players headed to the 17th tee.

“I knew he was closing the gap big time,” Zimmerman said. “The only thought that kept going through my head was that I was still up with two holes to go so it was my tournament to win. Ethan played really good, though. He never gave up.”

King striped his drive on 17, while Zimmerman sprayed a wild shot beyond the trees lining the right side of the fairway. The ball missed the trees and ended up in the 16th fairway, leaving him about 100 yards over a tall stand of trees. Zimmerman’s approach hit the bank to the right of the green and released onto the front edge about 15 feet below the hole.

“It was a basic 56 (degree wedge),” Zimmerman said of the shot. “The trees didn’t bother me at all. I just hit a good shot, I guess.”

King followed with an approach right at the flag, but it released up the hill and left him about 20 feet for birdie. His putt came up short, leaving Zimmerman with a putt for the win. It was on line the whole way, then died into the front of the cup.

“That putt was dead straight,” he said. “You couldn’t have asked for an easier shot.”

Zimmerman, who led after two holes on Thursday, trailed only twice in the match after making bogeys on 3 and 4. He drew even when King bogeyed the par-3 6th and took the lead for good on 8. His drive on the 307-yard par four finished right of the green about 20 yards from the flag and his wedge stopped five feet from the cup. He made the birdie, then birdied 8 to go 2-up. That was the second of five straight winning holes for Zimmerman, who surged to a 4-up lead when King bogeyed No. 10.

After opening with an 8-and-7 win in the first round, Zimmerman survived several narrow matches along the way to the title, including a 1-up win over Cabot’s Hunter Smith in the quarterfinals and a 3-and-2 win over Drew Comer in the semis, when he chipped in twice on the front nine.

Cabot’s Colby Benton came up short in his bid to win a third straight junior tournament. Benton won the Bruce Jenkins Memorial and the Burns Park Stroke Play last week. Benton, whose brother Nicklaus won this event the past two years, fell 2-and-1 to Lance Hulce in the semifinals on Wednesday.

Zimmerman will play golf at UALR next year.

ASGA executive director Jay Fox announced at the trophy presentation ceremony that Foxwood, which has hosted the event the past three years, will continue hosting it for at least the next two summers.

SPORTS >> Optimist Club survives scare

Leader sports editor

North Little Rock did everything it could to give the game to Sylvan Hills Optimist Club but the senior Bruins still made it a tense affair.

Nathan Eller came on in the seventh inning with the tying run at the plate and no one out and promptly set down the three batters he faced as the Bruins held on for an 8-6 win over the Colts on Tuesday evening at Kevin McReynolds Field in Sherwood.

North Little Rock pitching issued seven walks and hit five Bruins and the Colt defense pitched in with five errors but Sylvan Hills could turn all of that into just eight runs after managing only five hits.

Three of those belonged to Hunter Miller, who struggled on the mound but not at the plate. Miller scored twice and drove in another with two singles and a triple. Miller entered the game in the third inning and allowed seven hits and five earned runs in pitching into the seventh. He struck out five and walked three.

North Little Rock took the early lead on a Clark Sims double leading off the game and a throwing error on Sylvan Hills catcher Tyler Van Schoyck. But it was the last error by the Bruins, who took advantage of a throwing error by the Colts catcher to tie the game at 1 in the bottom of the first.

Casey Cerrato put the Bruins in front with an RBI single in the second. On the play, Ryan Dillon came all the way around from first on an error on the left fielder as Optimist Club took a 3-1 lead.

Jordan Spears pitched two scoreless innings for the Bruins but Miller came on in relief to start the third, allowing a two-run homer by Zack Ketchum that knotted the score at 3. Sylvan Hills left the bases loaded in the bottom half and North Little Rock took its last lead of the game with a pair of singles in the fourth.

Dillon and Van Schoyck walked in the Sylvan Hills half of the inning. After Dillon scored on a wild pitch to tie it, Miller gave the Bruins the lead with a triple down the right field line. Miller came all the way around to score on the play on a throwing error on the relay as Sylvan Hills led 6-4.

Miller set down six of the next seven Colts and Sylvan Hills added some insurance in the sixth, again aided by North Little Rock miscues. Cerrato reached on an error but was thrown out trying to get to third on Miller’s looping single. Gino Jameson reached on a throwing error by the Colts’ pitcher, allowing Miller to score. Eller singled in Jameson to make it 8-4.

But the Colts were far from through. A double, a walk and a double scored two and made it 8-6 with no one out. Enter Eller, who got a ground out, a strike out and a fly out to end it.

Spears struck out four and allowed two hits and one unearned run in his two innings.

Sylvan Hills plays in the Sheridan Wood Bat Classic through this weekend.


The junior Colts’ seven-run third inning didn’t deflate the Bruins, who rallied back, then got a game-winning two-run single from Blake Rasdon as Sylvan Hills prevailed.

Sylvan Hills knotted the game 8-8 with a five-run fourth inning, but fell behind again when the Colts got a two-out double and a bloop single to reclaim a 9-8 lead in the fifth and final inning.

But with one out in the bottom half, Cain Cormier singled and James Pepin and Brian Chastain drew walks. Rasdon then lined a single to left center for the winner. Rasdon led the way with a 2-of-3 performance, scoring three times and driving in two.

Sylvan Hills broke out on top with a pair of walks and RBI singles by Greg Atchison and Zach Russenberger in the second. But starter Blake Hannon never made it out of the third inning, which began harmlessly enough with a strikeout. But a passed ball allowed the batter to reach first, and three singles and a fielder’s choice put the Colts up 3-2.

Hannon surrendered three more singles and two more walks as four more Colt runs came across. Austin Spears came in with the bases loaded and one out and got a pop up and a ground out to escape further damage.

The Bruins got one run back on Rasdon’s single and Spears’ RBI double in the third, but North Little Rock scored another run in the fourth to go up 8-3.

A walk, a Russenberger single, a hit batter and Trey Sims’ ground out scored a run and a Colts’ error allowed Russenberger to score to start the Bruins’ five-run fourth. Chastain walked and Rasdon reached on a throwing error that brought home two more runs to make it 8-7. Justin Cook tied it up with an RBI single.

Spears got the win, going the final 2 2/3 innings. He allowed four hits and two earned runs. Spears had a pair of hits and an RBI and Russenberger added two singles. Sylvan Hills returns to action Monday when it hosts Cabot.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

TOP STORY >> PCSSD is hurt by departures

Leader senior staff writer

Pulaski County Special School District’s deputy superintendent Bever-ly Ruthven, apparently fed up with a quarrelsome school board, has handed in her two-week notice according to two board members.

