Friday, April 03, 2015

SPORTS STORY >> Lady Panthers set records in victory

Leader sports editor

The Cabot Lady Panthers took first place as host of the Walmart Invitational track meet Tuesday at Panther Stadium, and broke a few more school records in the process. The Cabot ladies scored 123.5 points to beat Bryant by 34.5 points in earning the victory. Parkview High was third with 67, Conway took fourth with 59.5 and Jonesboro rounded out to the top-5 with 42 points. Bryant won the boys’ competition with 126 points, outdistancing second-place Conway by 46. Jonesboro scored 65, Parkview 52 and Marion 46 in the 14-school competition. The Cabot boys finished 11th with 27 points.

Three Lady Panthers combined to win eight of the 15 events in the competition. Lexi Weeks won the pole vault, 100-meter hurdles, 400-meter dash, long jump and was part of the Lady Panthers’ winning 4x100-meter relay team. Micah Huckabee won the 800- and 1,600-meter races while Tori Weeks won the 300-meter hurdles and also ran on the winning relay, along with Danielle McWilliams and Alyssa Hamilton.

That relay team set one of the new school records, almost breaking the 50-second mark and finishing in 50.03. Conway was second and also very fast, finishing in 50.77.

Lexi Weeks fell short of the national record in the pole vault, clearing 13-feet, 7-inches to win by six inches over Tori Weeks, but her height was a new meet record. She has a personal outdoor best of 14-0, a mere 2 3/4 inches short of the national record.

Sheridan junior Sarah Michael and Conway’s Jadah Meyer tied for third with jumps of 11-feet.

Lexi Weeks’ also broke the school record by 1 1/2 inches in winning the long jump. Her 18-4 ½, barely beat Searcy’s Arabriaun Mack’s 18-3. Tori Weeks was third and not far off the school mark with a jump of 18-feet.

In the 100-meter hurdles, Lexi Weeksbeat 100-meter dash winner Jada Baylark of Parkview by .08 seconds with a time of 15.15. She won the 400-meter dash by almost five full seconds, finishing in 58.83 ahead of Da’Juana Mixon of North Little Rock.

Huckabee was able to step off the gas and still win the mile easily. She was heavily favored to win the 3,200 as well, but lightning ended the meet with two events to go, including the 4x400 relay.

Huckabee won the 800-meters by more than eight seconds over Alex Ritchey of Mount St. Mary with a time of 2:22.01. She also won the 1,600 with a 5:33.76, despite that mark being more than 33 seconds slower than her personal best set last week at the Texas Relays in Austin.

“I wanted her to run an easy mile and then go real hard at the school record in the 800,” said Cabot coach Leon White. “I told her to run the first lap of the mile just fast enough to win it, and then hit the 800 hard. She wasn’t quite able to do it, but she came really close.”

Tori Weeks holds the school record in the 800 with a time of 2:21.55, but no longer runs the event in favor of the 300-meter hurdles. Her win Tuesday in the 300 hurdles wasn’t a close race either as she set a new record in that event. She beat Haley Hood of Bryant by two seconds with a time of 45.68.

She also holds the school record in the triple jump, but wasn’t able to get that win on Tuesday, settling for third in the triple jump with a leap of 35-10. Baylark won that event as well bounding 37-1. Allison Weatherly of Conway was second at 36-3.

Cabot’s team of Samantha Nickell, Brayden Giesler, Vanessa Wielding and Haley Gorecke took third in the 4x800 relay.

Caytee Wright took fifth for the Lady Panthers in the discus, sixth in the shot put and seventh in the high jump. McWilliams finished eighth for one point in the 100-meter dash.

In the boys’ events, Braxton Burton and Rocky Burke finished third and fourth in the pole vault with jumps of 12-feet and 11-6 respectively. Junior Brandon Jones took third in the discus with a toss of 137-4.

Sophomore Britton Alley took fifth in the 200-meter dash. Connor Daigle was sixth in the 300-meter hurdles and sophomore Howard Jacob took eighth in the 400.

SPORTS STORY >> Sylvan Hills earns sweep against Devils

Leader sportswriter

The Sylvan Hills boys’ and girls’ soccer teams each won their 5A-Central Conference games against Jacksonville on Tuesday at Bill Blackwood Field in Sherwood.

The Lady Bears scored all of their goals in the first half of their game en route to a dominant 7-0 victory, and in the nightcap, the Bears scored three goals in each half to win by the convincing final score of 6-1.

Sylvan Hills’ girls (5-1, 3-0) scored three quick goals to start their game against the Lady Red Devils (0-3, 0-2). Georgia Mara, a junior, scored two of those goals and had the assist on the other scored by sophomore teammate Nakiya Smith.

“We started out the game with a bang, which is what you want to do,” said Lady Bears coach Nate Persson. “You want to jump on them early and you can always change things.

“One of our captains, Georgia, she went wild in the first four minutes – two goals and an assist. That’s pretty amazing.”

Junior forward Kristi Henderson added the next goal for the Lady Bears, putting them up 4-0, and with 15:43 left in the opening half, Sylvan Hills took a 5-0 lead on a Madee Sheridan penalty kick from 12 yards out.

The Lady Bears’ next goal came shortly after. With 14:35 left in the half, Cloe Wood scored from about 15 yards out to give the hosts a 6-0 lead. With 5:35 left in the half, Sylvan Hills set the final score on a goal by Emily Conrad from about 7 yards away.

At the start of the second half, the clock was cut from 40 minutes to 20 because of the mercy rule, which cuts the clock time in half when one team’s lead reaches at least six goals in the second half.

In the boys’ game, Jacksonville played without two starters who were red-carded in the Red Devils’ last outing, a 2-0 win at Beebe. The Bears scored the first three goals, and like the Lady Bears, the SH boys jumped out to an early lead to start the game. Sylvan Hills led 3-0 less than 12 minutes into the game.

The Bears scored first on a goal by Gabriel Persson from about 20 yards out. That goal came with 38:14 left in the first half, which was less than two minutes into the game.

At the 31:21 mark, Sylvan Hills (4-2, 3-0) scored again on a short goal by James Waller, which made the score 2-0 Bears. Waller added the Bears’ third goal of the game from about 20 yards out with 28:23 left in the half.

Jacksonville (3-1, 2-1) got its only goal of the night with 22:06 left in the half. From 10 yards away, Gerald Walton scored one in the lower left corner of the net, making it a 3-1 game. That was the score at halftime.

A minute and 29 seconds into the second half, Sylvan Hills took a 4-1 lead on a goal by Justin Espejo, and at the 36:42 mark of the second half, Gabriel Persson added his second goal of the game on a kick from 28 yards out in the middle of the field. That put the Bears up 5-1.

The highlight of the game is also what set the final score. Near the 28-minute mark of the second half, Gabriel Persson kicked a free kick from 44 yards out, near the visitors’ sideline, and as the kick sailed high near the front of the goal, Bears’ teammate Christian Balchen headed it into the net from 5 yards out, making it a 6-1 game.

Although happy with the lead, Bears coach Sam Persson wasn’t entirely pleased with the fast-paced, up-and-down style his team was playing in the first half, but he thought his team did a better job of settling down and playing more to its strengths in the second half.

“I think a lot of what settled them down is we got that early goal,” said Sam Persson, “and there was no pressure anymore. It kind of stopped the Jacksonville pressure on the ball. They started sinking back a little bit more. We had more time and it just got easier.

“That really changes the complexion of the game. It’s a whole lot easier to sit back and see the game rather than (play like) I got to score.”

SPORTS STORY >> Jacksonville defeats NLR

Leader sports editor

The Jacksonville Red Devils got their second win in less than a week against North Little Rock on Wednesday, but win number two was significantly more difficult. After beating the Charging Wildcats 14-2 in the Central Arkansas Invitational last Friday at Lamar Porter Field, Jacksonville had to come from behind at home for an 8-5 victory.

North Little Rock jumped on Jacksonville pitcher Brandon Hawkins in the first inning, picking up four base hits and taking a 2-0 lead, but the Red Devils scored three in the bottom half.

Ryan Mallison started the rally with a one-out single, followed by another single by Caleb McMunn. With two outs, James Tucker singled to score Mallison. Derek St. Clair walked and Brandon Hickingbotham singled to drive in McMunn.

Jacksonville added another run in the bottom of the second after Hawkins sat the Wildcats down in order. D.J. Scott drew a leadoff walk and Laderrious Perry singled to put runners on first and third. Courtland McDonald sacrificed Scott home to give the Red Devils and a 4-2 lead.

Hawkins began to struggle to throw strikes in the top of the fourth, and some timely base hits and one Jacksonville error aided a four-run third inning for North Little Rock. Hickingbotham took the mound in relief and shut down the Wildcats the rest of the way.

“Hickingbotham threw really good,” said Jacksonville coach Larry Burrows. “It was probably his best outing of the year on the mound. He’s hitting the ball, too. So we’re pretty happy with Hick right now.”

Jacksonville got very little going offensively in the third, fourth and fifth innings, but four runs in the sixth set the final margin and gave Jacksonville the win.

Hickingbotham hit a one-out single to start the game-winning rally. Scott followed with a single and Perry took a pitch off the arm to load the bases. McDonald then doubled to the wall in center field to score Scott and courtesy runner Wesley Williams. Mallison followed that with another double, this one to left field, that scored Perry and McDonald.

McDonald went 2 for 3 with a double and three RBIs while Mallison went 2 for 3 with a double and two runs batted in. Jacksonville (8-5, 4-0) gets back to conference play with a crucial doubleheader with Sylvan Hills at the Sherwood Sports Complex on Tuesday.

SPORTS STORY >> Red Devils’ kicking Cadet

Leader sportswriter

Jacksonville High School senior John Herrmann has been an example in the classroom and on the playing field throughout his time at JHS, and after he graduates in May, he’ll continue his journey to success at the United States Military Academy at West Point this summer.

Herrmann, a dual-sport athlete lettering in both football and soccer, has been brought up in a military family. His father was in the Air Force, and his brother, Ryan, is a 2013 West Point graduate.

The process of getting admitted into West Point, which is located in upstate New York, is full of various challenges. Having high grades and tests scores, and passing a plethora of fitness tests is a must, but Herrmann has done all of those things.

He’s currently ranked second in his class at JHS with a current grade point average of around 4.67, and his cumulative GPA is around 4.23. On his ACT test, Herrmann has scored a 26, and his superscore, which takes the highest subscores from various test dates, is a 27.

