Tuesday, October 03, 2017

TOP STORY >> Lemons, Byrd to face off again in Primary

Leader editor

State Rep. Tim Lemons (R-Cabot) will have a familiar opponent in his bid for a third term next year.

Darlene Byrd will challenge him again in House Dist. 43 in the Republican primary set for May 2018.

It will be a rematch of their 2014 faceoff in the Republican primary for the seat, when Lemons was first elected. Lemons won by 653 votes. He ran unopposed in 2016.

Byrd, a nurse practitioner, is chairwoman of the Lonoke County 911 Call Center Advisory Committee, which is working to modernize the county’s emergency response system. Last year, she served four months on the quorum court after being appointed by the governor to fill the Dist. 12 seat being vacated by Matt Sanders.

Byrd said health-care policy, improving the state’s emergency response call system and fiscal responsibility would be her top priorities in the legislature.

“Being an advanced practice nurse, I see what patients and providers face every day,” she said.

Byrd has had a 28-year career in nursing, and the last 21 have been as an advance practice nurse. She is on faculty at UAMS College of Nursing.

Dist. 43 includes most of Cabot and parts of northwest Lonoke County.

Lemons said on Tuesday, “The opportunity to serve the citizens of Cabot is an honor I’ll cherish forever, and I’m looking forward to continuing that dedicated service in the next term. I’m thankful for the continued support of the people of Dist. 43, and I ask for their support again in the coming election season.”

He said he helped cut taxes for Arkansas families and is committed to reforming the state tax code. He said he supports business growth and Arkansas’ public school systems.

“Cabot is fortunate to have one of the best schools in the state. It’s important to me that we take lessons learned from our success here and apply it across Arkansas to help every student get a great education,” Lemons said.

He served six years on the Lonoke County Quorum Court before joining the legislature.

He’s also served on many Cabot-area boards, including the Cabot chamber and Cabot Parks and Recreation. He has coached several youth baseball teams and volunteered for Special Olympics, Relay for Life and Project Lead the Way at Cabot High School.

At the Capitol, Lemons is chairman of the City, County and Local Affairs Committee. He is a member of the House Public Transportation Com-mittee and the Legislative Joint Audit.

“Many times, the decisions in the City, County and Local Affairs Committee have a direct and immediate impact of the residents of our state, along with the city and counties to which they are governed. I take this big responsibility to heart and will continue to do what I can to increase jobs while cutting the waste from government and reducing taxes,” Lemons said.

Lemons was encouraged to seek re-election by his wife Janice, who for much of this year has been undergoing treatment for pancreatic cancer.

“During our last visit to MD Anderson, we received a great report that Janice is beating this cancer. After leaving the doctor, Janice asked me to please consider running, for her. I have been in church all my life, but I never realized just how strong prayer really is, and I thank those who continue to pray for Janice and our family,” he said.

They live in Cabot, where he owns Lemons Engineering Consultants. They have two children and two grandchildren.

Byrd was born in Little Rock and raised in Pine Bluff. She is not married and does not have children.

She earned her bachelor’s and master’s in nursing from UAMS and has a doctorate of nursing practice from the University of Tennessee Health Science Center.

She provides clinical services on a fill-in basis and now works in Altheimer (Jefferson County).

“Over the last year, I’ve become aware of some of the problems of interoperability of emergency first responders,” she said Monday of her interest in boosting 911 response.

Byrd mentioned Lonoke County has some dead spots in the Arkansas Wireless Infor-mation Network, which handles public-safety communications.

She said, as a legislator, she’d help the state prepare for “the next generation of emergency 911 call systems.”

“AT&T has received contract for First Net, dedicated for public safety across the country,” Byrd said.

The county’s 911 advisory committee will meet Thursday, she said.

“We need to be fiscally responsible with what we do and how we do it. Make sure to have the infrastructure to rollout the next generation of emergency technology,” she said.

Byrd said she was urged to run again by Cabot Alderman Rick Prentice, Wynonne Dwiggins of the Wade Knox Child Advocacy Center and Janice Treadway of Kiwanis Club. Byrd emphasized those organizations have not endorsed her.

“I appreciate their support and their willingness to serve on my committee and in this campaign,” Byrd said.

Byrd is president of the Lonoke County Coalition for Progress, which holds the annual Lonoke County Leadership program. She is first vice president of the Lonoke County Republican Committee.

Byrd was appointed by then-Gov. Mike Huckabee to the Arkansas State Board of Nursing and served one term as its president. Former Secretary of Health and Human Services Secretary Mike Leavitt appointed her to the National Advisory Committee for Rural Health and Human Services.

She has worked with state legislators, the state Depart-ment of Health and Arkansas Medicaid on a variety of health-care issues.