Saturday, May 17, 2008

EDITORIAL >>Put inmates to work

The Natural State is nice, but the Trash State is more apt. Anyone who has traveled extensively outside our borders must be struck by the contrast in roadsides. Ours are littered with drink cans and bottles, Styrofoam containers, plastic sacks, sandwich wrappings and the other flotsam of our nomadic lives.

Thirty years ago, Gov. David Pryor was so anguished by the sight on his pilgrimages around the state that he pushed the legislature to pass a tough litter law. It imposed stiffer penalties for littering and to pay for a permanent statewide cleanup it levied a tax on the disposable containers of fast-food merchants. But the anger from merchants was so palpable that, in response to alarms from lawmakers who had voted for it, he called a hasty special session of the legislature to repeal the act right before it was to take effect.

Gov. Mike Beebe last week proposed another way, and we like it. He wants to parole selected inmates of the state prisons a few weeks ahead of their scheduled releases on condition that they police the highways and streets for trash under the supervision of parole officers. They would do the cleanup statewide that a few civic groups now perform along a few designated stretches of highways. Highway and correctional officials have been meeting with the governor’s correctional adviser to work out the details.

One correctional official said the problem was so immense and people’s littering habits so ingrained that the parole project might not make much of a difference statewide. People’s habits have to be changed.

He may be right that a stern educational program is needed as well, but we remember what happened when New York City embarked on a campaign to clean graffiti off the subway cars and walls every night, persistently. After a while, the vandals gave up and the graffiti pretty much stopped.

Gov. Beebe has proved to be an uncanny problem solver. We hope for your driving pleasure that he has solved another.

EDITORIAL >>Buddy Villines on Tuesday

When you reach county judge on the Pulaski County ballot Tuesday, it would be best to remember Voltaire’s advice: Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good.

Buddy Villines, who has been the county judge for six terms, is a far cry from a perfect public servant. He has made abundant mistakes, most memorably his appointment of a county controller who turned out to be something of a crook and then his defense of the county’s efforts to keep secret the man’s email correspondence with his illicit sweetie, with whom he was conducting business on behalf of the county. Judge Mary Ann McGowan scotched that business, thank goodness.

But Villines is an intelligent, thoughtful and occasionally visionary official.

A solution to the county’s biggest problem, paying for a vastly expanded jail, has eluded him and the quorum court because a slight majority of voters last year found the complicated tax remedy unacceptable. But that may be resolved by year’s end.

His opponent in the Democratic primary is Buddy York, a bail bondsman who ran two years ago as a Republican and got only a smattering of votes. York says he would build and operate a larger jail by cutting expenses here and there in county operations.

Law enforcement maybe? Sanitation?

You can’t shut down the courts.

And you can’t rob the road department for a jail. It’s illegal.

We see no real alternative to Villines in the primary.

The general election will deserve another look. There is a viable Republican candidate.

TOP STORY > >Sherwood wants to take in more north Pulaski schools

Leader staff writer

Sherwood is looking to grow some more. The city recently annexed the rural community of Gravel Ridge, and now it’s looking to bring Cato Elementary and Northwood Middle schools into Sherwood.

“The Pulaski County Special School District board signed off on the idea Tuesday night,” said Sherwood Mayor Virginia Hillman.

The move, the mayor said, is to protect the schools and Sherwood residents from a possible Jacksonville school district.

“It’s nothing against Jacksonville,” the mayor said, “but we don’t want another city having control over our residents and most of the students at those two schools are residents of our city.”

Unlike the Gravel Ridge annexation, where both Sherwood and Jacksonville went out and initiated the annexation, forcing three separate votes of the residents before Sherwood was picked over Jacksonville, Hillman is hoping the two schools will come into the city through a voluntary petition.

If at least half of the property owners controlling at least half of the land voluntarily ask to join a city, the annexation can occur with just a vote of the city council.

Hillman said Cato Elementary is 330 feet from the Sherwood city limits.

One property owner controls the land between the city limits and the school, and the mayor doesn’t know if that property owner would sign the petition.

“But, we’ve already had the property owner across the street say he wants to join the city. So along with the school district, that makes more than 50 percent of the owners and more than 50 percent of the property,” she said.

The city has already asked for a legal description of the area for the purposes of possible annexation.

Hillman said that the north end of Cato Elementary’s property abuts the Northwood Middle School property, so it can all be brought in to the city just on a petition of two property owners.

“Of course we’d love it if all three property owners sign the petition,” the mayor said.

Jacksonville has been working for years to break away from the county district, and that effort has increased lately.

City leaders brought a resolution to the PCSSD board last month calling for a stand-alone Jacksonville School District that would include Jacksonville and North Pulaski high schools and all schools that feed into them, including Cato Elementary and Northwood Middle School.

The county school board turned down, by a vote of four to two, the resolution endorsing the idea of a Jacksonville district and asking the state Education Department to move forward on the issue.

Pulaski County Special School District Board President Charlie Wood justified his “no” vote by saying that Gravel Ridge area patrons don’t seem to want to be part of a Jacksonville district.

Days earlier, Wood told attendees at the Jacksonville Chamber of Commerce luncheon that he didn’t think a standalone Jacksonville district was a good idea, but that he would vote to allow residents to decide for themselves.

Joining Wood in voting down the resolution were Pam Roberts, Mildred Tatum and Shana Chaplin.

Voting in favor of the resolution were Bill Vasquez and Danny Gilliland.

At that board meeting, Hillman said her city wanted their students attending PCSSD schools in Sherwood.

On the Gravel Ridge annexation, Hillman said Sherwood police started covering the area last week.

TOP STORY > >Long ballot for several area races

Leader staff writer

Most state and local legislative seats on Tuesday’s ballot are uncontested, but many of the judicial races that Pulaski County residents can vote on offer other choices.

Judicial races are considered non-partisan, so candidates do not declare if they are Democrat, Republican or some other party affiliation.

Cecily Paterson Skarda is challenging incumbent Mary McGowan for the Division 9, District 6 circuit judge seat.

Melinda Gilbert and Cathi Compton are vying for the Division 11, Subdistrict 6.2 circuit judge seat, which is a juvenile court position.

Judge Wendell Griffen of the Arkansas Court of Appeals is challenged by Rita Gruber.

Democrat Buddy York is challenging Pulaski County Judge Buddy Villines for the right to take on Republican candidate Phil Wyrick.

Depending on where one lives, a county resident may vote for either Democrat Kathy Lewison or Robert E. Hymer Sr. to take on Republican Sid Rosenbaum in the race for justice of the peace District 3 in November.

The winner Tuesday between incumbent Wiliandra S. Dean and Kenyon K. Lowe in the Democratic primary will capture the JP District 5 seat, as there is no Republican opposition.

JP District 8 seat is also up for grabs between Democrat challenger Curtis A. Keith and incumbent Annette “Ann” McCaleb.

Many Sherwood residents will be able to decide on the Republican candidate for the House District 43 seat between Tom Raley and Steven Meckfessel. The winner takes on Democrat Jim Nichols in the fall.

The District 38 seat has two Republican and two Democratic candidates. On the Republican side, it’s Ed Linck and Kelly Eichler.

For the Democrats, it’s Jeff Dailey and John C. Edwards.

Two Democrats are also competing for the District 36 seat. They are Charles King and Darrin Williams.

Area candidates running without opposition are Judge Robert Batton for another term as Jacksonville district judge and Judge Milas “Butch” Hale III for another term as the Sherwood district judge.

Jacksonville’s Mark Perry, who is running as a Democrat for the House District 44 seat, faces no Republican opposition.

Jacksonville’s Bob Johnson, a Republican, has no opposition for another term as District 11 justice of the peace.

On the national level, Mark Pryor is on the ballot for another term as U.S. Senator and Vic Snyder is going for another term as District 2 U.S. representative. Neither face opposition in November.