Those scores along with Herrmann’s high fitness tests scores have earned him a full-paid academic scholarship at West Point, and the chance to follow in his brother’s footsteps at the prestigious military academy. It’s been a goal of his to attend West Point ever since seventh grade, when he first visited the school.

“It’s been a goal probably since my brother entered,” said Herrmann. “When I went up there to see him, it just really spoke to me – the campus. From then, that’s what I wanted to do, and I stuck to my grades and just kept going for it.”

Having a brother that’s been to and graduated from the prestigious school is something that Herrmann said helped him through the process of applying and, eventually, being granted his scholarship worth roughly $500,000 in tuition and room and board.

“It helped a lot,” Herrmann said. “He told me how to start it, and what I needed to put in. With him graduating, it actually helps me because it shows that if one kid already did it, another could possibly do it.”

Herrmann said he plans to major in civil engineering at West Point – something he’s passionate about – and he added that he may do jump school as well, which is paratrooper training.

“I want to major in civil engineering, which is my passion,” Herrmann said. “I love to see bridges built and any infrastructure built. Also, I want to maybe do jump school. During summers you have to go and do training, and one of them is jump school.

“I’ve always wanted to jump out of planes. Plus, the job I want to do, which is combat engineering, there might be chances I have to jump out of an airplane to go into a combat zone and then build a bridge or whatever they tell us to build. So maybe that’ll carry over into my future job that I’m hoping to get.”

Herrmann’s future appears bright, no doubt. But for now, he’s enjoying his time as a senior at JHS, including the athletic side of it. Herrmann was the kicker on the Red Devils’ football team for the past three years, and has been a captain on the soccer team for the last two.

At the end of the football season, Herrmann was named first team All-Conference for his stellar kicking efforts. He made 27 of 30 extra point attempts this past season, and 4 of 5 field goals with a long of 47 yards.

In soccer last season, he was selected to both the All-State and All-Conference teams, leading the team with five goals scored in 2014, including four assists. Herrmann says he prefers soccer of the two sports, but said he doesn’t think he’ll attempt to play soccer at the next level.

Instead, Herrmann will try to walk-on to the Army football team as a kicker for the Black Knights. But even if he doesn’t make the team, he’ll get the opportunity to take part in competitive club sports that’ll be a requirement for team exercise building.

“Either way, you still get your sports incorporated,” Herrmann said.

Although he’s finished with his football career at JHS, Herrmann still has a soccer season to finish. He remains a top contributor on the Red Devils’ soccer team – a team that won its first three games of the 2015 season.

Even though he mostly plays as a defensive wing, Herrmann is one of the more versatile players on the team, having played just about every position on the field at one point or another for second-year head coach Adam Thrash, who had plenty of positive things to say about his senior captain.

“He’s just one of those kids that when you need something done, he gets it done,” said Thrash. “There’s no ‘I can’t do it.’ He’s one of those that if I have a son, I hope he can live up to what John Herrmann has shown and done in his life.

“He wants to lead and do it the right way. Sixteen and 17 year olds, they don’t always want to do it the right way. But he’s always done it the right way. He works hard at everything he does.

“He’s just a natural leader and he’s the heart and soul of our team. He really is.”

Balancing school and extracurricular activities can be tough at times, Herrmann admits, and he said time management and a strict routine are the keys to doing both to the best of his abilities.

When he does have free time, Herrmann says he spends most of it working on his art projects, which is also school-related. At last year’s state art competition, Herrmann placed first overall in three different categories.

There’s no doubt that plenty of challenges will await Herrmann when he arrives at West Point later this summer, but he says he looks forward to those challenges.

“I love challenges,” Herrmann said. “If it’s a challenge, I’m just going to hit it hard and go for it.”

As far as his thoughts on his time at JHS, though it’s not over yet, it’s a time that Herrmann will cherish – a time he describes as a fun one with many learning opportunities.

“It’s been fun,” Herrmann said. “I’ve built a lot of relationships with teachers and friends – a lot of learning opportunities, definitely. It’s been fun.”

EDITORIAL >> Asa saves us from disaster

Gov. Hutchinson’s learning curve in his first 80 days has been both steep and gradual, but either way he has demonstrated a remarkable ability to finesse his way out of a mess, even one of his own creation. On the last day of the legislative session he executed a complete about-face and killed a bill permitting businesses to discriminate against sexual minorities that only four days earlier he had earnestly sought. Everyone seemed to cheer.

Both sides in the culture war may have cause to question his moral leadership on the nationally famous HB 1288, the “religion protection” act, and the rushed-up bill that scuttled it, but who cannot admire his skill in making surrender appear to be a triumph? It is the mark of a real politician.

The first evidence of the governor’s skill was his first act as governor back in January when he thwarted his party’s biggest initiative, which was to kill Arkansas’ participation in the biggest section of Obamacare, the expansion of Medicaid to poor adults. Republican lawmakers whooped through the governor’s plan to continue “private option” medical coverage for nearly 225,000 Arkansans, although many of the legislators had run on a pledge to kill it. Hutchinson’s plan was to allow the legislators to claim they were killing poor people’s insurance when actually they were continuing it.

Let us stipulate that the great battle over protecting people’s religious right to discriminate against gay, lesbian and transgender people, which generated so much terrible publicity for Arkansas, was much ado about very little, but symbolic wars are often the most passionate. After the U.S. Supreme Court signaled the end of state bans on same-sex unions in United States v. Windsor in 2013, federal and state courts across the country, including those in Arkansas, declared the bans unconstitutional. The Supreme Court is expected to officially consummate marriage equality across the land this summer. The religious-liberty legislation in Southern and Midwestern states is a symbolic last stand against what nearly everyone views as the inevitable.

Although the percentages have been shrinking, most people in these states believe sexual proclivities are a choice that people make, so homosexuality and same-sex unions are unnatural and wrong, even if they are constitutionally allowable under the equal-protection, due-process and full-faith-and-credit clauses. But if they can be treated as religious beliefs, then denying services, jobs or whatever to same-sex couples might be permissible under the First Amendment’s religious-liberty clause. So legislatures took up bills stating the claim of religious liberty in defense of a business’ refusal to do business with a gay couple or individual.

Same-sex marriage makes poor religious doctrine. The Bible doesn’t mention it. But the Bible became the South’s defense of slavery in the 19th Century, because it favorably mentions slavery and instructs slaves to obey and honor their owners. The same biblical instructions were our defense of segregation in the not-so-distant past, although everyone—well, nearly everyone—now recognizes the phoniness of the religious defense. The basis of the religious defense for discriminating against gays and lesbians is Leviticus 20:13, which says God wanted homosexuals to be murdered. But if that is a core of one’s religious beliefs, should you not also believe in killing disobedient children and the carnal sins of wearing clothing made of more than one fabric and eating shellfish or pork, which are God’s injunctions in the same book?

Rep. Bob Ballinger (R-Hindsville), like Republican counterparts in a number of states, introduced a bill, HB 1288, that offered businesses and officials a defense for refusing to serve gays and lesbians—it would violate a sacred foundation of their religious convictions. Another version of it, which prohibited local governments from passing laws protecting gays and lesbians against discrimination, had become law early in the session. Hutchinson let it become law without his signature.

The bills are a diluted version of the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act, passed by Congress and signed into law by President Clinton in 1993 after two members of a native American tribe were punished for smoking psychedelic peyote, which is a part of the religious ritual of the Native American Church.

A bill almost like Ballinger’s caused consternation nationally when the Indiana legislature passed it and Gov. Mike Pence signed it into law. Business leaders in Indiana and nationally pleaded with the governor not to sign it because it sent the signal that Indiana businesses would discriminate against gays and lesbians and perhaps other minorities. Pence eventually backtracked and the legislature rushed through another act that repealed it, hewed closer to the language of the federal law and offered the promise that discrimination of that sort would not be permitted in Indiana.

In spite of Indiana’s and Pence’s torturous examples, Arkansas promptly repeated them. While liberal groups protested HB 1288 and urged Gov. Hutchinson to veto it, he worked to dislodge it from a committee where it had died. He summoned a Democratic legislator from Mississippi County and asked him to vote for the bill to get it out of the committee onto the Senate floor, where a majority was committed to vote for it. The governor’s nephew, although he personally opposed the bill, also voted it out of the committee as a favor to his uncle. Hutchinson said he would sign the bill if it was sent to him in that form. He opposed diluting it to protect gays and lesbians from discrimination.

But by the time it reached his desk, major Arkansas industries—notably Walmart and the tech giant Acxiom—had publicly denounced the bill as sending a message to the country that discrimination was encouraged in Arkansas. It would badly set back the state’s economic goals. Chambers of commerce weighed in against it.

Hutchinson quickly capitulated. He called a press conference, asked the legislature to recall the bill and send him one without the discriminatory language, something close to that of the federal act. He revealed that his own leftist son, a Texas union organizer, had signed a petition urging him to veto HB 1288. It was an adorable moment, a father yielding to the importuning of his prodigal son. Who could not love him after that?

Legal experts could see that if a businessman wanted to refuse service to a gay couple or a county clerk wanted to deny a marriage license to a couple, they might still make a case that they were good religious grounds for doing it under the new Religious Freedom Restoration Act. But it is not as transparently invidious as HB 1288, so everyone cheered the governor’s masterful handling of the problem.

TOP STORY >> Mrs. Hutchinson hails Open Arms

Leader staff writer

“A person’s a person, no matter how small,” a teary-eyed First Lady Susan Hutchinson told the crowd of about 400 at the Open Arms Shelter’s third annual Child Abuse Awareness and Prevention Banquet at Cabot Freshman Academy on Thursday.

The quote is from Dr. Seuss’ “Horton Hears a Who!” — a story she believes teaches the lesson that every voice, including that of the smallest child, must be heard.

Before the keynote address, Open Arms Shelter Director Nancy Hamlin thanked those at the fundraiser who helped the facility build an outside pavilion and bike track the kids who stay there use to play outside when the weather is nice.

Hutchinson told banquet guests, including several local and state elected officials, that intervenors — the Open Arms Shelter in Lonoke, other similar centers, foster homes, Department of Human Services agents, police, prosecutors and counselors — are needed.

She said, “Time does not heal all wounds. It simply does not. Time can make you bitter. Time can make you sour. Time can make you mean. Time can make you distrustful. Time can make you the enemy. Time can disrupt your life forever.”

She would know, too. The former teacher has spent the past several years on the board of the Children’s Advocacy Center in Benton County.

