Friday, January 07, 2011

TOP STORY > >Lonoke QC shakeup leaves Odom isolated

Leader senior staff writer

Lonoke County Quorum Court member Larry Odom, who says he campaigned door to door 20 years ago and helped start the Lonoke County Republican Party, says he was unceremoniously kicked to the curb Thursday night when the Republican-dominated quorum court turned him out after years as president pro tempore, electing Democrat Adam Sims in his place.

He also lost his position as chairman of the building and jail committee, though not immediately.

“Take all the stuff the Republicans have done in the last 20 years, put it in a pot, take away everything that I led or pulled or worked on and there’s not much left,” Odom said Friday morning.

Odom, who has served on every county jail committee for 10 years, retained his position as jail committee chairman until the new jail is turned over to the county from the builders, probably this spring.

Doug Erwin, the new county judge, announced his committee chairmanships and memberships Thursday night. Democrat JP Bill Ryker, who has been active in monitoring construction of the new jail, will become the jail chairman.

Odom said the court disrespected him by stripping him of the chairmanship and his position as president pro tempore. “A slap between the eyes,” he characterized it.

“I’ve tried to work for the county and the community diligently. Have I some adversaries? Yes. I won’t vote a straight party ticket,” Odom said. “People have their own agendas.”

Odom said paying for an additional nine jailers at the larger facility and funding other sheriff’s office expenses was “the big alligator in the county general-fund pond.”

He said the number of criminal cases in the county had increased from about 8,000 to 20,000 a year in the last few years, and that the county budget is being balanced “by robbing all the money out of the sheriff’s funds—fuel, no raises, no new cars.”

Odom said that leasing beds to other towns and to the Immigration and Naturalization Service would help pay the expenses.

Odom said his new committee chairmanship—finding ways to fund the new jail and sheriff’s expenses—is the largest task any of the committees face and he’s ready to shoulder the load.

Others appointed to the committee are Barry Weathers, Tim Lemons and Henry Lang.

He said he’s been working on a temporary solution to pay for jail maintenance and operation, but declined to make the details public yet.

Lemons was named chairman of the budget committee, a position held for many years by Mike Dolan. Dolan is still on the committee along with Joe Farrer—the new justice of the peace —Roger Lynch and Weathers.

Sims replaced Janette Minton as chairman of the personnel committee, meaning all the committee chairs are males. Minton, Ryker, Mark Edwards and Henry Lang were named to the committee.

Erwin appointed Farrer chairman of the insurance committee, along with Alexis Malham, Sonny Morey, Weathers and Lang.

Erwin also created an Economic Development Com-mittee—a committee of the whole, comprising all the justices.

The JPs voted to continue holding their regular monthly meetings at 6:30 p.m. on the third Thursday of each month.