Ruthven said simply, “I’ve done all I can do for Pulaski County Special School District. Now I’m looking for other opportunities.

“I’m very proud of the school district and its accomplishments,” she said Tuesday afternoon. “Student achievement has gone up.”

Ruthven, 55, worked for the district for 22 years, starting as a teacher and working her way up to deputy superintendent and acting superintendent.

“It’s a great, great loss,” board member Danny Gililland said Tuesday. “She was very knowledgeable, a dedicated, hard worker for the children. It is a sad day and a great loss to have her gone.”

Asked if she’d be interested in the superintendent’s job with the proposed Jacksonville/north Pulaski County school district, she said, “I have always had a soft spot for Jacksonville.”

Gililland said he feared that the district could lose many talented educators frustrated with the board upon which he sits.

“When (North Pulaski High School principal) Tracy Allen resigned to go to North Little Rock, I said I was fearful it would be one of the first of many resignations to come,” Gililland said. Now with Ruthven’s resignation and the earlier-than-anticipated retirement of several other employees, Gililland said many were “leaving because of turmoil on the board.”

Gililland said he thought that Ruthven didn’t feel that she had support from the board as a whole and the district to do the job she wanted to do.

Ruthven, who was passed over for the position of interim superintendent for elementary school principal Rob McGill when the board forced James Sharpe to retire earlier this year, has been the district’s guiding hand as it implemented new programs and procedures to help lift PCSSD and its schools from the academic doldrums.

She has been the driving force behind the new Jacksonville Star Academy program, designed to keep marginal, at-risk students from dropping out of school before graduation.

Gililland said he believes the final straw may have come when board member Charlie Wood told a state Department of Education official that the board and district didn’t have to follow state guidelines and requirements, challenging and chastising her during a meeting.

Asked if Ruthven would be a good candidate for an eventual Jacksonville/north Pulaski County district, Gililland said. “She’d be a good candidate for anybody in education — Jacksonville, the state Education Department or another district.”

In the second special meeting in a week, the PCSSD board reversed itself and hired Gary Miller and Arkansas Educational Consultants to be the lead negotiator in contract talks with the Pulaski Association of Classroom Teachers.

The board agreed to pay Miller $12,500 or more to negotiate a contract that Debbie Coley, director of Human Resources was negotiating for free.

Colie and PACT had reached an impasse, but she can only negotiate what the members of the board authorize.

If they don’t change their authorization, Miller also will be locked in an impasse with PACT. If they do change the authorization, then perhaps Colie could have reached an agreement without him.

The board approved the hiring of staff for the summer school, which will be held at Jacksonville High School, and the transition camp.

The board voted to remove a $5.5 million Robinson media center from stimulus funding and directed $3.2 million of it to expand Pine Forest, the Maumelle elementary school from which interim Superintendent Rob McGill and where board president Tim Clark had at least one child enrolled.

The board approved a pro forma proposed 2010-2011 budget that showed no addition to the 40.7 millage rate. This is not the real budget of either the 2009-2010 school year or the 2010-2011 school year, but it was approved in accordance with state law.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

EDITORIAL >> Lottery chief a big gamble

Did the state Lottery Commission swing a good deal for the taxpayers when it hired Ernie Passailaigue away from the South Carolina Lottery for a cool $324,000 a year plus perquisites? The commissioners were proud of themselves, and a legislative oversight committee put its stamp on the deal.

Still, there were querulous sorts who wondered why the state would hire a fellow to run a lottery at a salary five times that of the governor and for much more than people earn for running government programs many times bigger, more complicated and more important than the lottery, which may bring in as much as $100 million a year for scholarships. That is less than the cigarette tax produces.

The huge salary — huge by government pay standards — would be a terrible reflection of priorities unless there is something peculiar about the lottery that demands a premium for the man in charge. One defense over the weekend was that $324,000 for a man who will run an operation that will bring in $100 million a year is chickenfeed. But the director of the state Finance and Administration Department supervises the collection and distribution of some $7 billion in revenue for vital state services like education, colleges, prisons, highways and health and social services. Richard Weiss doesn’t get anything like $324,000, and he’s been doing this work very well for two decades.

Forty-two other state lotteries, including South Carolina’s, got up and running without the special expertise that Arkansas felt it had to have. It is not rocket science. Nearly all the expertise is exercised by the giant lottery vendors. Passailaigue will not himself develop the menu of gambling products. He will put out requests for proposals for a company to produce the instant lottery, or scratch-off, tickets and maybe another for an online lottery system, just like he did in South Carolina and the lottery directors did in the other states.

Scientific Games Corp. almost surely will get one of the contracts, for that matter maybe contracts for all the gambling products. It has contracts to print scratch-off tickets in 34 of the 42 lottery states. Gtech Holdings may get in on the business. It has 26 of the state contracts to operate computer programs for games like Pick 6 and Powerball. There are a few small gambling vendors but they rarely get in on the business, often because state lottery laws or the bid specifications freeze them out. Scientific Games and/or Gtech Holdings will run the Arkansas lottery.

It may be important to scrutinize the process closely to be sure that bribery and bid-rigging do not occur. Lotteries are famous for that. Maybe Passailaigue is a good one to have in charge of that. He has had some experience with it. In September 2001 as South Carolina was about to award contracts for the games, memos passed back and forth between Scientific Games and its exponents.

“We have both sides of the business in South Carolina at our feet,” an associate of a South Carolina lottery lobbyist wrote the CEO of Scientific Games, according to court records. “We must continue to be covertly aggressive in our approach.”

He suggested that the CEO throw a fundraiser for the South Carolina governor in New York and make a payment to the lottery campaign organization in South Carolina. Two days after Scientific Games won the contract from Passailaigue and his lottery commission to provide scratch-off tickets and three weeks before winning the other major contract to provide online games, the CEO sent a check for $35,000 to South Carolinians for an Effective Lottery. Then he threw a fundraiser in New York for Gov. Jim Hodges’ unsuccessful 2002 re-election campaign. He raised $50,000, much of it from the gaming company’s officials.

With firsthand knowledge of that sort of thing, maybe Passailaigue can save Arkansas from any such embarrassment. Would it be worth $324,000? You be the judge.