The first lady continued, “I need you to help because these people, these little ones, they do go on. I don’t want to see them in prison. I don’t want to see them dysfunctional. I don’t want to see them carrying out the crimes done against them to others. Sometimes, they don’t wait to grow up to start hurting others.

“So it’s really, really important to intervene as soon as we know, as soon as we hear that silent cry, that smallest voice, so that we can help them become the people that God intended them to be so that they can thrive, not just survive.”

With intervention, abused and neglected children can learn what “true love” and appropriate relationships are like, she said.

Hutchinson added, “We’d like to think that the only time a child would need those people (intervenors) helping them is because some crazy stranger picked them up off the road and hurt them and dropped them off.

“That’s hardly ever the case. It’s almost always someone that little one was supposed to be able to trust.”

As for her Dr. Seuss anecdote, the first lady explained that the story was on her mind because she recently read one of his books to kids in honor of what would have been the author’s 111th birthday.

Hutchinson said the tale is about an elephant named Horton hearing a voice from a speck of dust that ends up belonging to the mayor of a microscopic community, Who-ville.

Horton promises to protect the town, but the other animals can’t hear any voice and get upset with him.

They steal the speck from Horton and later tie him up, threatening to destroy the speck and hurt the elephant they believe went “mad.”

Horton calls out to the mayor for help. The mayor gets everyone to make as much noise as they can so that the other animals can hear them.

But they aren’t loud enough to stop them from hurting Horton until the mayor finds the smallest Who in Whoville and brings him to yell at the top of the tiny town’s tallest mountain.

Then the other animals hear the microscopic people and apologize to Horton, who responds, “A person’s a person, no matter how small.”

Hutchinson told the guests, “You have heard the voice of the smallest among us. Not everybody has heard the voice of the smallest among us.”

The first lady said those who attended the fundraiser, by being there and by donating or supporting programs in different ways, are shouting out and letting others know about the “little voices, the voices we don’t hear, the silent voices that we don’t hear, crying and muffled in their bedrooms, hiding away and wondering ‘What is going on? I thought I was a good little girl. I thought they loved me. Why is daddy doing this? Why is mom doing that?’

Hutchinson, imitating an abused or neglected child, shared all the lies children are told by those who harm them. Hutchinson said adults tell abused and neglected kids that no one will believe them, police will lock them up, they’ll never see their siblings again or other bad things will happen if they speak up about what is happening.

When life gets tough, “the children, the least among us, seem to be the ones that carry the brunt. And they’re easy targets. Who listens to a child? Some people have been listening,” she pointed out.

Hutchinson brought up that a new law levies an additional $25 fine for those who commit crimes in front of or to children and that the state has a human trafficking task force.

The first lady also described the community-based Open Arms Shelter during her 22-minute address.

Hutchinson said, “It’s people. It’s people who love and who care about the community and trying to make it better by helping the children; and I so appreciate that because that’s where it counts the most.”

Hutchinson noted that the organization is lucky to have support that other groups across the state are lacking.

But, the first lady continued, “I wish that everybody treated everybody the way that they should” and an awareness month or day and centers like Open Arms weren’t needed.

She said she wished everyone loved each other, could cope with the stresses of life without taking it out on someone else and that all understood proper boundaries in relationships.

Hutchinson also read a proclamation on behalf of her husband, Gov. Asa Hutchinson, recognizing that April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month.

Also at the banquet, the shelter’s director recognized 20-year employee Matty Cooksey and Department of Human Services partner of the year Dorothy Jackson.

TOP STORY >> New community center on base

Leader staff writer

Little Rock Air Force Base marked the grand opening of the Walters Community Support Center on Friday for education, development and care for airmen and their families to meet and learn.

The Walters Center in the old Base Exchange. The building was saved from bulldozers and with $3.7 million in renovations, it puts the Airman and Family Readiness Center, the Base Library and Community Activities Center under one roof. They were scattered across the base in 1950s era buildings. The new facility is more convenient and saves the base operating and maintenance costs.

The multi-purpose facility is named in honor of Col. Kenneth A. Walters, former 19th Mission Support Group deputy commander, who passed away in 2012 after a six-year battle with cancer. Walters had 22 years of service.

Col. Patrick Rhatigan, commander of the 19th Airlift Wing, said the one pursuit of Walters was taking care of airmen.

“He poured his efforts into supporting our airmen and the families by improving their education opportunities,” Rhatigan said.

Walters wrote in a research paper on improving education at LRAFB that his goal was, “to make Jacksonville, Arkansas, the Educational Center of Excellence.”

Three projects grew from Walters’ idea.

Rhatigan said one was the Lighthouse Charter School that was paid for with local donations of $1.4 million. The school ranks in the top 11 percent of middle schools in the state.

The second project was the Jacksonville-LRAFB University Center, just outside the main gate. The University Center is a $15 million facility funded by Jacksonville taxpayers and the Air Force. It provides classrooms for six different universities.

“It is the first of its kind in the Department of Defense,” Rhatigan said.

The third project is the proposed joint-education campus, which will provide the Jacksonville-North Pulaski School District with a low-cost option to a state-of-the-art education center. The project has grown to 300 acres and can provide a new elementary and high school for the children of LRAFB and Jacksonville.

The themes of the Walters Support Community Center are versatility, education and care of the foundation, Rhatigan said.

“Many of the airmen are here for training or right out of school and don’t have a vehicle to get them off base. The Walters Community Support Center will now provide them with a gathering place right here in the heart of the installation. They can meet their friends for a cup of coffee, study and check out movies, books and music. They can use Wi-Fi and learn about all the support programs that we have dedicated to helping them,” Rhatigan said.

The library has doubled in size. It has computer labs, an enclosed children’s section and a teen room for a better study environment.

The Family Readiness Center has greater privacy for counseling sessions and new classrooms with updated equipment.

Many social events can be held at the Walter’s Center ballroom. It has music rooms for instructional classes, game rooms, play group rooms, a meeting room for official functions and a kitchen.

Randy Walters, Kenneth’s brother, said the recognition is fitting for someone who valued community and bringing people together. Kenneth’s family spent six years with the LRAFB community.

“After touring this facility and being part of this ceremony, I know my brother would be most grateful for this honor,” Randy Walters said.

TOP STORY >> Lawmakers here in key roles on bill

Leader senior staff writer

Several local lawmakers were in the thick of the fray Wednesday and Thursday as the 90th General Assembly scrambled before adjourning to pass the “cleaner” Religious Freedom Restoration Act that Gov. Asa Hutchinson requested.

Hutchinson had said earlier in the week that he would sign House Bill 1228 as soon as he got it. But Arkansas got swept up along with Indiana’s legislature and governor in a whirlwind of bad press. Major corporations and even other states threatened to withhold business, travel and commerce over the bill, which purportedly would enable discrimination based on sexual orientation.

That’s when the governor pulled the plug on the first bill and asked for another one that reflected the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

His son, Seth, a Texas labor organizer, urged his father to veto the original bill and his nephew, state Sen. Jeremy Hutchinson, voted against it, but was lead sponsor for its replacement, SB975.

The bill was interpreted by many as allowing discrimination against gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgender people under the flag of religious freedom.

Protests were held for several days at the state Capitol and a rabbi and several ministers held a prayer at the governor’s mansion.

While all the demonstrations and counter demonstraions made LGBT rights versus religious rights the focus, Rep. Camille Bennett (D-Lonoke) said there were other sinister dangers hidden in plain sight in first bill.

She was a co-sponsor of SB975.

“The primary force behind that bill was to extend religious freedom to political action committees, lobbyists and others who want to control our corporations and our governments,” Bennett said Friday.

She said that any limited-liability corporation, church, group or political action committee could claim a religious belief, and then protect any behavior as a religious freedom. She said that could even include Satanists.

“That’s what was behind the bill the whole time,” she said. “It became clear that biggest push was to extend this to private parties.”

Bennett suggested other areas of concern in HB1228.

“Once I’ve thrown my religion up, the state couldn’t stop me,” she said. “And if I sued Walmart for selling birth control, the state might have to pay attorney fees, court costs and damages for an action by Walmart.

“It could be a religion of one—one with marijuana as a sacrament, or a church of Satan or the Church of Camille,” Bennett said.

Before the House over-whelmingly passed HB1228—the version the governor rejected—Bennett, a lawyer, took to the well to speak out against the bill, saying it overreached and went well beyond the federal RFRA.

To deaf ears she suggested replacing it.

When Hutchinson sent it back in favor of a bill closely approximating that federal bill, there was a great outcry from legislators who believed the governor had promised to sign it.

“That’s when everybody started realizing it wasn’t the federal RFRA,” she said. “My impression is that the majority always thought it was the federal RFRA,” said Bennett, who tried to tell them earlier.

There was anger from some who felt that if Hutchinson wasn’t going to sign it, he should veto it, Bennett said. “That’s where the rub came.”

Walmart, based in Arkansas, spoke out against that bill, as did the Greater Little Rock Chamber of Commerce, Little Rock Mayor Mark Stodola and others said the bill would discourage people and commerce from locating to Arkansas.

Hutchinson asked the General Assembly to recall House Bill 1228 and send him a bill that approximated the 1993 federal RFRA passed while Bill Clinton was in office.

Upon signing SB975 Thurs-day, Hutchinson said, “What the new law does is protect religious freedom, establish a framework for the courts and recognize the diversity of our culture and workforce.”

State Rep. Josh Miller (R-Heber Springs), speaking against SB975, which passed and was signed into law Thursday afternoon, accused Hutchinson of “hiding behind the legislature.”

Senate President Pro Tempe Jonathan Dismang (R-Searcy) says he’s not sure he agrees with Bennett that the first bill would have extended religious protections to corporations, PACS or groups wanting to shield certain behaviors under the flag of religious freedom.

Dismang said that when HB1228 came up in the Senate, he was busy working on the budget and accepted the representation that it mirrored the federal RFRA.

“The governor had asked the House to consider some amendments prior the uproar,” he said. That bill “opened up a whole new realm of possibilities and no one knew the outcome.”

“I’m comfortable with SB975,” he said. “The process was ugly, the outcome good.”

Both the bill Hutchinson rejected and the one he signed were passed by similar—and significant—margins, with SB975 passing the Senate 26-0 and the House 76-17.

In the House, Bennett, Rep. Karilyn Brown (R-Sher-wood), Rep. Bob Johnson (D- Jacksonville), Rep. Doug House (R-North Little Rock) and Rep. David Hillman (D-Almyra) voted in support of the bill.

Brown and Hillman were cosponsors.

Johnson didn’t vote for HB1228. “I felt like it opened the door for discrimination.”