TOP STORY > > Democrats challenged in primary

Leader senior staff writer

Two Lonoke Democratic JPs moved out of the districts they represented and resigned in the past few months, setting up races in three Democratic districts in Tuesday’s primary.

Adam Sims and Robert DePriest are competing for the position vacated by Richard Kyzer, who moved from District 7 to District 8, where he is challenging the incumbent, Roger Dale Lynch.

In District 10, three Lonoke residents are competing for the seat vacated by Kyle Lackey.

They are Wes Clement, Ronnie Evans and Bill Ryker.

Gov. Mike Beebe appointed Virgil Turner to serve the balance of Lackey’s term and Daryl Clement to serve the balance of Kyzer’s term, but as appointees, they are not eligible to seek election.

Just as in the Republican primary, all Democrats running for Lonoke County Quorum Court say they support the one-year, one-penny countywide sales tax to pay for a new jail.


While this race has no incumbent, both office seekers have served on the quorum court in the past. Sims, 39, a Union Pacific locomotive electrician, served two terms on the court, ending in 1999.

He said he ran in 1999, but “we had some family issues and my heart wasn’t in it,” he said. He lost to Daryl Clement.

While on the court, “I was the one that took on the telephone companies trying to get long-distance toll charges eliminated,” he said. While he didn’t get everything he wanted, he got the number of prefixes in the county reduced and expanded the range of local calls. “We got affordable calling plans,” he said.

“We lost a son two years ago, who had a lot of medical problems,” he said.

Things have calmed down.

“I’m getting pack to politics and think everyone should be involved,” he said. Sims wants the sheriff’s office to either build a substation in his district or else get a mobile unit that could be moved around the county, where crime rate is high.

“I want to get the park project going again. Land near Furlow and South Bend was donated by First Electric for a kids’ park,” he said.

“We need animal control to do something about stray animals,” he said.

Sims was born in Sherwood and his family moved to Lonoke County his junior year in high school. He is married to the former Laurie Felton. They have one surviving son.

He supports the one-year county sales tax to build a new jail, although he says he opposes tax increases in general. “You’ve got to have a place to put these people,” he said.

Sims has a bachelor’s degree in business administration from UALR. He’s a Persian Gulf veteran.

DePriest, 61, served the unexpired portion of his father’s term on the quorum court. He served on the Lonoke School Board for 10 years. DePriest is a farmer and managed Lonoke Fertilizer and Chemical Company, which has since closed its doors.

He taught school and coached in Batesville for five years, leaving to farm with his father and his brother, Jimmy DePriest.

“I just like politics and to do things for other people,” DePriest said. “I’m a life long Democrat, my dad and his dad were life-long Democrats,” he said. “I’ve been involved directly and indirectly for a long time.”

He said the most important thing the next quorum court will deal with is the new jail.

He said his district needed better support. There is need for first responders in the area and perhaps a countywide ambulance service. “I see a glaring need for it now,” he said.

Of the penny sales tax on the ballot, he says, “I think that’s the only way we can (get a new jail.) This is not a rich county. It’s basically agricultural.”

DePriest would like the county to find a way to utilize some of the County Library Tax surplus.

He grew up in Furlow and is a graduate of Lonoke High School and Arkansas Tech. He is married to the former Debby Tanner Maroney. They have a daughter at the University of Central Arkansas and two children by a previous marriage.


Kyzer, 29, is challenging Lynch, 57, who is seeking his second term.

Lynch, who manages several units for Remington Arms, has worked there for 37 years, he said. He manages the maintenance and facility unit and also the primer-manufacturing unit. “I managed most of the units at one time or another,” he said.

He started there after a year of college and basic training.

He’s a member of the budget and personnel committees.

The budget committee works with the department heads to formulate a budget proposal, which is then submitted to the entire quorum court for review and approval.

The personnel committee has been working on both a new personnel policy and also to contract with consultants to study all county positions and set appropriate pay ranges for them that would be competitive with pay and benefits in neighboring counties and nearby private industry.

“I support the (jail) sales tax. Everyone who spends helps pay for a jail.” he said, while if the county were to level a millage, only the property owners would pay. “It’s more equitable that way,” he said, adding that the jail was “a fairly dismal situation.”

He said he wants the next quorum court to consider what to do when someone’s use of their property—for a sewage plant for instance—interferes with the ability of others to enjoy their property. Perhaps some sort of zoning he said.

Lynch has his experience in managing people and allocating scarce resources makes him valuable to the court.

Lynch is married to the former Sheila Gold, a Lonoke graduate. They have a daughter in the Fulbright Honors program at the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville and a son who is a 10th grader at Lonoke.

“I’m hardworking, loyal and don’t shirk my duty,” he said. “When I say I’m going to do something, I get it done.”

Kyzer has been elected three times and served five years on the quorum court before moving out of his district recently and into Lynch’s.

He disagrees with Lynch about the JESAP program to make county pay grades competitive to similar jobs elsewhere. “I’m against telling elected officials how to run their offices,” said Kyzer. “That’s spending a lot of money just for a suggestion.

That’s money we could use to pay for the family portion of health insurance for people already employed in the county.”

Kyzer said he not only approves of the proposed penny sales tax to pay for a new jail, “I seconded the jail tax motion,” he said.

He opposed paying for the jail by millage increase.

Kyzer is a wastewater utility training specialist with the city of Little Rock, for whom he’s worked for six years.

He’s a graduate of Lonoke High School and is married with two children.

Kyzer has served on various committees and has been active in several projects including the Lonoke County Courthouse expansion. He has a good working relationship with the now existing quorum court and the county judge.

He first began community service in the South Bend Volunteer Fire Department junior firefighter program at age 13.

He is active in his church.


The three-way race for the seat vacated by Lackey pits a fish farm employee, another Remington Arms manager and a local businessman against each other.

Wes Clement, 31, works at Pool’s Fish Hatchery. This is his first run for office, although his father, Daryl Clement, is a former Lonoke County justice.

“I want to help people,” Clement said. “What better way than to get on the quorum court?

“I want my district to be able to use its money for themselves and not see it go to Cabot or other districts. The southern district of Lonoke County is struggling, not getting any attention paid to them.

“I grew up in Furlow. My family’s been out there for 100 years. I went to Lonoke schools and graduated there,” he added.

Clement said he supported the new jail tax. “It’s not going to be on there forever,” he said.

Clement and his wife have one son.

Evans, 36, said this is his first run for office, but “I’ve been involved in my community. I do my part and maybe more.”

Evans manages the explosives and metallics manufacturing at Remington Arms.

He has served as state president of the Arkansas Water Fowl Association, a group that teaches youngsters hunting ethics and conservation, he said. The funds they raise go back into scouting, 4H and baseball programs as well as kids camps and duck hunts for them.

He has been an Awana leader for the Baptist Camp.

“I want to continue with what’s going on,” he said. “The jail needs to be taken care of and also an ambulance service.” He said weather-warning sirens need to be put up out in the county, perhaps at rural volunteer fire department.

Evans says he supports the new county sales tax for the jail.

“Keo would have benefited,” he said, speaking of the tornado destruction in that area. “I want to help improve the infrastructure of Lonoke County.”

“My experience is practical, hands-on,” he said.

Evans and his wife Janice have a 15-year-old son and a girl, 7.

Ryker, 65, has long been active in Lonoke City civic affairs, taking a leading role in construction of the Lonoke Memorial Flag Plaza and in working toward making the second Lonoke I-40 interchange a reality, but it’s his first run for office.

“Experience counts,” said Ryker. “I’ve had experience helping on committees and with running his business, M and M Floral, since 1985.”

Before that, he was an insurance agent.

“I’ve been in business for myself since 1975, he said.