TOP STORY >> Ex-legislator to run for Senate

Former State Rep. Sandra Prater of Jacksonville is seeking the Dist. 29 Senate seat held by Sen. John Paul Capps (D-Searcy).

Capps can’t run again because of term limits.

Prater will run as a Democrat. Rep. Jonathan Dismang (R-Beebe) will run as a Republican.

Dist. 29 consists of parts of Faulkner, Pulaski and White counties.

Prater served three terms in the House for Dist. 42, which includes parts of Pulaski and Faulkner counties

“I believe my six years as a member of the House of Representatives, representing Faulkner and Pulaski counties, and as a former member of the quorum court gives me the insight and experience to serve in the Senate. In addition with my nursing background, I know how important it is to work on issues that deal with our children, senior adults and health care,” Prater said.

While in the House, she served on the Public Health, Welfare and Labor, the Agriculture, Forestry and Economic Development committees and as chair of the Agriculture, Forestry and Natural Resources Permanent Subcommittee. She was also a member of the Joint Performance Review and the Legislative Joint Auditing Committees.

“I want to continue my legislative efforts to bring opportunities for good health care to the people of Arkansas. Good health care should not be a luxury but a right,” Prater said.

While in the House, Prater was successful in getting legislation passed to have automatic external defibrillators in schools, increased long term and home health care for seniors, additional training for Alzheimer’s, vision screening for children and mandatory reporting of drug and alcohol tests for truck drivers. She also worked to increase funding for school nurses and autism awareness.

In 2007 Prater was named legislator of the year by the AARP and the Physical Therapy Association, advocate of the year by the Advanced Practice Nurses Council and nurse of the year by the Arkansas Nurses Association.

She also received the Champion for Children Award from the Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families.

Prater and her husband, Kenneth, have two children, Kyle and Whitney. They are members of Zion Hill Baptist Church.

TOP STORY >> Brother tells of shooting at D.C. museum

Leader editor-in-chief

School groups and other tourists are back at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington.

They line up for tickets early in the morning, hoping to get inside before the crowds get bigger. The museum is the second most popular tourist destination after the Smithsonian Institution.

The Holocaust Museum was closed for a day and a half last week after an 88-year-old Holocaust denier killed a security guard just inside the museum entrance.

My brother Steve, who works at the museum with Holocaust scholars, called around noon last Wednesday.

I thought he was calling about our mother, who lives in Miami and who hadn’t been feeling well. She is a Holocaust survivor, by way of Auschwitz and Bergen-Belsen (where Anne Frank died).

“There’s been a shooting at the museum,” Steve said. “We don’t know what’s going on.”

He had just gotten off an elevator on the fifth floor when he thought he’d heard gunshots not far away.

“What was that?” he asked the people who’d been in the elevator.

“There must be some construction going on,” somebody said.

“I guess I’m just being paranoid,” Steve said.

But he was right: He had heard several gunshots down below.

Although he was on the fifth floor, the entrance is just 20 yards from the elevator shaft.

The staff was told to get into an office and stay there. Several Holocaust scholars visiting the museum also locked themselves into a room.

When my brother called, there was still nothing about the shooting on TV, but a little while later a picture of the shooter emerged: A loser named James von Brunn, a lifelong Nazi sympathizer and Holocaust denier, had double parked outside the museum and walked in with a .22-caliber rifle by his side.

Stephen Tyrone Johns, 39, a black security guard who stood near the front door, helped the elderly man get inside.

Von Brunn shot him in the chest. Johns fell to the floor, fatally wounded. He died a couple of hours later.

Two security guards fired at von Brunn. One shot him in the face. Several black paramedics rushed the white supremacist and anti-Semite to the nearest hospital, where he’s probably being treated by doctors and nurses of an inferior race as far as von Brunn is concerned.

There’s no telling how the black guards and inmates will treat von Brunn in prison.

He’s so old, he’s not even a neo-Nazi. He’s just an old Nazi.

My brother and I have talked about the shooting several times since the ordeal. Because he works at the museum, Steve has seen documents that include the names of our parents and their families who were transported from the ghettoes in Hungary to the death camps around Europe. Although von Brunn may not know it, the Nazis kept meticulous records.

How could the Holocaust have happened? Hitler and his henchmen needed just a few thousand von Brunns to carry out the killings. Brunn would have been a young S.S. officer and a willing executioner if his parents hadn’t immigrated to the U.S.

Von Brunn served in the U.S. Navy during the Second World War. But he says he fought on the wrong side. He would have gladly died for old Adolf, his hero.

Instead, he’s lived a long, useless life, drifting from town to town, accomplishing nothing despite his intelligence and old age.

Steve says the museum guards are wearing black tape over their badges as a sign of mourning. Officer Johns will be buried on Friday.

The Holocaust scholars who were at the museum during the shooting quickly collected $800 to help Johns’ family. Others from around the world have also made donations.

You can give to the Stephen Tyrone Johns Memorial Fund by sending a check to USHMM Officer Johns Family Fund, 100 Raoul Wallenberg Place, SW, Washington, D.C. 20024.

You can also make a gift by calling toll free 877-91-USHMM (877-918-7466) from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Eastern time, or go to the Holocaust Museum Web site by Googling Stephen Tyrone Johns Memorial Fund.

As long as there are von Brunns in this world, they will remind us of the horrors of the Holocaust even as they try to deny it.

They’ll do it again, if we let them.

TOP STORY >> Repairing after wind blows by

Leader staff writer

The cleanup process from Friday’s storms is under way.

Uprooted trees that were blocking roads were cut and removed, and power crews worked to restore electricity.

Neal Frizzell, a First Electric Cooperative spokesman, said, “Power had been restored to our customers by 8 o’clock Sunday night.”

Frizzell estimated there were approximately 15,000 people in the area without power shortly after the storms passed.

The city of Cabot’s participation in the CodeRED emergency telephone warning system was put to the test on Friday.

Mayor Eddie Joe Williams said he received a telephone alert from CodeRED that Cabot was under a severe thunderstorm warning. A minute or so later, he received a second phone call from CodeRED. It was an update that Cabot was placed under a tornado warning.

“For people who did not get the warning, they need to sign up,” Williams said about the importance of the CodeRED alert system during severe weather.

Residents can sign up for CodeRED phone alerts through the city’s Web site at

Williams said he noticed the diminishment of traffic before the storm. He said a substantial amount of people were warned of the approaching weather.

Power outages were scattered in different parts of the city. Electricity was restored by Saturday night.