He did vote for SB975, which mirrors the federal law.

Johnson said he would have preferred a bill like the one Indiana ended up with, which included a prohibition against discrimination, but that he can live the SB975.

“HB 1228 would have set us back 30 years,” Johnson said.

He said he was encouraged by the way both parties and both chambers and the governor worked together to get the new bill passed.

“I voted yes on HB1228, but no on SB975,” said Rep. Joe Farrer (R-Austin). He said both were good bills, with HB1228 a little stricter. He said he was prepared to vote for SB975 until state Rep. John Walker (D-Little Rock) rose on the House floor to say, “We have to thank the good people in the hallway.”

“That changed my mind,” Farrer said. “A lot of protesters called us names and spit on us,” he said.

“I might have taken it a little more personal than I should have.”

“I’m satisfied, I think we’re OK,” said Sen. Jane English (R-North Little Rock). English, a cosponsor of SB975, said there were some things in the original bill that the business community could have amended.

“I’m ecstatic,” said Sen. Eddie Joe Williams (R-Cabot). “It’s solid legislation for religious freedom for Arkansas. The first bill that went to the governor was a Rolls Royce. We ended up with a Cadillac.”

He said religious rights and the rights of LGBTs had to be balanced.

“Neither bill was a license to discriminate,” according to Brown. “When I was growing up I never dreamed a person’s religion could come under so much attack. I wouldn’t have thought to ask someone to do something that would bother his or her conscience.”

“The nice people in Indiana are just being abused,” Brown said. “My heart goes out to people that have religious convictions and then get sued. The bill doesn’t address specifically.”

Wednesday, April 01, 2015

SPORTS STORY >> Youthful Panthers showing progress

Leader sports editor

The Cabot baseball team went 1-2 in the final two days of the Central Arkansas Invitational tournament, losing 2-1 in extra innings to tournament host and champion Little Rock Catholic Friday morning, beating Alma 8-0 with a no-hitter from Chase Kyzer on Friday afternoon and falling 6-5 to Benton on Saturday, despite out-hitting the powerful fellow Panthers.

“I think we’re starting to play better baseball and making some good progress,” said Cabot coach Ronnie Goodwin. “Gavin Tillery has had two really good outings his last two games. Chase Kyzer is pitching really well. Gavin has 17 strikeouts in his last 15 innings. Kyzer I think has double-digit strikeouts in his last two starts. We’ve lost four ball games and three of them have been by one run. We’ve just been one or two plays in each of those games from winning them.”

Lanky left-hander Gavin Tillery retired the first 12 Rockets in order before a pair of singles and a sacrifice grounder by Catholic tied the game in the fifth inning.

Cabot took the lead in the top of the fifth on a one-out double by Evan Hooper and an RBI single by Tristan Bulice.

Tillery pitched all the way through the eighth inning before yielding to Eric Larsen in the bottom of the ninth. He gave up two singles to start the inning then walked the bases loaded with one out. Chris Musteen then hit a sacrifice grounder to shortstop to end the game.

Tillery gave up six hits and one earned run, striking out seven and walking one in eight full innings on the mound.

Catholic’s Evan Hiatt and Austin Chumley combined to give up seven hits to the Panthers; Denver Mullins and Easton Seidl picking up two hits apiece for Cabot.

On Friday evening, Kyzer averaged just 13 pitches per inning, struck out six and walked zero in five innings. The Panthers got two runs in the first and six more in the third, forcing an early stoppage to the game in the middle of the fifth.

Seven different Panthers got one base hit in the win over the Airedales. Jonathan Latture doubled in the sixth inning and Mullins got a triple for Cabot’s only extra base hits.

On Saturday, Cabot lost for the second time to the Benton Panthers, but competed much better than in the earlier 10-0 loss at Cabot.

The Cabot Panthers out-hit Benton 11-8 on Saturday, and took a quick 2-0 lead on a two-run home run by Bulice in the top of the first inning.

But Benton jumped on Hooper in the bottom of the same frame, getting three base hits and drawing three walks off the sophomore to jump ahead 4-2.

The score remained that way until Hooper doubled to center field and Larsen singled to drive him home in the top of the third, but again Benton answered in the bottom half.

Hooper walked Colby Johnson to start the inning, and then gave up a one-out single to Jack Jumper that made it 5-3 Benton.

Latture replaced Hooper on the mound in the fourth inning, and Benton added to its lead thanks to a single, a double and a Cabot error.

Cabot pulled to within one with two runs in the top of the fifth. Hooper hit a leadoff single then scored on a one-out base hit by Mullins. Brandon Jarnigan replaced Mullins on the base paths and scored on Benton’s second error of the inning to set the final margin.

Cabot threatened in the seventh with back-to-back one-out singles by Logan Kirkendoll and Blake McCutchen, but Kirkendoll was caught on the base paths and Latture struck out to end the game.

“We played much better than the first time we played Benton,” Goodwin said. “In fact, I think we played a pretty good game. We had some situations where we had opportunities to score, and just hit line drives right at people.

“We had runners moving on one of them and it turned into a double play, but that’s just baseball. You can’t ask for much more from your guys than to hit line drives. It just didn’t work out for us,” Goodwin said.

Cabot (4-4, 2-0) is off until Friday when it hosts Marion in another 7A/6A-East doubleheader.

SPORTS STORY >> Beebe goes 2-1 in home games

Leader sportswriter

The Beebe Lady Badger softball team was unable to repeat as champions of the Beebe/Cabot Highway 67 Softball Tournament on Saturday at BHS, but did finish 2-1 in the tournament, with its only loss coming to eventual tournament champion, Benton.

Beebe (7-2) cruised to an easy 10-2 win over Manila in the first round of the tournament, but had a much tougher game in the second round. The Lady Badgers went to extra innings in their second-round game against Atkins.

The score was tied at 2-2 when the game went to extra innings, because the one hour, 20-minute time limit had expired. Beebe, though, put the game away in the seventh inning by scoring seven unanswered runs to beat Atkins, 9-2.

That put the Lady Badgers in the semifinals against Benton (9-1), where the Lady Panthers put an end to Beebe’s reign as the tournament champions, winning that game by the final score of 5-2.

It wasn’t the way the Lady Badgers and head coach Eric Chambers wanted to finish the tournament, but Chambers was pleased overall with the way his team played Saturday.

“We would’ve liked to have won the whole thing, but we got more quality games today than we’ve had all year,” said Chambers. “We played three good teams and I was pretty pleased with our effort. We hit the ball quite a bit today.

“We had some people out of place and out of position due to some kids not here today. So we weren’t playing in the same places we normally play. That being said, we had a chance to beat Benton there. We just had one bad inning. So, overall, it was a good effort.”

Beebe was missing a few players Saturday because of spring break trips. Against Benton, Beebe fell into a 3-0 hole in the first inning, but made it a one-run game with two runs scored in the top of the third.

The Lady Badgers got their first three batters on base to load them up at the start of the inning, but Benton’s Kylea Brimhall, a freshman, took to the circle in relief of Grace Bryant and struck out the first two Beebe batters she faced.

Ellie Reaves then came to the plate and delivered a two-out single up the middle, driving in teammates Calah Hill and Courtney Shepard, which cut Benton’s lead to 3-2.

Benton, though, got out of the inning the next at-bat with a routine pop-up, and added two more runs in the bottom part of the inning to set the final score. Beebe failed to score again its next at-bat in the top of the fourth, which ended the game because the time limit expired.

Brimhall got the win in the circle. She gave up two hits and recorded three strikeouts, and no earned runs because the two Beebe scored were charged to Bryant.

Benton narrowly outhit Beebe, 6-5. Six different Lady Panthers had hits Saturday, while Shepard and Baylee Halford led the Lady Badgers with two hits apiece.

Against Manila, Beebe racked up its 10 runs with one in the first inning, six in the third and three in the fourth. Halford led Beebe at the plate in that game as well, recording three hits – all singles.

Hill, Aleighu Porterfield and Megan Davlin also had multiple hits that game – recording two each. Reaves earned the win in the circle. She gave up only three hits, and recorded 10 strikeouts and no walks.

Against Atkins, Beebe overcame a 2-0 deficit by scoring two runs in the third inning, eventually sending the game to extra innings – where the Lady Badgers blew the game away with their seven runs scored in the seventh.

Six different Lady Badgers had multiple hits that game. Hill, Shepard, Porterfield, Reaves, Sydney Smith and Brittany Dalrymple each had two hits in that game.

Reaves once again earned the win in the circle. She gave up three hits, two walks and recorded 13 strikeouts.

The Lady Badgers played at Jacksonville in a 5A-Central Conference doubleheader last night after deadlines, and they’ll play again tomorrow at home in a nonconference game against Class 4A Brookland. Tomorrow’s game is scheduled to start at 4:30 p.m.

SPORTS STORY >> Red Devil pitching shuts out Badgers

Leader sports editor

The Jacksonville Red Devils followed a 2-2 performance at the Central Arkansas Invitational over the weekend with a 5A-Central doubleheader sweep of Beebe on Monday. The Red Devils’ pitching has been on a tear since dropping a 12-9 decision to CAI host and champion Catholic High, giving up one base hit in three games. Caleb McMunn no-hit Conway in the third-place game at the CAI but still took a 3-0 loss.

On Monday, Derek St. Clair threw a one-hitter in a 2-0 victory at home against Beebe, and James Tucker threw a six-inning no-hitter against the Badgers in a 12-0 win.

In game one on Monday, Jacksonville got just enough off Beebe ace Angus Denton to pick up the victory. The first run came in the first inning. Ryan Mallison reached on a fielder’s choice and scored on a base hit by Greg Jones.

Jacksonville got at least one hit in every inning but the sixth, including two in the fourth, but couldn’t capitalize again until the fifth, when three-straight one-out singles loaded the bases for Jones, who bunted to squeeze in the game’s final run.

Beebe’s John Finley doubled to left field in the fourth inning for the Badgers’ only hit. St. Clair struck out 12, walked three and hit one batter in seven innings of work.

Denton gave up seven hits while striking out five and walking none.

In game two, Beebe pitcher Eric Brown gave up a leadoff triple to Courtland McDonald to start the game. He scored on the next at-bat when Mallison grounded out to second base, but Brown gave up just two more hits over the next three innings before giving up two runs in the fourth.

Tucker hit a leadoff double and advanced to third on a base hit by St. Clair. After St. Clair stole second, Brandon Hickingbotham got a two-RBI base hit to make it 3-0.