He’s lived in the area since he married in 1966.

Ryker is chairman of the retail economic committee. He has worked with several mayors on Lonoke’s Industrial Development Committee.

“I’ve always been involved in the city, helping it grow, evolve and bring in new industry. That’s good for everybody.”

Ryker said he’s a strong supporter of education and wants to “keep our young people in the community. Better roads and industry bring jobs.

He’s a 1966 UALR graduate in business, advertising and art.

“The county judge appoints committees and I want to bring my business sense to the court,” he said.

He added because the sales tax to build a new jail sunsets at the end of one year, he supports it.

TOP STORY > >Choice of Lonoke judges can be confusing

Leader staff writer

District court is the place where misdemeanor offenders get to plead their cases before a judge, but many of the candidates for judge over the district courts in Lonoke County say they’re doing more than that. Districts are also the place to stop illegal behavior from escalating to the felony level.

Lonoke County has been divided into northern and southern districts. The northern district holds court in Cabot and serves Cabot, Ward and Austin. Judge Joe O’Bryan, who has been on the bench there for 18 years, is being challenged by Ken Williams.

In the southern district, which has courts in Lonoke, Carlisle and England, three candidates are on the ballot, but only one, Teresa Hallum Smith, hopes to preside over all three courts. Ginger Stuart Schafer is running only for Lonoke district judge, while Judge Joe Svoboda is running for district judge in Carlisle and England, positions he has held since 1976.

You are not alone. In an effort to clear up the confusion in the southern district, Svoboda included a sample ballot on the brochure he hands out as he campaigns door-to-door, a ballot that includes candidates for judge in Carlisle, Lonoke and England.

He said this week that the residents of Lonoke are often bewildered when he knocks on their doors. He said he explains that he does know where he is, but what they need to know is that they get to vote in all the races for the southern district judge position because the police officer who gives a traffic ticket in Carlisle might very well send the case to the court in Lonoke.

In the northern district, Judge O’Bryan is campaigning for the first time in many years. The judge is known for working out payment plans for fines. He also was one of the first judges in the state to order those convicted of driving under the influence of alcohol to submit to almost constant monitoring to prove that they were sober enough to drive. But he said in recent months he has been looking more at a program implemented by Judge Vic Fleming of Little Rock who holds traffic court at high schools to show young offenders what happens when they drink and drive.

“It might drive a point home to some,” O’Bryan said.

O’Bryan said he also sees domestic violence cases that he believes can be stopped with intervention and it’s essential that offenders receive the help they need.

“Aside from fines and sentences, I try to offer defendants a path out,” he said. “It’s not easy being in trouble.”

Williams, a former Cabot city attorney who also served more than two years as the appointed district judge in Lonoke, says there must be a better way than what the courts are currently doing to stop bad behavior – illegal behavior – from escalating.

Lonoke County has a serious drug problem, Williams said. Fines and incarceration haven’t curtailed it, so perhaps drug treatment programs would.

“I’m interested in setting up a rehab program,” he said. “There are some faith-based programs out there that we are looking at.”

Williams said the court can’t do it alone, that the community will need to get involved.

“We have a unique opportunity at that level to modify behavior,” he said. “If we miss it and they take the next step and make it to circuit court, it’s too late.

“I will search high and low for solutions. I know there must be a better way,” he said.
Judge Svoboda has always run unopposed in England and Carlisle, but this year, he has had to campaign. And many of the southern Lonoke County residents he has encountered have been before him in court, usually for traffic charges they think are unwarranted.

“I hope I at least treated you fairly even if you didn’t like my decision. That’s the most important thing to me,” the judge said he tells them. And most have said he did.

Svoboda said what most defendants want is to have a chance to tell their side of the story. Since he works during the day for the attorney general and holds court at night, the defendants he sees have given up their time away from work to plead their cases and they expect to be treated with respect.

“I try to reach the right decisions based on the facts,” he said. “But I also try to make them understand why I reached that decision.”

“If they are willing to take time out of their lives to come to court, they must feel like it was worth their while,” he said.

Schafer, a partner in her father’s law firm in Lonoke, says she is the only candidate for Lonoke District Court judge who lives in

Lonoke and will be available at all hours to sign search and arrest warrants.

But she says availability is not the only reason voters should consider her for district judge.

“In my private practice, I have both defended and assisted in the prosecution of misdemeanor criminal offenses. My private practice involves a wide range of civil cases, including contract, property, tort, and domestic-relations cases. Rather than limit myself to only one area of law, I have had diverse legal experiences that I believe will help me to effectively adjudicate the different types of cases heard by a district court judge,” Schafer said.

“As for changes to the current system, I want to create a more fair and automated system of dealing with first-time offenders with low-level offenses and otherwise clean records in that they will be automatically offered some form of probation and fine penalties, rather than having a first lapse in judgment to negatively affect their driving records and insurance rates,” she said.

“Currently, the system treats offenders who know to ask for such a resolution of their offenses differently than those that do not, which I do not believe is fair. Obviously, a person needs to be punished for breaking the law, but the punishments should be uniform, giving no group special favors over another group,” she said.

Smith, who has worked both as an assistant prosecutor and an assistant public defender, says she has always viewed herself as a public servant and she sees the district court as a place where change in society can begin.

Smith said the defendants in district court too often get caught up in a cycle of fines.

They are fined for some infraction of the law and when they can’t pay the fines, that’s another infraction that leads to another fine they can’t pay. Or perhaps their misdeeds are more malicious, and fines, even if they could pay them, won’t make them change their course.”

“Assessing a fine is not the answer in every case,” Smith said. “Rehab might be the answer sometimes. Or maybe jail time is the answer.”

The same defendants go through the district courts time after time, Smith said.

“It’s snowballing,” she said. “We’ve got to figure out a solution. It’s got to start somewhere.”

TOP STORY > >Sheriff challenged in Lonoke County

Leader staff writer

Both Democrats and Republicans will go to the polls Tuesday to begin the process of electing a sheriff in Lonoke County.

In the Republican primary, the choice is between Sheriff Jim Roberson, who is in his sixth year as head of county law enforcement, and John Staley, who, at 28, has eight years of experience in law enforcement, which, he points out, is two years more than the sheriff has. This is Staley’s second race.

In the Democratic primary, Sam Chamberlain Jr., a former Pulaski County sheriff’s deputy and retired chief master sergeant with the Air Force, is running for the second time. But this is the first race for his opponent, Steve Rich, who has 23 years experience in law enforcement mostly in Lonoke and Pulaski counties.

If there is a common link between all the candidates who hope to take Roberson’s job, it’s in traffic. Roberson and his deputies run radar and stop speeders. All three of the other candidates say the deputies’ time and the county’s money could be put to better use.

They also say a sheriff’s job is to be an administrator, not an investigator or road deputy.

Roberson, whose experience was in law enforcement before he became sheriff, and was limited to his time as a Pulaski County jailer, takes issue with Staley’s claim that he is the more experienced Republican candidate for the job.

“I’m 60 years old,” the sheriff said. “How can he have more experience?”

Roberson said he has campaigned very little to keep his job. He has to work during the day and can’t legally campaign while he’s on the job, he said.

In answer to Lonoke County Judge Charlie Troutman’s query about how the campaign was going, Roberson said, “The people I see can’t vote.”

But he said from the limited campaigning he has done, it appears county residents are satisfied with his work.

“I’ve asked what changes people want and basically, the ones I’ve talked to like what we’re doing taking drug dealers off the streets,” he said.

The sheriff said one of the biggest problems in the county now is sexual assault.

The county has one detective assigned to investigate sex crimes, he said, but at least two are needed. He said he patrols because he is short-staffed. He also defends running radar to catch speeders.

“Radar is a good probable-cause tool,” he said. “We’ve served several hundred felony warrants by making traffic stops.”