The mayor said the city worked with the water department in providing a generator to power the homes of several senior citizens in the Rodney Guthrie Drive area.

Red Lobster and the Olive Garden restaurants brought some meals up to Cabot for those who were without power.

Beebe Mayor Mike Robertson said Saturday that there were no reports of major damage in the city. There were tree limbs brought down from the high winds.

According to Lt. Jim Kulsea of the Lonoke County Sheriff’s Office there were three reported injuries related to the storms. One woman suffered a head injury when a tree fell on her car on Apple Hill Road west of Austin. A man received a head injury from the storm in the area of Campground Road and Hwy. 321.

A second man received a head injury when moving a tree on Hwy. 5.

The storm caused one family to lose their barn.

Lois and Uless Sentell, who live on Sentell Road off Lewisburg Road outside Austin, had a cattle barn and a metal building destroyed by the fierce winds. Their house between the buildings only had a broken window. A row of trees near their driveway had the tops snapped off.

Sentell, 97, was working in her squash and okra garden when the storm roared through the property.

“I was making a trench in the garden for the rain water. I saw the clouds swirling and I headed for the house,” Lois Sentell said.

Sentell said she has been living on their property for 75 years and this is the first time a storm has damaged their buildings.

TOP STORY >> Idol’s parents visit Jacksonville

Leader staff writer

The Jacksonville chapter of AARP held its monthly meeting Friday and honored successful Jacksonville residents. Among those recognized were special guests who were thanked for their help during Kris Allen’s childhood before he grew up to become America’s latest “Idol.”

Mayor Tommy Swaim, Mayor-elect Gary Fletcher, Aldermen Kenny Elliott, Reedie Ray and Marshall Smith, kindergarten teacher Diane Ashenburger and newly assigned Northwood Middle School principal Kim Forrest were on hand for the special program recognizing “products” of Jacksonville.

Ida Moory, program chair of the AARP’s Jacksonville chapter, organized the program “Jacksonville: A Village,” elaborating on the title of Hillary Rodham Clinton’s book, “It Takes a Village: And Other Lessons Children Teach Us.”

Moory turned the presentation over to Smith, who introduced Neil and Kim Allen, parents of Jacksonville native and former Cabot substitute teacher American Idol Kris Allen.

Smith asked attendees to share their Kris Allen stories. Ashenburger, Allen’s kindergarten teacher, told the group how her school – Tolleson Elementary – kept track of the TV show.

She shared photos of Allen and his younger brother, Daniel, and told how other teachers had a special shirt made for her.

The shirt has a photo of her kindergarten class, which includes Allen on the front, and reads “Kris Allen’s Kindergarten Teacher” on the back.

“He’s always been a kid with great character,” Ashenburger said. “He is a great kid. I’m very, very proud of him.”

Ashenburger is now principal at Tolleson, but taught kindergarten at Murrel Taylor Elementary, where Allen attended.

“He absolutely remembered you as an influence in his life,” Kim Allen told Ashenburger.

His mother remembered how when he graduated high school, he got cards for two teachers who had made an impression in his life. Ashenburger was one of them.

Moory presented Ashenburger, Kim Allen and Forrest with stargazer flowers.

The Allens blew out 24 candles in honor of their son’s birthday. Amy Mattinson with North Metro Medical Center, showed a picture of the hospital – then known as Rebsamen Hospital – as it was in 1985, when Kris was born.

Moory said she got the idea for Friday’s program after reading an editorial in The Leader about Allen.

“That’s why we’re here,” she said. “To recognize Allen and us as a village.”

“Community involvement is very important,” said Swaim, who is retiring June 30. “When things happen around us, we don’t
know how it affects others.”

“It may take a village to raise a child, but it takes a community to raise a great leader,” he continued.

The mayor said he also watched the “American Idol” finale.

Moory then presented Swaim with a budding stargazer because “he’s starting over.”

Reedie Ray was on hand to recognize Forrest. She is the daughter of Joanna and Nick Nickels and was raised in Jacksonville.

Moory closed the program by saying, “I want to be part of a village that does the right thing at the right time.”

After the program, Neil Allen spoke briefly to the group.

“You guys have talked about shaping people,” he said. “There are key people in this room that helped shape his [Kris’] life – first and foremost, his grandfather, Charlie Wood, Marshall Smith and his wife, his kindergarten teacher.

“We want to thank these people from the bottom of our hearts,” he continued.

“Thank you for everything that you’ve done,” said the Idol’s dad.

TOP STORY >> Garbage rate will fall a bit less

Leader staff writer

Beginning in August, when a new company takes over, residential garbage rates in Cabot will drop from the current $16.45, but not as much as reported last month. The new rate will be $15, not $14.40.

In May, the city council passed an ordinance awarding the contract for residential and commercial garbage collection to Waste Management which had agreed to provide the residential service for $14.40, which was $2.05 less than IESI now charges.

But that price was apparently good only if Waste Management was allowed to claim all commercial customers not under contract with other companies when the ordinance was passed in May.

Currently, commercial garbage service is provided by several companies. Some did not have contracts with their customers last month when the council awarded Waste Management the contract for both residential and commercial collection.

But the council said if those companies entered into long-term contracts with their customers before Waste Management takes over Aug. 1, those new contracts would be honored.

That stipulation was the obstacle that kept Waste Management from signing.

Wayne Rathbun, director of business development for Waste Management, attended the May meeting and told the council then that it was customary for the terms of a contract to begin as soon as it was approved. The city shouldn’t allow competitors to enter into contracts with customers that should go to his company, he said.

Mayor Eddie Joe Williams told the council Monday night that the ordinance passed last month authorized him to sign the contract for garbage collection, but since Waste Management wouldn’t sign, he was forced to begin negotiations again.

Those negotiations lasted until 3 p.m. Monday when Waste Management signed the contract, he said, adding that he was not willing to bring the contract back to the council unless it was signed.

Alderman Patrick Hutton told the mayor that he was concerned about negotiations taking place after the council approved the contract.

But the mayor reiterated that the contract was not valid unless it was signed and Waste Management wouldn’t sign for $14.40 since many other companies are now under contract for commercial collection.

Williams signed the contract as soon as the council passed the new ordinance which gives the contract to Waste Management for residential collection only.

In other business, the council read but did not pass an ordinance that would have lifted the ban on selling and shooting fireworks inside city limits.