The Red Devils tacked on five more runs to blow the game open in the fifth, and did it on just one base hit. Mallison hit a one-out double to straightaway center field to start the rally. McMunn then reached on a fielder’s choice at third that failed to get Mallison, leaving runners safe on the corners. Greg Jones walked to load the bases and Tucker walked to drive in a run. St. Clair then hit a ball to left field that was mishandled, clearing the bases and leaving St. Clair safe at third.

Jacksonville ended the game early in the sixth inning when Beebe pitching fell apart and couldn’t find the strike zone. Jacksonville scored four more runs on one base hit, four walks and two hit batters.

Tucker’s no-hitter came with eight strikeouts and one walk, which came with two outs in the final inning, spoiling a perfect game.

Despite the 12 runs in game two on Monday, Jacksonville’s hitting hasn’t been as good as coach Larry Burrows would like to see.

“I thought we swung fairly well against Denton,” Burrows said. “They’re capable of beating anybody with him on the mound. The other games I haven’t liked. I don’t think we’ve hit like we’re capable. I think the Conway game was partly just a matter of seven games in about eight days. But he doesn’t even pitch for them. They threw their third baseman at us and we didn’t hit at all.”

Jacksonville (5-5, 2-0) hit the ball hard and often in its first three games of the CAI, beating Alma 14-2, North Little Rock 14-2 and losing 12-9 to Catholic after jumping out to a 7-0 lead.

Laderrious Perry hit two home runs against Catholic – one to the power alley in left-center field and another to straightaway center.

Jacksonville got 15 base hits in the win over North Little Rock, including five doubles. Mallison went 3 for 4 with a double and five RBIs. Hickingbotham went 3 for 3 while D.J. Scott, Perry and McDonald all got multiple base hits.

In the third-place game, McMunn did his best Nuke Laloosh impression in pitching the no-hitter. He struck out eight Wampus Cats, but also walked six and threw numerous wild pitches. Conway’s first two runs came in the second inning when McMunn struck out the side. He also walked two, threw two wild pitches and Jacksonville committed a fielding error that allowed two runners to score.

The final run came after a walk and two wild pitches left a runner at third. A sacrifice grounder scored the run to set the final margin.

Beebe hosts Little Rock Christian Academy in a nonconference game at 4:30 p.m. Thursday. Jacksonville plays North Little Rock again at 5 p.m. today at Dupree Park.

SPORTS STORY >> Cabot second in ‘67’ tourney

Leader sportswriter

The Cabot softball team won its first three games of the annual Beebe/Cabot Highway 67 Softball Tournament on Saturday, but fell hard to Benton in the championship game at Beebe High School, losing 12-1 in six innings.

Cabot (9-2) beat Benton (9-1) earlier in the season, but Saturday night’s tournament final was a much different game. Cabot scored the game’s first run in the bottom of the first inning, but Benton took over the game in the top of the sixth with six runs scored – all of which came with two outs.

Cabot was never able to recover. Benton added six more runs to its side of the board in the top of the sixth, and when Cabot failed to score in the bottom part of the inning, the game was called because of the mercy rule, which is invoked when one team’s lead reaches at least 10 runs after five innings of play.

Even though it wasn’t the ending Cabot and head coach Chris Cope were hoping for, Cope said it was a good day, overall, for his group.

“We went 3-1 and we beat some good teams,” said Cope. “We didn’t want it to end that way, but it happens.”

The Lady Panthers opened the tournament with a dominant 15-0 win over Harrisburg at the CHS softball field, and in the second round, Cabot got another mercy-rule victory at home, this one a 12-2 rout of Perryville.

Cabot had to go to extra innings in its semifinal game against perennial powerhouse Bryant, but won that home game in the eighth inning on a run scored by second baseman Rachel Allgood, which set the final score at 4-3.

In the championship game against Benton at Beebe, Cabot got on the board in the top of the first with a two-out, solo home run by Megan Goodnight. Pitcher Lauren McCluskey kept the Benton bats at bay through the first four and two-third innings, but Benton’s bats came alive in a big way after that.

Hannah Word got the two-out rally started with a double down the left-field line, and she scored the next at-bat on a single to center field by leadoff hitter Jordan Herbner.

That tied the game at 1-1, and Benton took the lead for good the next at-bat on a stand-up double to deep right center by Delaney Bono, which allowed the speedy Herbner to score with ease.

Bre Langford singled to center the next at-bat, scoring Bono, and giving Benton a 3-1 lead. Clean-up hitter Kylee McClendon then came to the plate, and she reached base on a dropped line drive in right field. Langford scored on the play, putting Benton up 4-1.

The next at-bat, Kylea Brimhall doubled to left field, which drove in McClendon, and the rally was capped the next at-bat with a Madi Mehlin line drive in left field that was dropped, allowing Brimhall to score and make it a 6-1 game.

Cabot failed to score in the bottom of the fifth, and Benton scored six more runs in the top of the sixth to set the final score. The highlight of the sixth inning was a two-out, three-run home run by Mehlin, which made the score 12-1.

Benton outhit Cabot 13-4 Saturday. Brimhall led all batters with three hits. She also earned the win in the circle – finishing the six innings pitched with six strikeouts. She gave up four hits, two walks and one earned run.

Shauna Attendorn led Cabot at the plate. She went 2 for 2 with two singles.

In the Lady Panthers’ win over Harrisburg, they scored five runs in the first inning, four in the second and six in the third to set the final score. Shortstop Heather Hill led Cabot at the plate in that game. She went 3 for 3 with three singles.

Four other Lady Panthers had multiple hits in that game. Goodnight, Allgood, Kaitlyn Felder and Macee Abbott had two hits apiece.

Goodnight earned the win in the circle against Harrisburg. She threw all three innings of the mercy rule-shortened game, finishing with four strikeouts, while giving up just one hit and no walks.

In the second round against Perryville, Cabot broke a scoreless game with nine runs scored in the bottom of the second inning to take control of the game. The Lady Panthers added three more runs in the third inning before allowing one run in the fourth and fifth inning, which set the final score at 12-2.

Cabot outhit Perryville 13-6, with Hill leading all batters at the plate. She went 3 for 3 in that game and was a triple shy of the cycle. Goodnight got the win in the circle in that game as well. She threw all five innings, finishing with five strikeouts.

Against Bryant in the semifinal round, Cabot overcame a 3-0 deficit with three runs scored in the fifth inning, which tied the game at 3-3 and eventually sent it to extra innings.

McCluskey, Goodnight and Felder led the Lady Panthers at the plate against the Lady Hornets. Each of them had two hits. McCluskey pitched the latter part of that game and earned the win in the circle as a result.

Cabot played its first pair of 7A/6A-East Conference games in a doubleheader at Searcy last night after deadlines, and the Lady Panthers will play another conference doubleheader Friday at home against Marion. The first game Friday is scheduled to begin at 5 p.m.

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

EDITORIAL >> Broken glass still lies in parking lot

Someone’s sideview mirror must have broken during a visit to the Jacksonville post office during the ice storm early last month.

There’s broken glass in two parking spots in front of the entrance, but most visitors don’t realize they parked their cars on the glass and stepped on it until it’s too late. They’ll mutter something unmentionable here, although post office employees must see the glass every day as they cross the parking lot to get the mail out of the mail boxes in the evening.

The employees have been told several times about the broken glass. Some of them shrug and say they’ll tell someone to clean it up. Others are busy making dinner plans with their spouses on the phone. Don’t they have a broom and a dust pan at the post office?

EDITORIAL >> District says it will be fair

The Jacksonville-North Pulaski School District is not quite off the ground yet — it’s still a two-person operation with a couple of part-timers and an interim school board — but teachers are concerned about future pay and even if they’ll have a job once the district completes its separation from the Pulaski County Special School District.

Interim Superintendent Bobby Lester and Phyllis Stewart, his chief of staff, want to calm fears about salaries and staffing, although nothing is final until a personnel policy committee and ultimately the state, which still controls the county district, approve them.

But Lester and Stewart, both veterans of the Pulaski County Special School District, insist that starting teachers in Jacksonville can count on better pay than those in the PCSSD. They admit that veteran teachers, once they join the Jacksonville district, will probably make less since the new district cannot afford to pay the high salaries achieved through seniority, which are among the most generous in the state.

Lester and Stewart say those high salaries and fringe benefits helped make PCSSD insolvent, which resulted in the state taking the district over. That takeover continues as Jacksonville looks to running its own district in 2016-17.

More than 310 PCSSD teachers could then apply to work for the new district. Some may not get hired as Jacksonville and North Pulaski High Schools will merge by then and fewer teachers will be needed. They might apply elsewhere or retire. A 10 percent reduction in personnel could save the district millions of dollars a year.

That figure could be determined by the number of students who will attend the new district. Some students may leave, while new ones might sign up if they like what the new district is doing. Lester and Stewart say new principals will be hired, as will be bus drivers and others, but some jobs will be eliminated, including a band director and executive positions as the district reduces the number of schools.

A new superintendent will start July 1, when Lester will step down, having helped bring the new district into existence. Much more work remains to be done as they negotiate with PCSSD on how to divide the district’s assets.

The district will soon move into permanent quarters to help launch a new era for Jacksonville far from Dixon Road headquarters in Little Rock. They’re off to a good start.

TOP STORY >> Tycoon who built Sherwood

Sherwood History Commission

Justin Matthews Sr. was a prominent Arkansas businessman, real estate developer and community leader best known for his role in the development of the North Little Rock and Sherwood areas.

Matthews was born on a farm near Monticello, Arkansas, to Samuel James Matthews and Anna Wilson Matthews on Dec. 23, 1875. The Matthews were a very wealthy family in Drew County, as Samuel Matthews owned a law firm, a large nursery and a fruit business. Samuel Matthews also served as Drew County Judge and encouraged his son to study law, but Justin decided to pursue a career as a pharmacist.

He married Mary Agnes Somers in 1901; they had three children. Around that time, Matthews sold the three drugstores he owned in the Monticello area, and the couple moved to Little Rock. In 1902, Matthews founded the Rose City Cotton Oil Mill near the eastern edge of North Little Rock. A couple of years later, he invested the money made from his cottonseed oil business into real estate on both sides of the Arkansas River.

Within a short time of arriving in central Arkansas, Matthews was engaged in two controversial projects, one aimed at paving streets in North Little Rock and the other concerning the construction of two new bridges across the Arkansas River linking Little Rock and North Little Rock. According to his obituary, Matthews “circulated petitions in 1913 for the formation of two improvement districts to pave 152 blocks of North Little Rock streets, projects which had bitter opposition.” In addition, “when it was proposed in 1913 to build the present Main Street Bridge (across the Arkansas River), Mr. Matthews led a campaign to build the Broadway Bridge at the same time although many persons thought one bridge would be sufficient.” Both of these projects, financed publicly through improvement districts, were crucial to Matthews’ land development plans.