The sheriff said he is proud of how far the department has come in six years. He now has good cars to drive and the technology has been upgraded, he said. When he took office he had to bring his own computer from home, he said.

Although employee turnover was high in the first two years, that is no longer the case, he said. Now the department has good equipment, good people and a good reputation.

“We are the elite in the state now,” he said. “We’re the people other people come to and ask how we do it.

“I stand on my record. People know what I’ve done. They’re only saying what they can do,” he said.

Staley, a Jacksonville police officer who works in the schools and the sheriff’s opponent in the primary, says he also thinks the county needs more deputies, but if elected he intends to put citizens on patrol who can watch for signs of trouble and call the deputies for help.

He said he also would ask the county’s elected constables to help out with patrol.
Theft in the rural areas is a big problem, Staley said, and that is where deputies need to concentrate their efforts, not in passing out speeding tickets.

He also is concerned about high-speed chases that can be deadly even for bystanders.

Staley said they are seldom necessary and if elected he would try to work with the city police departments in purchasing spike strips for stopping cars.

Staley also is concerned that the sheriff went over his budget for 2007 but didn’t use all of a federal grant he received. If elected, Staley said he would try to get more federal grants.

The county sheriff should be an administrator who works with other county and city officials and makes a point of meeting regularly with the public, Staley said.

What the county needs, he said is “more leadership and fewer traffic stops.”

Chamberlain, 51, said if elected he intends to save money on fuel and time by dividing the county into north and south precincts and stationing officers there while he would like an office in the courthouse where he would be available to the public.

Chamberlain, who now works as an unpaid auxiliary officer in Austin where his wife Bernie Chamberlain is mayor, was security officer in the Air Force in 1974-1979 who handled bomb dogs protecting Pres. Jimmy Carter.

His work as a fulltime police officer included departments in Washington, D.C. and Pulaski County under Tommy Robinson.

He joined the National Guard in 1982 and went active duty in 1988. For many years, he held a supervisory position as loadmaster. To keep his certification, he worked for Lonoke County and finally for Austin.

Chamberlain compares the sheriff to a rookie who feels like he can save the world by his own efforts.

“It’s not about you,” he said. “It’s about the people who do the work. Having the right people under you makes everything go smoother and you get a lot more done.”

If elected, Chamberlain said he would take the radar guns out of the patrol cars so the deputies would concentrate on watching residents’ homes.

A sheriff’s job is to protect families first and then their property, he said, adding that the current sheriff focuses too much on traffic.

Rich took a leave of absence from the Lonoke County Sheriff’s Department where he worked as an investigator to run for sheriff. Now he is a manager at Routh Wrecker in Little Rock, one of the largest wrecker services in the state.

“I believe I’m the right man for the job,” he said. “I want to upgrade the department’s image. I want to be less traffic-oriented and more focused on crimes against persons.”

He said as sheriff he would try to make better use of the available assets because the reality is that most counties are short of money.

Rich disagrees with Staley and Chamberlain that the current sheriff has no experience. He had none when he started, but now he has six years, Rich said.

But that comes nowhere close to his 23 years of experience that will make him a better sheriff than any of the other candidates, he said.

“The other guys aren’t dirt bags,” he said. “I just think I’m the best man for the job.”

Friday, May 16, 2008

SPORTS>>Big numbers, quality depth has Malham anxious for autumn

Leader sportswriter

It takes a lot to impress Mike Malham.

The Cabot head football coach, who will enter his 27th season at the Panther helm, has seen a little of it all. This decade alone has seen drastic shifts, from the state-title winning team of 2000, to the 1-9 train wreck that was the 2005 season, and a return to the postseason last year after a two-year hiatus.

The 2008 version of the Panthers, however, impresses him greatly.
Solid and balanced numbers, along with more overall skill speed had Malham excited as spring football began this week.

“Last year, the problem was everybody got hurt,” Malham said. “When you’re in the ninth game, and you look up and have 11 starters off the field that started the season, that’s hard to overcome.

“I think we’ve been pretty productive this spring. We have a lot of kids back from last year. We’ve got nine back on both sides of the ball. And we’re expecting to have a pretty decent team. If we don’t do well, it will be very disappointing.”

There was no shortage of talent last season, but an injury list that turned into more of a scroll, particularly at the skill positions, had the Panthers playing with a skeleton crew by the time they qualified for the 7A state playoffs with a dramatic win over Russellville during week 10.

The biggest part of that list was reserved for quarterbacks. Nathan Byrnes went out early with an ACL tear, followed by a broken collarbone for Seth Bloomberg sustained during the win over Central. From that point, the Panthers limped to the finish under center, but Malham says Byrnes and Bloomberg will both be 100 percent by the fall.

“Bloomberg is back and working,” Malham said. “Byrnes is back. He’s not going to go through contact drills, but he’s been doing everything else.”

The Panthers look good everywhere, but the offensive backfield will sport a ton of talent, and something they have not enjoyed much of in recent years — depth.

Returning at fullback will be junior Michael James, who rushed for over 1,700 yards last year as a sophomore. Vince Aguilar will join him at halfback. Aguilar started at fullback some as a sophomore before giving up that post to Colin Fuller, but sat out most of last season due to a knee injury.

Also returning to the backfield will be Chris Bayles, who Malham lists as the fastest player on the team. Bayles was yet another skill player to succumb to injury last year when he broke his ankle in the Conway game.

“We’re going to have a little more speed in our skill spots,” Malham said. “Even in the secondary with the two Bryant twins, both of them run good. Bayles is probably the fastest kid we’ve got. He runs real well. Not real big, but he’s back there. He and (Wesley) Sowell can both run around 4.5.

“James and Aguilar are not speedsters, but they’re not slow either. They’re more like 4.7s, but for us that’s not bad. But Vince is back, and him back there with James doesn’t look bad.”

The numbers have worked out quite nicely for the Panthers this spring: 28 returning seniors, 28 juniors, and more than 50 sophomores. Malham says that number will have to decrease some before the fall, but hopes that the process will be natural, and will not require a cut.

Sowell, who is also expected to be an integral part of Cabot’s full-house backfield, is currently sidelined after having his knee scoped a couple of weeks back. Les McGregor started at tight end last year, but hasn’t been practicing in the spring after a recent shoulder operation. The other tight end, Blake Carter, is currently out with back issues.

While the offense is hurting, the defense appears to be all-systems-go this spring.

The Panthers will return not only four of their starting linebackers from last year, but also the speedy cornerback duo of Hunter Hess and Zach Coy. Joe and Powell Bryant will once again start in the safety positions, giving Cabot both good speed and decent size in the defensive backfield.

“Most of the defense will be more juniors,” Malham said. “But we played a lot of sophomores last year. They are juniors that have experience. We had six guys rotate on the defensive line last year, and five of those guys are back.

“As much as we have coming back, it should look good. When you have experience, that’s something you can’t replace. They should know what to do, it’s not like we’re changing a lot. If they know what’s going on, they’re going to be one step ahead of the game.”

The vacant guard position on the defensive line has already been filled with junior Jared Maxwell. Maxwell played at linebacker last year as a sophomore, but will fill in up front for ’08.

The offensive line has also looked solid during spring drills. Returning will be senior tackles Nick Pleger and Jordan Gunn, along with guard Matt Jackson. Another pair of seniors, Blake Carter and Les McGregor, will return to the tight end positions.

“We’ve got some good competition in that offensive line,” Malham said. “We’ve got some kids that are giving them a challenge for some spots, even though we’ve got them all back, there are one or two that are stepping up.”

Malham said they have one more spot to fill on the line, but that the Panthers will have plenty of depth and good rotations up front.

Among players listed as still in the running for a starting spot on the offensive line include seniors P.J. McFadden and Zach McNeill.