Hutton made a motion for the ordinance to be read three times and passed so the ban would be lifted in time for the Fourth of July, but his motion died for lack of a second.

He said after the meeting that even if the ordinance passes next month, it will be New Year’s before shooting fireworks will be legal in Cabot.

The state allows fireworks, he said, so why shouldn’t the city?

“Why shouldn’t people have the legal right to celebrate the Fourth of July?” he asked.

TOP STORY >> Off to the races, then to a good Sherwood home

Leader staff writer

For over 20 years, Tom and Millie Grimes of Sherwood have been helping retired racing greyhounds find new homes away from the dog track.

They are volunteers who work with helping the Mid-South Greyhound Adoption Option. The nonprofit, rescue-adoption center is on the grounds of Southland Park, a dog racing track in West Memphis. The couple does not adopt out dogs, but helps in finding new owners. They also rescue greyhounds left in animal shelters.
To help spread adoption information about greyhounds, the Grimeses set up information booths at PetSmart stores in North Little Rock and Conway. They educate potential adopters about how to adopt greyhounds and how to care for the former track stars.

The Grimeses have lived in Sherwood for 40 years and are both school-crossing guards for the Sherwood Police Department.

Tom Grimes has made crossing the street to Sylvan Hills Elementary School safer for 16 years. Millie Grimes has helped students for four years at Sherwood Elementary.

Over the two decades they’ve been helping rescue greyhounds, the Grimes have had 18 as pets. Of those greyhounds, two were adopted from the Pulaski County Humane Society and one was from the North Little Rock animal shelter.

They now have three dogs that previously raced at Southland Park.

According to Millie Grimes, the greyhound adoption center has 35 to 40 dogs ready for new homes. The adoption fee for a former racer is $250. The greyhounds are already spayed or neutered. The dogs are current on their shots for a year. They have their blood work, their teeth are cleaned and their nails are clipped. The dogs are all on prevention medications for fleas and heartworms.

The sleek racing canines are inside dogs. They have very thin skin and little body fat. They need coats in the winter and air conditioning in the summer, Grimes said. She and her husband walk their greyhounds every day and the dogs run laps around the yard. But they are strictly house dogs.

Former track dogs have tattoos. One ear has the dog’s birth date. The other ear has a litter number by the breeder.

“They are very laid-back. No hard grooming is needed. The dogs very seldom bark. They are not watchdogs. They are good- tempered and easy to take care of. They are 95 percent housebroken when we get them,” Grimes said.

She added, “When they see rabbits and squirrels they want to chase. It’s instinct.”

According to the Mid-South Greyhound Adoption Option Web site, greyhounds can run as fast as 45 miles per hour. The dogs are retired around two to four years of age. Commonly, a dog stops racing due to age, loss of interest or injury.

Many times, the greyhounds are seen with muzzles at the track, because of their competitive spirit. Grimes said they don’t muzzle their dogs and have not had any problems.

The Grimeses learned about greyhounds 21 years ago when they read a newspaper article about a greyhound farm in Sulfur Rock. They took a motorcycle trip to the Zinnecker farm that is now no longer in business. The owner raised and leased greyhounds to kennels for dog racing.

While touring the farm, the owner gave the couple a free greyhound. The dog, named Precious Nugget, was banned from all race tracks. She was so competitive that she would push the other dogs to the rail and she didn’t want dogs running beside or in front of her.

“We thought they were ugly when we got her, but they grow on you after awhile,” Grimes said.

Their oldest greyhound is Greta, who is 15. When she was racing, Greta was known as Gray Flash Flame. Greta was three when the Grimeses adopted her.

According to Millie Grimes, Greta injured her leg on the track. She was “walked out the back door” of the kennels instead of being put down. The dog ended up in a veterinary hospital in Hot Springs for three months. The hospital contacted the Grimes.

“When we got her, we had to walk and exercise her. Now she doesn’t walk with a limp,” Grimes said.

The second greyhound they obtained is a fawn-colored dog named Dodge. The former racer, known by his track name Dodge-M, is now making laps at the Veterans Affairs Hospital in North Little Rock. The greyhound is a certified therapy dog. The Grimeses have brought different greyhounds to the hospital for 17 years.

“I walk him through the therapy room and visit with the patients,” Grimes said.

They are the third owners of Dodge. The dog’s first home was in Memphis. The owner had the greyhound’s vocal cords cut.

The silenced dog was then turned back to the adoption center. A second family adopted Dodge but returned him to the center when he was not a good fit for the family and their other small dog.

Their third greyhound is 4-year-old Yiona.

“We went to the track and adopted her,” Millie Grimes said.

SPORTS >> Centennial drops fourth consecutive

Leader sportswriter

It came down to endurance on Monday night at Wade Field.

The eight-inning affair reached into Tuesday morning and included a busted car windshield courtesy of a pop foul, a Cabot near-double play that would have ended the game, an ejected Jay Darr and a few costly Centennial Bank errors. The result was an 11-8 comeback Russellville win.

Cabot (4-5) built a 5-0 lead through the first two innings before the Mustangs began to climb back into the game in the top of the third. A new pitcher in the bottom of the second held the Cabot bats at bay after a great start, allowing Russellville to tie the game in the top of the sixth.

Centennial Bank added two more runs in the bottom of the sixth, and was set up for a game-ending double play in the top of the seventh, but Bobby Clark beat the throw to first as the tying run came across.

Cabot made extensive use of its pitching roster, starting with Andrew Reynolds before C.J. Jacoby took over in the top of the seventh. Jacoby faced four batters before Williams Baptist standout Josh Brown came on in relief.

Brown started the eighth and gave up three straight singles and a walk. Centennial Bank coach Jay Darr came out of the dugout over a sportsmanship issue surrounding the Russellville player who drew the walk. But it was Darr who was thrown out of the game after arguing with the field umpire as Chase Beasley then relieved Brown.

Cabot got off to a quick start in the bottom of the first with a double by Ty Steele, followed by an RBI single by Drew Burks and another base hit by Sam Bates. Both Burks and Bates scored on a double by Matt Turner, though Turner was out trying to stretch it into a triple.

Cole Nicholson reached on a fielder’s choice in the second, and advanced on a single by Reynolds. Both runs came across to make it 5-0 when Burks fly ball to right was misplayed.

Derrick Beard’s two-run homer in the top of the third and runs in the fourth and fifth narrowed the gap to 6-5.

Cabot’s only score in the middle stages of the game was an RBI single by Chase Thompson that plated Brandon Surdam in the bottom of the third.