The early years of development in Park Hill — as Matthews christened the new residential area — were characterized by the construction of modest houses, usually bungalows or two-story, Craftsman-influenced residences. Aimed at first-time home buyers, houses in Park Hill were built as efficiently and inexpensively as possible by Matthews’ own company, first called the Matthews Land Company and later the Justin Matthews Company. Comparing his method of building houses to an automobile assembly line, Matthews announced in 1923: “We have launched into a home building campaign; we have built and equipped a complete wood work plant...(and) we are buying all materials in carload lots.” Although his plan called for Park Hill eventually to consist of 1,600 acres, the area was platted bit by bit as Matthews waited for several houses to be built in one section before opening another section for development.

In 1927, after six years of cautiously opening sections of Park Hill to a modest scale of development, Matthews apparently decided the time was ripe for a grander development that would compete for the upper-income residents who were buying homes almost exclusively in several recently opened “restricted” additions in Pulaski Heights. The plat of Edgemont in Park Hill, officially blocks 101 through 107 of the Park Hill Addition, was recorded in 1927 with typical deed restrictions of the year, notably one pertaining to the size and cost of houses and one to the race of property owners, who were required to be “wholly of the Caucasian Race.”

During the same time, he began building homes in the area on the Ark-Mo Highway (now Highway 107) north of North Little Rock, an area he named Sylvan Hills. As part of his plans for this subdivision, Matthews began building the Sylvan Hills Country Club (now known as The Greens at North Hills) in 1926. In 1927, Matthews was appointed to the Arkansas State Highway Commission by Governor John Martineau.

Unfortunately, the Great Depression complicated the opening of Edgemont in Park Hill and Sylvan Hills. Only 16 houses in Edgemont and a handful of homes in Sylvan Hills, including the Matthews-Clauson-McCullough House on Miller Road in Sherwood, were built before construction was brought to a halt.

From 1931 to 1933, Matthews developed a park in the Lakewood subdivision, which he named T. R. Pugh Memorial Park in honor of Thomas R. Pugh of Portland, Arkansas, who was a close friend and a benefactor of Matthews. Today, the park is more commonly known as “The Old Mill.” The park features a re-creation of an 1880s water-powered grist mill and other structures, which were designed and created by Mexican sculptor Dionicio Rodriguez.

In 1936, the Sinclair Refining Company operating as Pierce Oil contracted with Matthews’ company to build a uniquely-shaped filling station on Highway 67 between North Little Rock and Jacksonville. Now known as the Roundtop Filling Station, the historic building has been rehabilitated by the Sherwood History and Heritage Committee and the Arkansas Historic Preservation Program for use as a police substation.

Matthews died on March 21, 1955, at his residence on Cherry Hill in North Little Rock. He was survived by his second wife, Robin, his first wife having died in 1933. Matthews is buried in Little Rock’s historic Mount Holly Cemetery. An Arkansas Gazette editorial paid tribute to the man who, “on the high ground overlooking North Little Rock,” had “transformed a wilderness into a great community with homes, stores, schools, churches and services.”

TOP STORY >> New life at old Hastings

Leader staff writer

Game Zone Alpha, renamed The Game Store, has moved into the old Hastings building in Jacksonville and expanded its offerings by adding comic books and video games to board, tabletop and card games.

The grand opening is set for May 2, after a sign and more inventory arrives.

Owner Brian Blevins, who has run the Jacksonville business for eight years, called the relocation part of its “gradual evolution.”

A previous tenant of the Jacksonville Shopping Center on Main Street, he needed a bigger space and got an “amazing deal” on the twice-as-large, 20,000-square-foot facility.

The old Hastings building has been rewired and painted. A wall and private game rooms were also added.

Blevins is not hiring right now, but he and his staff of four are experts with several years of experience in their chosen subjects — comic books, Magic cards (the owner’s specialty) and board games.

Employee Brad James said, “Our whole goal is basically to bring a crossover...We’re not a jack of all trades and master of none. We’re a jack of all trades and master of all.”

Blevins touted The Game Store as one of the largest, if not the largest, of its kind in Arkansas. “I’ve been in many, many a game store, and I’m not just saying this because I own the store…This is light years beyond anything I imagined I could possible have,” he said.

The owner also asserted that it has the best selection of board games in the state.

“We were able to open an amazing comic book section,” Blevins continued, adding that he collects them and has issues people in Arkansas haven’t seen. “In my wildest dreams, I never would have imagined being able to do something like that.”

Blevins also brought his retro video game collection to the store and joked that, because hobbies and business shouldn’t mix, he’d have to find new hobbies.

Locals have thrown their support behind his venture, the owner added. And that’s great because Blevins “always wanted this place to be something great for the community.”

That is why his store is hosting several weekly events: family board game nights from 6 to 10 p.m. on Wednesdays, Friday Night Magic games from 6 p.m. to midnight on Fridays and tournaments nearly every day.

Also at the same time on Wednesdays, staffer John Stoltenberg hosts Dungeons and Dragons Encounters for new and old players of all skill levels. There isn’t enough time for the role-playing aspect, but the group engages in a two- or three-hour strategy games and helps new players learn how to play.

About the shop, Stoltenberg added, “It’s the best store in the state. We have the space. We have the selection. And, it may be a little conceited to say, but we have the staff.”

Two one-time festivities coming up are International TableTop Day on Saturday, April 11 and Free Comic Book Day, which coincides with the May 2 grand opening.

Those who register for the tabletop day will be entered into a drawing for game giveaways, and one lucky winner will receive free board games for a year from the store.

On Free Comic Book Day, customers may be able to pick up three free comics at the store.

And business has been “overwhelming” since the store had its soft opening two months ago, Blevins said.

Last weekend, 150 people came out to play games, he noted. “They were from all walks of life.”

One man thanked the owner for bringing together those who have a shared interest and providing a space where gender, racial and other bias could disappear.

The store is open 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Thursday, from noon to midnight Friday through Saturday and from 1 to 7 p.m. Sunday.

Blevins has also started a blog called “Talking Nerdy” and is looking into more innovative happenings that could be unveiled later.

The owner wanted to thank his family and friends, too. He said, without them, none of this would have been possible.

The Hastings building is Blevins’ fourth location. The business started at the Indian Hill Shopping Center in North Little Rock, but that shop was “burned to the ground” by an arsonist. It moved to Dupree Drive next and then to the Jacksonville Shopping Center.

TOP STORY >> Community Center marks its 20th year

Leader staff writer

The Jacksonville Community Center is celebrating its 20-year milestone from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, April 11, with free admission all day.

There will be fitness classes, aquatic classes, kids activities, inflatables, music, refreshments and free T-shirts for the first 100 people.

Membership fees will be 20 percent off for six-month and one-year contracts.

Mayor Gary Fletcher said the community center is, “the jewel of the community. It has brought people from all around the region.”

Former Mayor Tommy Swaim said, “I think it’s been a great asset with the community, and I’m pleased with success of it.”

The $4 million community center opened April 10, 1995. Plans for the community center started rolling in 1992 with then-direction of parks director Annabelle Davis and the parks commission, led by Pat Bond.

“They did a lot of hard work,” said aquatics manager Diane Novotny, who has been with community center since it opened.

A special election was held and Jacksonville voters passed a one-cent sales tax to support the facility. At the same time, the millage rate on personal property taxes was reduced from five mills to two mills.

“We didn’t have to borrow money or sell bonds. We were able use the new incoming sales tax money to pay it off,” Swaim said.

He is proud that the community center stays busy.

“It has been used to recruit people and businesses to come to Jacksonville,” Swaim added.

Fletcher said it holds meetings that are scheduled for several days in a row, bringing in money, especially when visitors buy food here and stay at local hotels. Many cities have used the Jacksonville Community Center as a model in the construction of their own, he added.

Swaim said, at the time it was built, the center was one of the larger facilities in the area.

“It was built to serve the community,” Novotny said

Novotny said, before, people would have to go to Little Rock to swim at an indoor community pool.

She said plans for the community center at the time it was built were for the pool to have a hydraulic floor that raised and lowered its depth plus a slide. Four racquetball courts and small classrooms were also planned.

The community center banquet rooms have been used for town hall meetings, public education and college graduations. They are booked for weddings, receptions, chamber of commerce and air base functions. During the year, the center holds a coin, stamp, book and paper show. It has holiday craft sales, train shows, gem and mineral shows and is an election polling site.

Fletcher said the center could use larger meeting rooms.

Programs manager Marlo Jackson said the number of programs and attendance has increased over the years. The aquatics programs have always been popular.

“We are always looking for programs that will do more for the community,” Jackson said.

Novotny said the center tries to get the whole community involved, not just specific groups. “We are very diverse, with all ages, races, religions and cultures. We can adapt for people hard of hearing to using a seeing-eye dog,” she said.

While step aerobics and kickboxing have faded in popularity over the last 20 years, other programs have sprung up, like Zumba, fitness camps and Silver Sneakers program for seniors.

The community center also has a basketball and volleyball court, two racquetball courts, an indoor track, an outdoor track, a fitness mezzanine, aerobics rooms, a skate park and a farmer’s market pavilion.

TOP STORY>> Air Force hit with $10B in budget cuts

Leader senior staff writer

Barring a last-minute deal — and none is in sight — sequestration will force cuts at Little Rock Air Force Base and steep cuts to the 2016 military budget, but keep $96 billion earmarked for the discretionary overseas military contingencies, according to a spokesman for Sen. John Boozman (R-Ark.).

Similar versions of the 2016 budget passed both the House and Senate last week and are being resolved in the Joint Budget Conference, according to Chad Sybnor, Boozman’s military legislative assistant. The new budget should be law within the next month or so.

The 2015 federal budget expires Sept. 30, and the 2016 budget under consideration begins Oct. 1.

Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James wants $10 billion above what sequestration-level funding provides to meet its global responsibilities. Otherwise, she said, every part of the Air Force would be touched, including a new round of furloughs and cuts in research and active-duty personnel.

The Republican-controlled Congress wants to spend about $38 billion less on defense than the Pentagon has requested.


“Right now, we are anticipating continuation of the Budget Control Act of 2011,” Sybnor said. “Back in 2013, Congressman Paul Ryan (R-Wisconsin) and Sen. Patty Murray (D-Washington) worked out a deal, which raised defense budget caps. That’s expiring.”