Malham said he was pleased not only with the increase in numbers this spring, but in the greater number of kids who appear qualified to see playing time this fall. That is something Malham says should lead to greater depth, and more specialization.

“It gets you a step ahead,” Malham said. “Nice thing about it is, we’ve got our numbers there in pretty good shape. Where we usually practice offense and then everybody practices defense, this spring, we just said ‘you’re offense and you’re defense’ and we’ve tried to completely separate, so they’re getting more time on that side of the ball.

“Since we know what most of them can do, since we’ve got so much back, it’s working out pretty good. Instead of an hour of offense and an hour of defense, I get two hours of offense.”

SPORTS>>Wildcats to battle Marmaduke today for championship

Leader sportswriter

Mention Harding Academy athletics, and most people will think of football, track or girls basketball.

Baseball may be added to that list after today. The Wildcats take to Baum Stadium in Fayetteville at 12:30 this afternoon to battle Marmaduke for the 3A state championship.

The diamond ’Cats (27-3), playing in only their fifth season, went through the postseason virtually uncontested. An 11-8 win over Glen Rose in the first round of the Region 2 tournament ended up as their toughest regional test, with blowouts over Conway St. Joseph in the semis and an 11-1 spanking of Bauxite in the finals to earn the No. 2 seed out of the West in the state tournament.

The home field advantage the Wildcats enjoyed at their own Wiggins’ Field during the regionals carried over just up the street at Jerry Moore Field, Harding University’s home field and site of this year’s 3A state tournament.

There, Harding Academy continued its assault on 3A baseballwith a 13-3 blowout over Lamar in six innings. The toughest playoff test to date came from Gurdon in the quarterfinals, when the Wildcats had to rally from a one-run deficit in the fifth inning to claim a 6-4 win.

That set up a semifinal game with Corning on Tuesday. Harding Academy fans packed the stands and were treated to a 10-4 Wildcat win behind with another dominant performance from junior hurler Matt Lincoln. He improved his season record to 11-1 with a 4-hitter, but head coach Dennis Rine said that Lincoln’s sterling record is no guarantee that he’ll get the nod today.

“It will either be Braxton Bennett or Matt Lincoln, but we haven’t decided yet,” Rine said. “Whichever one starts, the other will be at shortstop. Coach (Scott) Diles and I have been weighing the pros and cons, debating back and forth trying to decide, and of course, they are both campaigning for the job.

“Both of them know the situation, and both of them are very competitive, but it will be one of those game-time decisions that coaches have to make in situations like this.”

As the host team for the state tournament, Rine and the HA staff had the luxury of scouting every team on hand, including all three games Marmaduke (16-8) played on its way to punching a ticket to Fayetteville.

Rine says there are plenty of reasons to be impressed by the Greyhounds, but none more than senior ace pitcher Trent Smith.

“We were able to work up a pretty decent scouting report on them by hosting the state tournament,” Rine said. “We got to see three games, so we know more about them than we have most of our opponents all year.

“They’re obviously a very competitive team to have made it this far, and they have an outstanding pitcher that we will have to try and match up with.”

The Marmaduke ace sat out the first 10 games of the season after sustaining a broken foot late in the final weeks of basketball season, which led to all but three of the Greyhounds’ losses this season. He has compiled a 6-1 record this season.

According to Marmaduke coach Larry Willis, Smith’s best pitch is the breaking ball. He throws in the low ‘80’s, and sports a 28-7 career record at MHS.

“Trent’s always been a winner for us,” Willis said. “We really think that if we had him from the start of the season, we would probably be 24 or 25-3 ourselves. We depend on him.”

Marmaduke struggled at times offensively this season, but business has picked up for the ’Hounds in the last two weeks with the addition of a batting cage to their in-progress field reconstruction.

“We know we’ll get a good game from our big hitters,” Willis said. “But I think we will need hits from some of our guys in the bottom of the lineup. Harding is a team that can put it in play one through nine, and I think we have to pick up some hits further down in the order to compete.”

The Wildcats have had their tests throughout the season, but for Willis and his Greyhounds, test doesn’t even describe their struggles over the past two seasons. A tornado wiped out their home field before the 2006 season, forcing the Greyhounds to play 49 straight games on the road.

As for nerves, and the majesty of Baum, Willis says his battle-tested team has played away games for so long, that the field they play on is of little consequence.

“We’ve had such a stretch of playing on the road, that it doesn’t bother us to play away,” Willis said. “We play as well on the road as we do at home, we’re so used to it.”

The Wildcats have shown their hand from the first of the season, and were predicted by many to go all the way this year after losing to 3A-2 foe Abundant Life in last year’s semis.

Rine says that the disappointment of coming close the past two seasons has added gas to the fire. That, along with plenty of returning experience, has helped catapult the Wildcats into the title game.

“It was a good experience for us last year just to make it to the semifinals,” Rine said. “Most of the guys from that team returned this year, and they have that experience now. We set a goal when our season ended last year that we needed to be back. The kids have been focused all year, and now they’ve been rewarded by making it past the semifinals.”

Rine said the key to winning will be in approaching today’s game with the same confidence and calm demeanor that his team has possessed all season.

“We talked about it (on Wednesday),” Rine said. “We want to go in there with a business-like attitude and be focused. We don’t want to change anything now. We’ll just keep doing what we’ve been doing.

“That’s going to be the key for us, is to stay focused and know what we need to do.”

SPORTS>>Red Devils seeking fresh start

Leader sports editor

Spring football is for fresh starts, and no team needed a fresh start quite as much as the Jacksonville Red Devils.

Picked to finish third in the 6A East a season ago, the Red Devils instead wound up as the only team to lose to Searcy and one of only two teams from the East to miss the playoffs. This after two straight seasons in the postseason, including a conference co-championship in 2006.

“We didn’t meet our goals or expectations at all last year,” said Jacksonville head coach Mark Whatley, who will begin his fourth season at the Red Devil helm in August. “I have my ideas of why, but I’m still in the kid business. Hopefully, we’ve learned the importance of working hard and preparing each and every week.”

The Red Devils, who began their two-week spring football camp on Monday, opened the 2007 campaign with a 42-0 walloping at the hands of Cabot and things never really picked up from that point on. Though they appeared to have the season righted after a 47-7 win over Jonesboro in Week 5 that improved them to 2-0 in league play, they lost their final five games to finish 3-7.

The low point came in a 10-7 loss to Searcy two weeks after that Jonesboro win.

“I thought that could be a lesson to our kids,” Whatley said. “You look at what Searcy went through (2-28 over the past three seasons) and how they stayedcommitted to what they were trying to do. It paid off for them. My hat was off to their perseverance and persistence.

“I hope we learned from that and the guys will remember.”

A lot of those Red Devils have graduated, including quarterback and Arkansas Tech signee Cameron Hood, All-State defensive end Brayden Murray, receiver Terrell L’Herise and cornerback Marquise Simpkins, as well as most of the offensive line.

But the 7-loss season didn’t keep down the turnout for spring football. Sixty-five are out, a number Whatley said is among the highest he’s had at Jacksonville. More than half — 35 — are sophomores. That’s never a particularly hopeful thing where the rugged 6A East is concerned.

“It’s always a tough time for sophomores,” Whatley said. “You go from being the big fish to the little fish. You have to try to take care of them, keep them happy. Hopefully, get past our instant, microwave society and look down the road and say, ‘I’m going to see this thing through.’”

Whatley is high on a number of those sophomores, as well as a talented corps of players who saw significant action last fall. Two of those sophomores-to-be — Logan Perry and Noah Sanders — will be vying for the quarterback spot with senior-to-be Terrell Brown. Brown not only possesses speed, but much-needed leadership potential for a young squad.