A standup double by Burks’ in the top of the sixth scored Steele to break the tie at 7-6. Bates brought in Burks with a ground single to left to give Cabot a two-run cushion. But Russellville was able to tie it in the seventh.

Three singles led to three Mustang runs in the top of the eighth, and the Russellville closer sent Cabot three up and three down in the bottom of the eighth as Cabot lost its fourth in a row.

Burks was 2 of 4 with a double, four RBI and two runs. Bates was 2 of 2 with an RBI and Surdam was 2 of 4 with two runs.

Beard led the Mustangs, going 3 of 4 with a home run, three RBI and two runs.


Conway took a 6-1 lead in the top of the third inning before Cabot (5-9-2) answered with two runs in the bottom of the third and three more in the fourth to send the game past its allotted hour and 45 minutes.

Conway scored in the top of the fifth when leadoff hitter Matt Lowe came in on a double by Chris Reaga, while fielding errors allowed the final two runs in.

Centennial Bank tied the game at 1-1 in the bottom of the first. Leadoff Zack Uhiren reached on a walk, stole second and eventually came home on Justin Goff’s sacrifice fly.

Goff scored on a fielder’s choice in the bottom of the third, and Tyler Carter took advantage of a double-steal opportunity to cut MBNC’s lead to 6-3.

Uhiren, Surdam and Goff started the bottom of the fourth with three straight singles to load the bases with no outs. Carter was hit by a pitch to bring in Uhiren, followed by a single by Roberg that scored Surdam and Goff to tie it.

Surdam was 2 of 4 and Roberg had three RBI to lead Centennial Bank.

Cabot fared better at the Sheridan Legion tournament over the weekend, winning all three pool games. Centennial Bank downed host Sheridan 8-7, routed Magnolia 7-1 and took a close 9-8 win over Stuttgart.

That put them in the semifinal round against a stout Pine Bluff team, which built a 10-0 lead through three innings before Cabot was able to rally. Centennial Bank cut into the lead significantly, but ran out of time and ended the weekend with an 11-7 loss.

SPORTS >> Area golfers advance to round of 16

Leader sportswriter

Colby Benton took another step toward not only winning his third consecutive tournament but becoming the third straight Benton to win the ASGA Junior Match Play Tournament.

Benton, the sophomore-to-be at Cabot, narrowly escaped with a 2-and-1 win over Nate Smith on Tuesday morning at Foxwood Country Club. He played Gardner Lile in the round of 16 on Tuesday afternoon after Leader deadlines.

Benton’s brother, Nicklaus, won the event the past two years.

Two other area golfers moved into the round of 16. Former Sylvan Hills golfer Nick Zimmerman bested Bradley Griggs 7 and 5 in Monday’s opening round, and advanced Tuesday morning with a 2 and 1 decision over Todd McDonald.

Cabot’s Hunter Smith beat Benton’s Garrett Lile 7 and 5 on Monday to advance to the round of 32 where he downed Slade Hames of Rogers 1 up in 19 holes.

That pitted Cabot’s Smith and Zimmerman against each other in a battle between friends in the round of 16 on Tuesday afternoon.

Benton won the Bruce Jenkins Memorial at Rebsamen Park and the Junior Stroke Play tournament at Burns Park last week.

Smith holds a narrow 20-point lead over Benton in the battle for junior player of the year. Nicklaus Benton won that honor in 2007, the same year his father Jeff Benton won men’s player of the year. Nicklaus currently leads in this year’s men’s player of the year standings.

Benton won Monday 7 and 6 over Lane Dailey in the opening round of 64.

The tournament concludes on Thursday with the championship match.

See Saturday’s Leader for coverage of the final two days of the event.

SPORTS >> Mickelson gracious as ever at St. Jude

Leader sports editor

MEMPHIS — I got a wild hair on Saturday morning and decided to make the two-hour trip to Memphis for the third round of the St. Jude Classic.

I’m back to tell you that that was $40 well spent ($46 if you add in the two bottles of water). That’s either the third or fourth time I’ve been to Southwind for the event, but the most recent had been about eight or nine years ago and I’d forgotten what an outstanding tournament it is — from the reasonable price of admission to the beauty of the golf course to the uniform friendliness and downright cheeriness of the volunteers. OK, the $3 water seemed a bit excessive and had me considering, along about the 15th hole, sneaking into the backyard of one of those stately mansions and taking a pull off a garden hose.

But still the total cost, with gas added in, was about $60. For that, I got the thrill of getting within arm’s length of John Daly and Phil Mickelson. In fact, it was Lefty I went over to see. His last visit to Southwind was also mine and that’s no coincidence.

Lefty is my guy on the Tour. I’ve always loved the guy, always loved his game, his on-course demeanor, his goofy aw-shucks grin, his earnestness in interviews and what has always struck me as his basic decency.

So I followed him and his playing partners Glen Day of Little Rock and an up-and-comer named Brendan Todd most of the day. The problem with that decision was that I’m not alone in my adoration of Lefty. Most of the fans seemed to fall into one of two groups on Saturday – those watching Mickelson and those watching Daly. Daly went off about five groups behind Mickelson on the back nine, so by the time Big John teed off on 10, some of Lefty’s gallery had tapered back to watch the troubled, but slimmed-down Arkansan in the gold pants with black diamonds, the mauve-tinted sunglasses and the buzz cut.

It was Daly’s first PGA Tour event in the United States since he was suspended last fall after the latest in a long line of transgressions. This one may have been his passing out in the parking lot of a Hooter’s, but who can keep up? It was Mickelson’s first appearance since the announcement last month that his wife, Amy, had been diagnosed with breast cancer.

Observations: Obvious and otherwise

These guys are GOOD. The only thing I saw that even vaguely resembled my feeble attempts at the game was when the rotund Guy Boros, who seems like 300 pounds of good guy, stubbed an easy chip from just off the seventh green about six feet – not from the cup but from the point where he chipped it. There was an embarrassed gasp from the few people surrounding the green. Me, I almost said ‘Good shot,’ given that I would have either stubbed that chip about two feet or bladed it clean across the green.

I have to say that Boros’ chip was the only thing that made me recognize the game I’ve so futilely flailed away at for the past 40 years. More importantly, it allowed me to put some sort of human face on these guys. Because, honestly, they are all so much better than most of us that they all seem equally good. Their booming, accurate drives and pinpoint approaches that seem to hang in the air forever struck me as effortless and strangely unexceptional.