He said the Defense Department maintenance and operation will be capped at $499 billion. The war fighting and other overseas contingency, which is not subject to sequestration, will be $96 billion and is not in the budget.

Sybnor said the only flexibility open to the Air Force’s base budget on larger appropriations would be changes within line-item components, and only then with approval of armed services committees.

He said no new military construction is in the budget for Little Rock Air Force Base, but that funding continues in an effort to find alternatives to the avionics modernization program for C-130Hs. The AMP was grounded about three years ago as it was too expensive.

“The Air Force and the National Guard Bureau have all publicly stated they want alternatives to the current AMP,” Sybnor said. “We want to get the older C-130s compliant with new national airspace regulations taking effect in 2020.”

Air Force Secretary James spoke out as recently as March 24 against planned reductions.

“We are literally standing on a precipice,” James told the Council on Foreign Relations last week.

“We’ve got to stop downsizing,” she said. “We’ve been going through this for 20 years.


On one side of that precipice is the ability of the Air Force and the military to carry out its three-part mandate.

“A lot is expected of us as the best (Air Force) in the world,” James said. “On the other side is sequester.”

The military’s charge is three-fold — to maintain a force with the ability to defeat an adversary in one part of the world, to meet and deny a separate adversary in another and to defend the homeland.

“Sequestration is the dark cloud up ahead and it could affect us in readiness,” Col. Patrick Rhatigan told The Leader in late February.

Rhatigan, commander of Little Rock Air Force Base, said eventually the Air Force has to get back to pre-sequestration funding levels and beyond.

“We took a hit in Little Rock on flying, then got some relief in FY 2015, and we thought we turned the corner,” the colonel said.

But sequestration again will be imposed by Congress this year unless there’s a compromise.

He said that other programs could fall off the plan, including modernization, facilities and infrastructure.


The furlough that began in May 2013 affected 650 civilian workers at Little Rock Air Force Base and about half of the 800,000 throughout the military.

Originally, those civilian workers were expected to be laid off one day a week for 22 weeks, but then-Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel reduced that to 11 days, then to six.

Sequestration changes at the base included reorganizing the four wings to increase savings through efficiency in organizing, training and equipping airmen, Brig. Gen. select Brian Robinson, 19th Airlift Wing commander, said at the time.

The base curtailed non-readiness or non-mission-essential flying and travel, curtailed or stopped minor purchases, such as furniture and information technology refresh, implemented a civilian hiring freeze and decreased aircrew temporary duty travel, a spokesman said.

The 19th Airlift Wing cut its flying hours by 35 percent.


With the winddown of the war in Afghanistan, the Air Force plan to “regroup, retrain and reset went out the window,” James said. “When Russia invaded Ukraine, ISIS began a calculated offensive and the U.S. got involved in preventing an Ebola pandemic.”

Speaking to the Council on Foreign Relations, James said Congress needed to lift sequestration.

“It would allow for the most pressing needs of combatant commanders and make the most important investments,” she said.


“We need a new balance between readiness for today and preparation for tomorrow. We need vital space programs, weapons systems sustainment and flight time,” the Air Force secretary said.

“We need modernization—to strengthen our nuclear enterprise and upgrade important weapons systems and to make every dollar count, not to pay more and more for less and less. That includes maximizing energy savings and reducing headquarters spending.”

She also called for a new round of base realignment and closure studies, but noted that the current finding that the military had 30 percent excess capacity didn’t mean 30 percent more bases than needed.

“We need to free up what we can and plow it back into readiness,” the secretary said.

Monday, March 30, 2015

TOP STORY >> Loans will modernize businesses' power use

Leader senior staff writer

The Pulaski County Quorum Court has established a creative funding mechanism that allows commercial property owners to borrow money to improve energy efficiency, install renewable energy or promote water conservation improvements on their property through a new Energy Improvement District Board, according to County Judge Barry Hyde.

An ordinance approved this week establishes a seven-member board to oversee PACE, Property Assessed Clean Energy district, and Hyde’s been busy trying to get the cities to buy in.

The program is not for residential housing, according to County Attorney Amanda Mitchell, because two of the largest lenders in the nation — Fanny Mae (Federal National Mortgage Association,) and Freddy Mac (Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corporation) — won’t accept it.

The funding mechanism could be through the sale of bonds, private funds or public funds, according Mitchell.

Hyde or his designate will sit on that board. He’ll nominate and the quorum court will approve qualified people for the other six seats.

Fayetteville has a PACE program, a turnkey operation which is both funded and administered by a third party, according to Mitchell.

The state General Assembly passed a law in 2013 to allow formation of such districts.

Mitchell said Little Rock and North Little Rock seem to be on board and Hyde has reached out to the mayors of Sherwood and Jacksonville, even though it appears that the county has the authority to implement the program throughout, even in incorporated areas.

“I met with the county judge, and he’s wanting to come out in a couple of weeks to see about getting the city involved,” said Jacksonville Mayor Gary Fletcher. “I think it has a lot of merit. It saves money, and it’s a green initiative, reducing the businesses’ carbon footprint.”

“He’s going to come to our Rotary meeting April 15 to talk about it,” said Sherwood Mayor Virginia Hillman. “It sounds like it could be a good thing for us,” she said. “I need to get some more information.”

“This ordinance is a job creator,” says Hyde. “Pulaski County is leading the way with smart options for developers and property owners by creating the state’s largest PACE district. PACE financing will provide a practical way to save energy, reduce emissions and improve air quality while adding to the value of property. Through PACE, Pulaski County is demonstrating its commitment to renewable energy development, energy efficiency and the creation of local jobs.”

A commercial enterprise anywhere in Pulaski County, not just the unincorporated areas, could apply for money — $25,000 or more — to make their building or enterprise more energy efficient or renewable or to conserve water.

A properly set up deal would essentially be free to the property owner because the loan payments would be less than the amount saved by a new, more efficient system.

PACE is an innovative financing program that allows property owners to borrow 100 percent of project costs and pay for them through a special assessment on their annual property tax bill.

The board or its designate would check to see that the payment on the borrowed money would not exceed the money saved for the project and that the enterprise’s cash flow was sufficient.

Once a property owner decides to make a qualified improvement to his property, a PACE loan will pay for 100 percent of the project and a PACE lien will be added to the property assessment.

PACE liens will be paid on an annual basis with property taxes until the loan is satisfied.

The U.S. Energy Department estimates that, if all businesses and institutions in this county took advantage of the cost-effective upgrades, the country’s average annual energy use could be reduced by 25 percent.

“Through job creation and lower energy bills, every dollar invested will produce a positive return in savings,” according to the judge’s office.

A recent joint-study released by the Georgia Institute of Technology and Duke University estimated the creation of nearly 11,000 new Arkansas jobs in the next 15 years and $1.7 billion in total energy savings.

Arkansas residents spent $3.2 billion on electricity in 2007 alone.

The program should be up and running by this fall, Mitchell said.

TOP STORY >> First-term reflections

Leader staff writer

Three first-time state legislators representing The Leader’s coverage area have been hard at work and learning the ropes this session.

They sponsored a combined 34 bills and co-sponsored countless other measures. Several of their bills have been signed into law.


Rep. Tim Lemons (R-Cabot), a former Lonoke County justice of the peace, sponsored 12 bills plus a resolution.

Of the session, he said, “It has been amazing, humbling…It has been an awesome experience, one that I will treasure forever. I really feel like this is where I need to be politically.”

Lemons added that he’d made life-long friends.

The first of his bills to become state law helps free up county monies.

Quorum courts are required to allocate only 90 percent of their anticipated revenues, and the other 10 percent must be set aside for use in an emergency, Lemons explained.

His bill doesn’t change that but instead removes three offices — those of the treasurer, collector and assessor — from being included in the total budget of which only 90 percent can be allocated.

Lemons said the new law would have helped Lonoke on its last budget, when the budgets of those three offices made up $1 million of a $7 million total and $700,000 was set aside. Instead of $700,000, the quorum court could have set aside $600,000 and had another $100,000 to use.

Lemons added that the budgets of those offices are separate from the general fund budget in other instances. The “common-sense” approach has the approval of auditors, and the idea originated with Lonoke County Treasurer Patti Weathers several years ago, he noted.

The freshman legislator is particularly proud of his bill that establishes a suicide prevention council. Both houses have approved the measure.

Veterans, the survivor of a suicide attempt, house and state representatives, an attorney general’s office staffer and others will serve on the council.

There have been different agencies addressing the same problem but not working together, Lemons explained. “The right hand doesn’t know what the left hand is doing; they’re spinning their wheels…There is no doubt this will save some lives.”

He said Arkansas receives a $760,000 grant every year for suicide prevention and lawmakers didn’t know which group to give that to.

The bill would have it go to the council and “we’re bringing as many people into this as we possibly can to make this thing successful,” Lemons said.

The resolution he sponsored asks that the post office assign mailing addresses to annexed areas that match the city they annexed into.

He explained how this issue impacted Ward and Austin when homes annexed into Ward had Austin mailing addresses.

Sales taxes were sent to Austin, which had to forward them to Ward. Then the annexed homeowners had to provide a letter to their insurance providers stating that they were in Ward city limits to avoid being overcharged because Ward’s fire rating is better than Austin’s.

The resolution, unanimously approved by both houses at the state level, has been sent to Congressman Rick Crawford and Sens. John Boozman and Tom Cotton.

Of the measure, Lemons said, “We can’t tell (the post office) what to do, but we can persuade them on what to do.” And, he noted, another state’s effort to do the same was a success.

A second annexation-related piece of legislation, which has been sent to the governor for his signature, allows an annexed area to leave one city for another if the first city fails to provide utility service within 18 months.

Lemons also sponsored three firearm-related bills.

One, which is in committee, would allow elected officials who work in a courthouse and have a concealed carry permit to possess their firearms while on the job.

Another, which was sent to the governor’s office, would let auxiliary police officers carry their service weapons when they are not on duty — just like full- and part-time officers can.

The third, sent to the governor’s office for signing, would give law enforcement chiefs who have to sign off on applications by gun owners who want to modify their firearms 15 days to take action on an application.

Lemons said some chiefs, because of their personal beliefs, have sat on applications, hoping the applicant would forget about his or her plans.

After the 15 days, the bill would allow the applicant an appeal to the district judge, who would then determine whether there is a reason their request should not be approved. If there is not, the judge can then order the chief to sign it.