“Brown started at corner last year and he’s just a superb athlete,” Whatley said. “He’s a very intelligent kid with great work habits. We’ll try to have several different packages to meet what he’s capable of doing on the field and to take some heat off the young guys.”

Once again, the Red Devils will be running out of the spread, but with an emphasis on the running game. Whatley said he is hoping for better balance in the attack this year, and will have a couple of speedsters to shore up the ground game.

Cory Bester and Patrick Geans are returning tailbacks with exceptional speed, vision and balance, Whatley said. For straight ahead running, fullback Jeffrey Tillman returns fully recovered from an early-season injury. He and Caleb Mitchell will split time at the position, and Tillman will anchor the linebacking corps as well.

The Red Devils will have back speedy receiver Stanley Appleby, a player Whatley says he “couldn’t tackle in a phone booth.” Appleby is another high-character player, Whatley added.

“He’s very quick and very athletic,” he said. “And he’s one of those kids who you can call on to run six go routes in a row and he’ll just keep blowing them out. He’s very unselfish. He does what you ask him to do and he does it full speed.”

Defensively, the Red Devils should be anchored by Cordero Shelton on the defensive end. Whatley was happy with his team’s defensive effort a year ago.

“We played well enough defensively last year to win more games than we did,” he insisted. “Week in and week out the defense played above their heads, and we put them in some tough situations. They responded time and again.”

More than anything, though, Whatley is looking for a rededication from his team in 2008. He won’t offer any predictions, only to say that no players work hard all year without a burning desire to win a championship.

“We have to have a more mature, business-like approach,” he said. “Our seniors this year I think will provide leadership. But I’ve never seen a law where there’s an age limit on who’s going to lead. The Good Lord puts leaders on this earth and the Good Lord puts followers on this earth and it’s up to both to make the right decisions.

“I’ve been a part of (championship teams),” he added. “It takes a lot of commitment, determination and luck.”

SPORTS>>Back on familiar ground

Leader sports editor

After a tumultuous four months, during which they mourned the death of a former teammate and lost their home field to a tornado, the Sylvan Hills Bears adopted a motto: No excuses.

So far, the Bears, who will take on Watson Chapel for the 6A state title today at 5:30 at Baum Stadium in Fayetteville, haven’t had to make any excuses. After all, excuses are reserved for failure, and the Bears have experienced precious little of that this season.

They’ve just set a school record for wins with 28, and dominated the 6A-East Conference, slipping up only one time in an uncharacteristic error-filled loss to Forrest City.

That, in fact, might have been their one opportunity to offer up an alibi, coming as it did just two weeks after Kevin McReynolds Field was literally torn apart, leaving the Bears to scramble for practice sites.

They settled for a parking lot near the Sherwood Sports Complex, where they fielded grounders darting along the asphalt in rapid, unpredictable fashion.

“It’s been one of the strangest seasons I can remember,” said Sylvan Hills head coach Denny Tipton, now in his 11th year at the Bear helm. “If anything, all of it has brought this group closer. Everything we’ve been through has helped them develop a team concept. Everyone on this team cares about everybody else. Now, they’re just worried about getting it finished.”

If they do put the bow of a state title atop this season, it will be the Bears’ seventh in baseball, tying them for third overall with Junction City. Pine Bluff is the leader with 10 baseball championships.


In fact, glance through the Arkansas Activities Association record book and you’ll see the name Sylvan Hills in just about every category — title game appearances: 11 (third overall); state tournament wins: 60 (a win today would move them into a tie for first overall with Pine Bluff); semifinal appearances: 18 (fourth overall). They already own the record for most state tournament appearances with 38.

But those numbers appear to matter little to Tipton, whose Bears missed the past two state title games after making three consecutive trips to Fayetteville. They last won the title in 2005 in Class 5A, then the state’s highest classification.

“Yeah, I wasn’t even aware of some of those numbers,” Tipton said of Sylvan Hills’ dominance in the record books. “I know we won a couple of state titles in the 80s. In the 90s, there was kind of a lull. But since 2000, we’ve won some type of
championship every year, either conference or state.”

Conference titles are well and good, but for a program like Sylvan Hills, success is measured at least by state title game appearances, if not outright championships. Tipton said the two-year hiatus from Fayetteville was tough.

“One of the reasons you do this is to win that title,” he said. “So it was important we get back this year. Once you’ve been there, you like to go back every year. But it takes a little luck along the way.”


Given the Bears’ dominance this season, luck would seem to have had little to do with their appearance at Baum today. They shut out Searcy and Arkansas High to get here.

Watson Chapel, on the other hand, did get fortunate, surviving Jacksonville in the quarterfinals when a two-out error in the 12th inning gave them life. They rallied with three runs in the inning to tie it, then won it in the 13th.

The Wildcats, who have their own sterling tradition with four state titles under 27-year head coach Wayne Richardson, survived a potential Jonesboro rally in the seventh inning of the semifinal game when, with the bases loaded and one out, Watson
Chapel turned a liner to third into a game-ending double play.

Watson Chapel’s strength would appear to be its pitching. Chance Cleveland and Michael Newby, who both sport 11-1 records, are considered co-No. 1’s in the Wildcat rotation. WC assistant coach Chad Cope said both throw in the mid-80s, but that Cleveland had a little sharper breaking ball. He said he wasn’t sure as of Friday who would start tonight’s game.

“Pitching and defense are definitely our strengths,” Cope said. “We’ve won most of our games 4-1, 4-2. We hit the ball at times, but we haven’t hit the ball good consistently. We try to play small ball, move people over.”

Cleveland and catcher Nick Cox, a Garden City (Kan.) Community College signee, are among the Wildcats’ biggest threats at the plate. Cox also boasts a strong arm.

“Not a lot of people have stolen on him, but we know Sylvan Hills has a lot of team speed,” Cope said.


On the Bears’ 2005 championship team was a sophomore by the name of Taylor Roark. Roark delivered the game-tying run in the semifinals of the state tournament, and Sylvan Hills went on to beat Jonesboro in the finals.

Roark, who was to have played baseball for Henderson State this spring, died in January when the car he was driving hit a patch of ice on I-30.

Between that tragedy, the loss of their field, the loss of the home of one their players in the storm and the influx of three talented Abundant Life players — which could have upset team chemistry and led to hard feelings among their teammates — this season has been a lot more difficult than their 28-6 record would seem to suggest.

Through it all, the Bears just kept on pounding the baseball, kept on making all the routine plays in the field, kept on getting outstanding pitching performances, kept on winning.

Sylvan Hills seems to be as complete a team as you could want. It starts with ace D.J. Baxendale, one of those three Abundant Life transfers. Baxendale turned in another in a series of gems on the mound in shutting down Arkansas High, 3-0, on Monday in the semifinals. He allowed only four base runners and two hits.

With the new playoff format, pitching depth isn’t nearly as important as it once was, but Sylvan Hills has plenty of it. The No. 2 is Hunter Miller, who has been solid all season. The Bears can also call on Jake Chambers or Chris Dalton or Chris Perez, among others.


Tipton would probably feel good with any of them, but with Baxendale he can feel a lot better than good.

“If he’s not the best pitcher in the state, he’s one of the best,” Tipton said.

The Wildcats have never faced Baxendale, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t aware of what they’re up against.

“We watched him on Monday, and we’ve read about him,” Cope said. “He’s all he’s built up to be.”

Assuming opponents do put the bat on the ball against Baxendale, he has a vacuum cleaner behind him with a defense that makes almost all the routine plays and some spectacular ones.

Offensively, the Bears can hit one through nine, with three-hitter Miller and cleanup man Baxendale providing the power. Miller has belted 11 home runs this season; Baxendale has hit five. They can run, too, and will every chance they get. The Bears swiped seven of eight on Monday.