Even Dicky Pride, the 1994 winner here, didn’t look bad in shooting a 42 on the front nine on Saturday. Pride was a group ahead of Mickelson so I got to watch a lot of his round. Pride seemed to take it all in stride, kept plugging away, betraying no emotion either way as he struggled mightily through the 93-degree heat. Pride’s win here 15 years ago, by the way, came in his rookie season. He hasn’t won since. I decided watching the guy on Saturday that I like him and I hope he someday gets a second win.

Other observations: Glen Day is the slowest player I’ve ever seen in my life. If you paired him with Daly or Rory Sabbatini, he’d end up with a wedge buried in his forehead. I counted a full 27 seconds from the time he teed the ball up to the time he hit the ball. And it’s the worst kind of slow, too. Several times during his interminable address, he got all our hopes up by pressing the club forward as though ready to swing. Then, maddeningly, he’d raise his head again and glance down the fairway. (It hasn’t moved, Glen. Hit it!)

I figure he added at least 10 minutes to the round. It was hardly a surprise that nearly a full hole separated his group from the group ahead. Those poor tournament officials who raised their quaint ‘Hush-y’all’ sticks whenever a player got ready to hit never did learn, raising them as soon as Day addressed the ball, then gamely trying to muster the muscle strength to keep them raised until, at long last, Day mercifully hit it.

He’s no Tiger … thankfully

One final observation, and the one I set out to make when I started this: Anybody who suggests, as I have heard some do, that Phil Mickelson is somehow a phony or not really what he appears to be, is full of it. I never really doubted it, but after watching him conduct three separate interviews following a hot day on Saturday, then sign autographs for another 15 minutes, I’m even more of a fan.

I watched his body language as he was interviewed first by David Feherty on CBS, then by the Golf Channel, then by the print media (the real lowlifes of the journalism profession). He was earnest, gracious and fully engaged.

No sooner had he completed those interviews than he walked over to the ropes and began to graciously and patiently sign hats, balls, scorecards and tournament programs. Fans were lined up three and four deep for some 15 yards down the ropes.

On and on he signed.

One little girl pressed her way to the front of the rope line, held out her pink visor and shouted, “Mr. Mickelson, Mr. Mickelson.”

She got squeezed out, unfortunately, and I watched the disappointment cross her face. Her father told someone she’d been trying for three days to get his autograph and I suddenly found myself fully invested in her quest. Phil had been signing for about 10 minutes and we all knew it wouldn’t go on forever, so dad admonished her to fight her way back to the front.

Finally, she spotted an opening, squeezed up to the ropes and held her hat out high. Sure enough, Lefty grabbed it, signed it and handed it back to her.

The little girl turned around, her mouth a perfect O of delight and disbelief.

SPORTS >> Bears reach semis at Robinson

Leader sports editor

Mark Whatley and Jim Withrow don’t have anything against 7-on-7 tournaments, per se. It’s just that neither Whatley, Jacksonville’s head coach, nor Withrow, the head man at Sylvan Hills, is going to live or die by how his team finishes in one.
Both the Red Devils and the Bears played at the Pulaski Robinson 7-on-7 tournament last Thursday and, as is the case with most of these events, both coaches found good things to take away from it.

For Sylvan Hills, it was a 4-1 performance and a semifinals appearance. Its lone loss came to Pulaski Academy, 28-20, in the semis.

“(7-on-7 tournaments) help with decision-making and a little with timing,” Withrow said. “I think it probably helps with defense more than anything. But at one point, PA was running five guys out of the tackle box. It was like, ‘What are we doing here?’”

Withrow said that, while 7-on-7 would never die out because people are so “enamored with it,” 11-on-11 camps are going to grow in popularity.

“(Receiver) Michael Maddox ran a route and ran into another guy and I told him, (in an actual game) that guy would have been blocking on that play,” Withrow said. “But it comes down to, if you throw it a lot, it’s something (you’re going to play in). We went to the OBU camp and ran 60 plays and I think 45 of them were passes. We’ve got a quarterback who can sling it and five or six guys that can catch it.”

Whatley said his Red Devils aren’t out looking for 7-on-7 championships necessarily and that how a team performs in a tournament can lead to a “false sense of security.”

“It’s a good thing to have and I like it, but we’re not going to change anything we do (just to win a championship),” Whatley said. “We’re going to stick with our stuff.”

For Whatley, it was a chance to see which receivers among a brand new corps stood out. Devin Featherstone, the one returning wide out with experience from last year, performed well, Whatley said. He also noted that Doug Sprouse did a good job of catching the ball out of the backfield and that Tyler Crook and Price Eubanks caught the ball well, too.

Junior quarterback Logan Perry got a mostly positive review from his coach.

“Logan read well, but was a little late getting rid of some balls,” he said. “But that’s going to come. He’s going to be fine. We’ve got to go back and work a little on his footwork.”

Defensively, Whatley had high praise for sophomores Michael Thornabar and Devon McClure.

“I was really pleased with (Thornabar),” Whatley said. “Especially for his first outing as a linbebacker. And Devon McClure had a good day on both sides of the ball. I really like his attitude and the way he comes to work.”

Seven-on-7 tournaments leave Sylvan Hills’ big question mark — its offensive line — unanswered. But Withrow was able to use the tournament as an opportunity to look at a couple of move-in newcomers in Michael Finney, Marquis Smith and Emmanuel Tanner.

“We didn’t get the ball as much to Michael Finney as we’d have liked to and we used Emmanuel more on defense than on offense,” he said. “But (North Little Rock transfer) Marquis Smith caught a ton of balls out of the backfield. He’s got fantastic hands. If you just look at him, he looks like a D-1 guy.”

Withrow figures Smith will nicely fill the vacancy left by graduating fullback Lawrence Hodges and will allow the Bears to run split-back formations behind quarterback Jordan Spears. But with a small, brand-new offensive line, the running game may endure some growing pains, Withrow warned.

“JuJu (Broner) can make the cuts and Marquis can make his own holes, so that gives us an insurance policy,” Withrow said. “It’s nice to have both of them.”

Withrow noted that Spears showed the benefits of a year of experience with improved maturity and decision-making. And receivers Taylor Clark and Ahmad Scott joined Smith in catching the majority of the passes.

Still, it was the OBU camp a week earlier that gave Withrow the most insight into his team. He got to watch his offensive line get some reps.