Another of Lemons’ bills, passed by both houses, gives “direction” to funds already in the budget that support programs for kids with autism so that about 50 more kids can receive help without any tax increase and at no additional cost to the state.

One bill he sponsored that is now law protects someone buying a house by having the warranty that covers foundation repair stay with a home rather than follow its previous owner.

Two bills deal with elections — one returned by committee with the recommendation that it do pass streamlines the way they are run, Lemons said, while the other, which is awaiting votes by both houses, allows officials to have things like bumper stickers that support an issue as long as the official doesn’t endorse a candidate.

His final bill, which likely won’t be acted on until the legislature sees what money is available after recently approved tax cuts are implemented, makes it to where a company that donates goods won’t be charged sales tax on those goods.


“Everything is going well. I think the freshmen are getting a good rapport, being efficient, moving through the bills,” said Rep. Karilyn Brown (R-Sherwood). “It’s a learning process, but I am enjoying it.

It has been a tiring session, she continued. “It’ll be nice to have a little time to spend with some constituents” when it wraps up, Brown said.

She serves on the transportation committee and helped pass a bill that would help the state determine whether charging taxes based on mileage would be a better way to fund highways.

The program it could participate in would accept 5,000 volunteers. The volunteers would attach GPS devices to their vehicles that would track miles driven on Arkansas roads.

Brown explained that other states are doing this and the program could lead to those driving through the state but not purchasing gas here still paying their fair share for using Ark-ansas highways.

Her other bills allow the Department of Human Services access to paternity statements for use in child support cases and requires transparency when the attorney general’s office hires independent lawyers.

The paternity bill is now law, while the other has been delivered to the governor’s office.

One of Brown’s bills didn’t get very far, she said. It would have required delegates sent to a constitutional convention to refrain from voting on any measure they weren’t sent there to vote on.


“It’s a lot of work crammed into a very short period of time,” Rep. Camille Bennett (D-Lonoke) said of the session. “Forging relationships and getting things done is a real challenge.”

She continued, “There’s been a lot of really good bipartisan cooperation and open channels of communication…I feel very honored to be here. You can’t help but walk into that room and think of all the people that have come before you, the humility of being in that place.”

Both houses have passed most of her 19 bills. Nine are now laws.

One that didn’t make it was quite a disappointment, Bennett said.

Right now, committees can ask for a fiscal impact study on any bill that shows likely savings, expenses and how it would affect existing laws.

Her bill would have expanded that by having the study also show how probable it is that the bill, upon becoming law, would be constitutionally challenged and how much the state would likely have to spend on defending its constitutionality.

“Completely down party lines, it was defeated in committee,” Bennett said of the measure.

But she was proud of a bill that is now a law requiring DNA testing when someone is arrested for a felony offense. That law existed in 28 states already, Bennett said, and could exonerate individuals or tie them to other crimes.

And, she continued, “It’s going to cost the state almost nothing” because a grant would cover the $30 kits needed for the first year.

Another bill allows employers to provide references electronically and those hiring the former worker to check their references within six months of that worker signing a release. Both houses passed that measure.

The state is in the process of turning district courts into full-time courts, Bennett said about her next bill, which extended the deadline from 2017 to 2021 for that transition.

She said the measure would save counties money and keep current part-time judges, especially in Lonoke County, happy because several were not ready to work on a full-time basis.

One bill removes the mandatory $10 credit on a traffic ticket drivers received for wearing their seatbelts.

Municipal courts were sued over the matter because it couldn’t be proven whether drivers were wearing their seatbelts during a violation, Bennett explained.

Her bill, which was passed by both houses, would allow the credit to still be given, but it wouldn’t be automatic like before.

Another of Bennett’s bills that is now law better defines how long certain records must be kept.

And one bill, re-referred to a committee, levies a $25 fine on those who commit a violent crime in front of or to a child. The fine would go to help kids who witness or are victims of violent crimes.

Bennett said the legislature has been working as a whole to improve workforce training.
She’s helped by supporting measures that put more money into current programs and encourage two- and four-year colleges to add programs and provide scholarships for students interested in enrolling in them.

The governor, Bennett continued, has spearheaded a new criminal justice reform act that “if properly funded, it should make a huge difference, a direct, immediate difference.”

It institutes a drug court-system to provide substance-abuse treatment to those charged with crimes like possession and sets up regional detention facilities for inmates transferring to state prisons. They’re currently housed in overcrowded and underfunded county jails.

Rep. Bob Johnson (D-Jacksonville) and Rep. Donnie Copeland (R-North Little Rock), who represents a slice of Sherwood, did not return calls from The Leader by press time.

Johnson sponsored 10 bills and Copeland sponsored nine.

TOP STORY >> Son of Delta: Be a winner

Leader Editor-in-chief

Lloyd E. Shefsky is a retired international lawyer and entrepreneur who was born in Arkansas, raised in Chicago and is now semi-retired in Florida. He’s still lecturing, consulting and writing books about living the American Dream through hard work, personal vision and playing by the rules.

He’s the best-selling author of “Entrepreneurs Are Made, Not Born.” In his latest book, “Invent, Reinvent, Thrive: The Keys to Success for Any Startup, Entrepreneur or Family Business” (McGraw-Hill, $26), he celebrates the lives of individuals whose names are associated with products and services that offer great value, never skimp on quality and are crazy about customer service.

Shefsky traces his roots to McGehee (Desha County), where his uncle owned a dry-goods store that Lloyd’s dad helped run for a few months before heading back to Chicago during the Second World War. Lloyd was born in Lake Village in 1941 and still returns, occasionally, to the Delta.

A savvy business lawyer, lecturer and educator, Shefsky has more than 40 years of experience advising and drawing inspiration from the titans of Chicago business, such as the Crown and Pritzker families of Chicago.

He’s a cheerleader for capitalism, grateful for the opportunities America has offered his family, while so many of his relatives who stayed behind in the old country perished in the Holocaust.

Shefsky graduated from the University of Chicago Law School and has taught for many years at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management near Chicago. Several prominent Arkansans went to Northwestern, where former Sen. Dale Bumpers and former Illinois politician Cecil Partee, who was born in Blytheville, earned their law degrees.

Shefsky is a graceful writer whose book is filled with sound business advice and folksy aphorisms, such as, “When focus causes you to wear blinders, you are more than likely to be blindsided,” along with such Yiddish aphorisms as, “You can’t control the wind, but you can adjust your sail.”

Shefsky has taught and lectured in China, Japan, Thailand, Israel, Canada and the U.S. He has known prominent business leaders who have built nationwide businesses from the ground up. He includes insights from the founders of Starbucks, Staples, Costco, Charles Schwab and the families who still run General Dynamics, Seagram’s, Hyatt and Radisson Hotels, Ebony and Jet magazines and others.

Like Shefsky, John Johnson was born in Desha County — in Arkansas City, a dozen miles from McGehee. The Johnsons also moved up to Chicago, where John and his wife Eunice launched Negro Digest and Ebony and many other businesses, all of them filling important needs for the growing African American middle class.

The companies profiled in “Invent, Reinvent, Thrive” are famous for being ahead of the times and focusing on customer service. When companies refuse to change with the times, they falter and go out of business. Shefsky points to Kodak, which bet its business on film even as foreign competitors were cutting its market share. More shockingly, Shefsky points out, Kodak took out a patent on a digital camera 40 years ago but decided to shelve it.

Yet Kodak, although it’s a much smaller company, has remained in business, moving into high-tech. The Leader uses thin Kodak aluminum plates that reproduce two pages at a time that are sent from our computers to plate makers and are placed on our printing presses in a couple of minutes. This process used to take several hours. We have a Kodak moment every time we print a paper and will keep using this process as long as people pick up a newspaper.

“I was born in Lake Village,” Shefsky told us. “My parents were living in McGehee, where my uncle owned the general store. We moved from Arkansas when I was six months old, which explains my lack of accent.

“My parents were from Chicago. My mother’s sister was a law firm receptionist in Chicago. One day, a gentleman with a peculiar accent (combination U.S. Southerner and Romanian) came to see one of the lawyers. Upon being ushered in, he told the receptionist, ‘Don’t you leave, because I want to see you when I come out and I intend to marry you.’

“And so that gentleman married that receptionist, becoming my uncle and taking my aunt with him to his home in McGehee, the location of one of the half dozen general stores that he and his brothers owned in southern Arkansas and northern Louisiana,” Shefsky said.

“In 1940, my uncle purchased an extremely large, and advantageously priced, inventory that lay in escrowed storage pending his obtaining financing to take down the inventory. To free him up to visit banks in surrounding states, he asked my father to come down and help him with the store.

“My dad was a young podiatrist whose practice wasn’t gaining steam — both were affected by the still lingering Depression. So my parents moved to McGehee. They were there just briefly when I was born, in the Lake Village Hospital,” he said.

“Unable to find the financing, my uncle was in jeopardy of losing the inventory and likely their entire business…My parents and I returned to Chicago with time to spare for celebrating my first birthday, and I remained in Chicago ever since, until a few years ago when I moved to Florida,” Shefsky said.

“I visited Arkansas when I was 7 years old and have vivid memories of my uncle’s store, my aunt and uncle’s home, and the railroad station — as a 7-year-old, I found the train stopping by the main street exciting and quite different than Chicago’s Union Station. It was my first exposure to the South. Even then, I wondered why the train station wasn’t referred to as ‘the Confederate Station,’” Shefsky recalled.

“A few years ago, I revisited McGehee and Lake Village. Mayor Jack May of McGehee was kind enough to take us on a tour of McGehee. The train no longer stopped in McGehee, and the station had become a museum, a source of pride to the mayor who developed it, but a major disappointment to the 7-year-old still in me who had wanted the train to still stop in McGehee,” he said.

“Over the years, my having been born in Arkansas has proven beneficial on a few occasions: (1) I was in a receiving line to shake hands with then-President Clinton. I quickly mentioned where I was born, which led to an additional minute of conversation, which was cool; (2) it got me an interview for ‘Entrepreneurs Are Made Not Born’ with Witt Stephens, the founder of Little Rock-based Stephens Inc. and one of the most fascinating people I’ve ever interviewed; (3) It enabled me to close a deal back in 1973, when I was actively practicing law, after opposing counsel told my client that he’d never done a deal with a Jew and didn’t intend to start then (apparently my Dixie ties trumped his bigotries),” Shefsky said.

“Invent, Reinvent, Thrive” belongs in business classrooms and boardrooms. The Walton School of Business should buy 5,000 copies of this book and give one to every student.