Which leads inevitably to the question: Where does this Sylvan Hills team rank in school history? Tipton said all his teams have had special qualities.

“But this one has to rank right up there with one of our better teams,” he said. “The defense and pitching has been great all year. We’ve swung the bat well most of the time this year.”

What makes this year a little special, though, are the circumstances surrounding it — the tragedy, tumult and, thus far, the triumph. Tipton won’t deny that all of that factors into today’s game.

“It’s always a goal to get to the state championship,” he said. “But we’ve dealt with so much this year. I can’t lie. I think it means something more with everything we’ve been through.”

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

EDITORIAL >>Lonoke jail tax: Please vote 'yes'

This is a no-brainer. Lonoke County desperately needs a new jail, and county residents have an opportunity to pay for it quickly and almost painlessly.

The quorum court has placed a 12-month penny sales tax on the Tuesday primary ballot to pay for construction of a new, 140-bed jail. That’s nearly twice the capacity of the current jail, which is dank, disintegrating, inefficient and overcrowded. It’s dangerous not only for the inmates—many of whom have not yet been convicted—but also for the jailers. Doors don’t open from a central control panel. The area is hard to monitor. There is no sally port to load prisoners safely in and out of the jail, and the plumbing and electrical systems are a patchwork of potential problems.

There’s always room to keep accused rapists and murderers in jail, but sometimes there’s no room at the inn for accused and convicted burglars and drug dealers.

County Judge Charlie Troutman and quorum courts dating back to the new millennium have searched for ways to expand and update the existing jail or build a new one. They’ve convened meetings on top of meetings, visited jails in other counties, looked a modular construction, worked with architects and wrestled with funding—to no avail so far.

Now the county has a plan for a new jail that should be big enough for the next 20 years, and could even generate income from other counties and agencies needing any leftover bed space.

The Lonoke County Republican Party, which hasn’t endorsed a tax increase since the beginning of recorded time, voted almost unanimously to support this temporary tax.

The tax is estimated to raise the $5.5 million that the new jail is expected to cost. Skilled and unskilled state Correction Department inmates are expected to do the actual construction under supervision of a paid construction manager.

Over one year that the tax would be collected, it would cost residents of the county, including those in the cities, an estimated $65 for households earning up to $12,500 and an estimated $286 for a family earning $94,000 a year, according to the Public Policy Center of the University of Arkansas, Division of Agriculture.

No one disputes the need for a modern jail that’s safer and bigger than the current one. The only question is how to raise the money, and right now, the penny sales tax is the only option.

Vote yes Tuesday—or sooner—for the dedicated penny sales tax for jail construction.

EDITORIAL >>More judicial endorsements

As long as it is tempered by wisdom and compassion, there is nothing quite like experience when you are looking for a judge.

That is the first consideration when you evaluate the contestants for a judge on a trial bench like the Pulaski Circuit Court.

That is where our judgment finally rested when we examined the candidates for two circuit judgeships who will be on the ballot at the party primaries next Tuesday. (Judges must now run non-partisan races, and the same candidates will appear on the ballot at Republican and Democratic precincts.)

Our recommendation is Judge Mary Ann McGowan for the Ninth Division and Cathi Compton for the Eleventh Division, although there are other excellent candidates.

Judge McGowan has been the Ninth Division judge for 18 years, which for the past dozen years has been an experimental drug court while also handling the usual run of trial cases. Her conduct of the court formed the template for drug-court programs across the state.

A good word for this judge is tough. We remember last year when the Arkansas Supreme Court was willing to let Pulaski County officials slide by without releasing the computer email records of the crook who was running the county’s finances. No, Judge McGowan said, taxpayers are entitled to know about them. The justices then backtracked and affirmed her and we learned the full extent of the shenanigans in the county comptroller’s office.

McGowan has been known to be abrupt with attorneys who she thinks come to court unprepared and short with bureaucrats who haven’t done their work on mental-health cases. Now she is opposed by a young lawyer, Cecily Patterson Skarda, who experienced unpleasantness as an advocate in Judge McGowan’s court. She says judicial canons require Judge McGowan to be considerate of lawyers in the courtroom and that the judge sometimes is not. In time, Skarda might make a good judge, too, but we would rather not take a chance or wait upon her seasoning.

The race for Division 11 is harder. None of the three candidates — Cathi Compton, Jewel “Cricket” Harper and Melinda Gilbert — is a sitting judge but all are experienced trial lawyers and have the requisite interest in children. The court deals almost exclusively with juvenile cases.

You can take your choice and not go wrong but we lean to Compton because she has an edge in years and breadth of her experience. She chaired the first Arkansas Public Defender Commission.

So we recommend Judge Mary Ann McGowan for Ninth Division judge and Cathi Compton for Eleventh Division judge.

TOP STORY > >Republicans vie for seat

Leader staff writer

Two Republicans are squaring off in the May 20 primary for the open House of Representatives District 43 seat. The primary winner will face Democrat Jim Nickels in November.

Tom Raley and Steven Meckfessel, both Sherwood residents, want a shot at the position and both for different reasons.

Raley wants to be a part of the state legislature because of his involvement in the state foster care program. Raley and his wife have fostered dozens of children and have adopted four of them.

I’d like to see the state become more proactive than reactive after abuse has occurred,” Raley said.

He also believes the program can operate better and at a lower cost.

Meckfessel confesses that he’s just got tired of being overtaxed, and decided the best way to alleviated the problem was from inside the system.

“I talked to friends and family and decided it was time to put my money where my mouth is,” he said.

Meckfessel wants to see the state income tax lowered. “I don’t have an exact amount in mind, but with the state surplus we have I know we have the ability to cut the tax,” he explained.

Raley, a senior manager for Leisure Arts, has 17 years of management experience and has been responsible for multi-million budgets and inventories. “I’m use to being held accountable,” he said.

Raley would also like to enhance the DWI penalties and work to make Arkansas more business friendly. If elected, he’d also like to see more done for spouses and families of fallen law enforcement officers and increase student scholarships for the underprivileged.

Meckfessel has spent the last 18 years self-employed.

For 17 of those years, he was in the dry cleaning industry and owned up to 21 locations.

“But I sold out about a year ago and now work as an independent builder,” he explained. Meckfessel is currently building duplexes in Jacksonville.

Meckfessel admits he doesn’t have the answers to the state’s problems, but “I do have common sense.” “With my 18 years of business experience I know there are places the state can cut spending and areas it can improve its productivity,” he said.

Raley has been married for 16 years and has lived in Sherwood for the past seven or eight years.

Meckfessel has been married for 13 years, has a 5-year-old son and has lived in Sherwood for the past 10 years.
eff Wood, who has been term limited and is deployed to Iraq, currently occupies the District 43 seat.

TOP STORY > >Lt. governor still pushes lottery

With a stroke of her pen on Tuesday, Pulaski Tech student Kendra Bean, 19, of Little Rock became the symbolic 77,468th signature needed to qualify Lieut. Gov. Bill Halter’s scholarship lottery for the November ballot.

The deadline for filing signatures is July 7, and Halter’s group, Hope for Arkansas, expects to continue gathering signatures until a total of 100,000 have been collected.

Proceeds from the lottery would go toward college scholarships, although lottery operators will collect a hefty fee for their services.

“I am honored to put pen to paper and to offer my name as the symbolic signature needed to qualify this much needed scholarship lottery for the November ballot,” remarked Bean.

“I am thankful that I am able to obtain an Arkansas college education and I am pleased to support this scholarship lottery because I believe it will open new doors of opportunity for more Arkansans to receive a higher education.”

“We are one step closer to providing hundreds of millions of dollars in new college scholarships and one step closer to helping more Arkansans realize a better future with more opportunities,” said Halter.