Sylvan Hills will spend this week in the weight room before the dead period hits. The Bears will host league 7-on-7 every Monday night in July, beginning on the 6th. The games will begin at 5:30 and each of the four teams will play three games.

Jacksonville will participate in team camps the rest of the summer.

SPORTS >> Gwatney routs Maumelle

Leader sports editor

The good news is Gwatney Chevrolet’s senior Chevy Boys improved to 2-0 against Maumelle after their 9-0 rout at Dupree Park on Monday night.

The bad news is they haven’t beaten anyone else yet.

Gwatney raised its record to 2-6 behind Clayton Fenton’s one-hitter in the five-inning affair. Fenton allowed only three base runners on a walk, a hit batter and a one-out single in the first inning. Fenton was dominant, at one point setting down 12 straight batters. He fanned four.

The Chevy Boys, who collected nine hits in their four at-bats, didn’t need any help from Maumelle defensively, but Maumelle provided some anyway in the form of three walks, two hit batters and four errors.

Gwatney went down quietly in the first and didn’t get its first base runner until Seth Tomboli laced a one-out double to the fence in right center in the second inning. Devon McClure, who is proving more and more an offensive weapon for both the junior and senior teams, lined a two-out single over second to stake the Chevy Boys to a 1-0 lead.

Fenton helped himself in the third by leading off with an infield single and Terrell Brown reached on an error. Jason Regnas couldn’t get the sacrifice down and Patrick Castleberry flied out to deep right. But Tommy Sanders delivered another two-out RBI single to score Fenton and make it 2-0. Brown later came across on a wild pitch.

Fenton kept mowing them down, aided by shortstop Terrell Brown’s nifty backhand snag and long throw across from deep in the hole to end the fourth.

Gwatney put it away in the bottom of the fourth when it sent 11 men to the plate. Daniel Thurman beat out an infield hit and Brown’s to straightaway center made it 4-0. Though there were two outs in the inning, Maumelle could not end it as the next seven Chevy Boys reached safely. Castleberry brought home Brown with an infield hit and Sanders drew a walk.

Tomboli lined a single down the line in left to plate another and A.J. Allen followed with a single to load the bases. McClure walked to force home Sanders and Thurman was hit with a pitch to score Tomboli. Allen made it 9-0 on a wild pitch.

Tomboli led Gwatney’s nine-hit attack with a single and a double, scoring twice. McClure had a pair of RBI and Brown scored twice.

Gwatney played at Bryant last night after Leader deadlines.


The Jacksonville junior Chevy Boys lost a game they probably had no business losing on Monday. Blame it on the fact that five of their starters spent much of the day at a baseball camp, eight walks issued by Gwatney pitching and nine stranded base runners.

But the Chevy Boys really should have won this one against a mostly over-matched Maumelle club whose first two pitchers probably never cracked the 70 mile-per-hour mark on the radar gun.

Maumelle got only two hits, but one of those was a crusher. After Gwatney starter Michael Lamb walked three straight batters with one out in the first inning, Maumelle’s five-hole hitter belted a grand slam over the fence in left for a quick 4-0 lead. The next batter picked up Maumelle’s only other hit of the contest.

Even then, it appeared Gwatney would recover when the Chevy Boys began teeing off on Maumelle’s juicy offerings. Even Jacob Abrahamson’s first out leading off the first inning was a long one and required a falling-down catch near the fence in deep left-center. McClure followed with a double and Castleberry walked. Nick Rodriguez made it 4-1 with an RBI single to left and
Alex Tucker’s two-out single cut the lead in half. But Gwatney left the bases full.

Abrahamson, who made a nice back-to-the-infield catch of a pop up in the first inning, saved a run in the second when he went behind the bag at second to snag a hard grounder and end the inning.

Gwatney got within a run on Abrahamson’s single and Castleberry’s run-scoring double in the second. But two walks and a double steal made it 5-3 in the top of the third.

Despite the fat deliveries by Maumelle pitchers, Gwatney collected only one more hit after Castleberry’s double when Tucker looped a single in the third. But the Chevy Boys left the tying runs at second and third, then went 1-2-3 in the fourth.

An unearned run in the fifth extended Maumelle’s lead to 6-3, but Gwatney appeared poised for a comeback when it loaded the bases with no outs in the bottom half on two walks and a hit batter.

But pinch hitter Orlando Rogers hit a soft liner to the pitcher, who threw to first to double off Zach Traylor and the threat fizzled. Gwatney took advantage of two errors to place its first two batters on in the sixth. McClure then laced a liner but right to the left fielder. Castleberry flied out and Rodriguez grounded to short to end it.

Lamb fanned six but walked eight. Five of the runs he surrendered were earned on just two hits.

Tucker led Gwatney with two of the team’s six hits. Gwatney returned to action last night in a game played after Leader deadlines at Bryant.

TOP STORY >> Local bank honored for marketing skills

Roger Sundermeier, marketing director at First Arkansas Bank and Trust, has been named bank marketer of the year by the Arkansas Bank Marketing Association.

Larry T. Wilson, chairman, president and CEO of First Arkansas Bank and Trust, said that the bank has received several other awards and national recognition for its marketing creativity.

Since 2006, the bank has won 24 awards at the Arkansas Bank Marketing Awards Banquet, including the 2006 Best of Show Award, which was the first time an in-house design team won such an award.

First Arkansas Bank and Trust was featured in a full-page article in the June 2009 edition of U.S. Banker Magazine.

The article focused on the bank’s successful “Cash Club” savings program for children. The bank “adopted” a mixed-breed dog at the city’s animal shelter, named him Cash and made the dog the focus of the children’s savings program.

The bank has been profiled by Jeffrey Pilcher in Financial Brand, an online publication, which highlights the brightest and most creative bank advertising in the current marketplace.

First Arkansas Bank and Trust has been recognized nationally for its use of MySpace, Facebook and Twitter for growing the bank’s brand.

Pilcher recently named the FAB&T Twitter page as “one of, if not the coolest-looking Twitter page in the financial industry.”

In addition, the bank has been featured on the Internet in various blogs recently regarding its Cash Club Kids Savings Account program, including tie-ins with national businesses such as Petco, Radio Disney, Build-A-Bear Workshop and Sonic.

First Arkansas Bank and Trust is a family-owned and managed institution with headquarters in Jacksonville and has 28 locations in central and north-central Arkansas.

The bank has approximately $550 million in assets and employs over 220 people in serving its broad customer base.