“For too long, Arkansans have been driving across state lines to subsidize the education of other states’ students by playing their lottery. Now, Arkansans will have the chance to have their own scholarship lottery to help our own people.”

“Higher education has never been more important or more expensive,” said Halter. “Arkansas deserves to have its own scholarship lottery to help more Arkansans reach for better opportunities.”

Halter brought his lottery campaign last week to the Cabot Kiwanis Club, and highlighted Arkansas’ rank on the nationwide poverty scale. He says a lottery is the only way to improve educational opportunities.

“Arkansas has a very significant problem,” Halter said before Kiwanis Club members, noting the state is 49th in per capita income, inspiring the phrase “Thank God for Mississippi.”

“There’s nothing in the water, nothing in the genetic makeup of Arkansans that says we have to be 49th,” he said. “Look at what other states have done,” Halter said. “If it works, copy it.”

Halter thinks financing college for Arkansans who are “hard-pressed” to afford an education will send more qualified, well-trained employees into the workforce, increasing income.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

TOP STORY > >Ministry told it can’t meet at home

Leader staff writer

The Jacksonville Planning Commis-sion said no to the birth of a church Monday night and welcomed Chick-fil-A to the community, provided the company build another 100 feet of sidewalk on property they are using, but doesn’t belong to them.

Carwin and Carolyn Baker came to the commission Monday night requesting a conditional-use permit to operate a church out of their home at 403 Boston St. The Bakers told the commissioners that they had been worshipping with a small group of neighborhood residents and working with area children.

“They need alternatives to all the violence,” Carolyn Baker said, “and we’ve been teaching them cooking and gardening.”

The Bakers said at the most, 20 people may show up to worship, and that most walk to their home, and that they were looking for a more permanent location for their Solid Rock Ministries.

City codes allow for churches to be built in residential areas, but don’t specifically address a church growing out of a home.

Commissioner Bart Gray Jr. voiced concerns about a large gathering in a facility not conducive to that size crowd.

Commissioner Charles Evans also worried about parking and noise.

Aldermen Bill Howard, also a commission member, told the commission that the fire marshal had researched the situation and said it was illegal, based on fire codes, to operate a church in a home.

With that in mind, Howard suggested that the commission deny the Bakers’ request to operate a church in their home.

But before the commission took the vote which would have denied the church, Gray suggested that the Bakers withdraw the request and look for a more appropriate place.

“Would we have known about this if they weren’t here tonight?” Gray asked City Planner Chip McCulley. “No, they came to us because they wanted to make sure they were following city codes. We’ve had no complaints at all—and probably would not have even known about the church if they didn’t come in,” he said.

“And our code enforcement officers, do they work on Sundays?” Gray asked. “No, they do not,” McCulley said, but he added that since the city now knows about the church, it can’t really ignore it.

A number of the commissioners applauded the Bakers for their effort and endeavor.

“If you think about it, most churches probably started in homes,” commissioner Chad Young said. But the city codes were clear, and the Bakers withdrew their request.

If the city caught them in violation of city code, they would be warned, but if the commission had voted no and the Bakers continue to meet with their congregation, they would face fines.

The commission also approved the final plat and site plan for a proposed Chick-fil-A restaurant. The company is buying the land occupied by the abandoned TCBY restaurant in the old Wal-Mart shopping Center on North First Street.

The TCBY building will be torn down and Chick-fil-A will build a 3,921-square-foot restaurant, complete with landscaping, new curb gutters and a sidewalk that basically goes nowhere, but is required by ordinance.

“A sidewalk going nowhere isn’t any good,” Gray said.

The commission asked the restaurant company to extend the sidewalk another 100 feet along the street edge of a section of the shopping center parking lot that is being called a protective area.

It is a section that the restaurant is planning to use for overflow parking and will be landscaping it, but is not buying it.

Restaurant officials said they would comply with the request.

The only other item on the commission’s agenda, the final plat for the Meadows Subdivision near Homer Adkins Pre-K Center, was pulled from the agenda before the meeting.

TOP STORY > >Candidates hope to help from bench

Leader senior staff writer

Elections for judgeships are theoretically non-partisan, but the race for Division One Lonoke County circuit judge pits the former head of the Lonoke County Republican Party against a woman who ran twice for county prosecutor as a Democrat. A spokesman for the Lonoke County Republican Committee said that group has endorsed deputy Lonoke Prosecutor Chuck Graham.

Barbara Elmore, 54, was appointed judge in Lonoke’s new Third Division by Gov. Mike Beebe, beginning her appointment in July 2007. Before that, Elmore had been the Lonoke District Court judge since 2005 and before that a lawyer in private practice.

“Being a judge is my calling,” says Elmore. “I enjoy helping people.”

Toward that end, her degree is in sociology. “I became an attorney to help others. As a judge I enjoy hearing the attorneys be the voices of the client, giving them the opportunity to show the client’s side in a courtroom.” Then she applies the procedural laws and rules, she said.

“I started out working at Remington Arms out of high school,” she said. “I was a factory worker. Then I did secretarial and payroll work.”

She has volunteered at Open Arms Shelter, and at her church she is on the Family Life Committee and teaches junior high Sunday school and also vacation Bible school.

She said she’s always been service-oriented. After she married Danny Elmore, she went to UALR, where she got her degree and later a law degree.

“I went to work with Larry Cook in the Lonoke County prosecutor’s office until January 1999.”
She lost two close races to Prosecutor Lona McCastlain, and then went to work in private practice.

“I’ve done property law, divorces, class-action cases, contract law—about any kind of case that could come before the court, I’ve either practiced it or been the judge,” she said.

Elmore says she’s always been trying to help the youth in whatever form or fashion she can be of service. “I’ve been attorney ad litem for children taken out of the home for neglect or abuse,” she said. “I went to law school so I could help children.”

She said the county needs more room in the jail. “I see the need as a judge.”

She said she hears child-support cases, and when delinquent spouses are let out of jail to make room for violent criminals, they think they don’t have to pay. “There has to be some teeth in the law,” she said.

Graham, 51, has worked in the prosecutor’s office for the past six years. “I handle the drug cases. That’s the area I specialize in now,” he said.

Before that, he was in private practice in Cabot and was a public defender in Little Rock.
Originally from Kentucky, Graham retired from the Air Force.

He said he’s been everything in the courtroom over the past 30 years except a defendant and a judge.

He’s worked as a military cop, a bailiff, he’s testified, worked as a special agent, represented some defendants and prosecuted others.

He said it would be a conflict of interest to be involved as a judge in any case he’s been involved with as a prosecutor.

Graham says he doesn’t have a natural bias. “I can sit and listen to both lawyers, witnesses and make appropriate rulings,” he explained.

He said he thought anyone who had dealt with him over the years would say he was fair and had treated everyone respectfully.

TOP STORY > >Election may settle GOP split among JPs

Leader senior writer

Four of six Republican seats on the Lonoke County Quorum Court are up for grabs in the Republican primary as the various factions of the party grapple for position on the court.

Nominally, the Republicans had held a 7-6 advantage over the Democrats after the 2006 election, but when Republican Casey Van Buskirk moved away, Gov. Beebe on Tuesday appointed fellow Democrat Harry Crum to finish out her term.

The conservatives drafted an opponent to challenge Republican Larry Odom, who has been on the court for 18 years, saying privately that he breaks ranks with them too often when it comes time to vote.


Jannette Minton, 59, is running for a third term on the court against Larry Ridgeway, 58, from whom she wrested the seat in 2004 and turned back a challenge from him in 2006.

“He’s a Republican this time,” said Minton, the wife of Randy Minton, who is running against Davy Carter for the Republican nomination for the House seat currently held by Rep. Susan Schulte, who is term-limited.

Jannette Minton has been chairman of the Lonoke County personnel committee, which has been trying to commission the JESAP study of all county jobs, responsibilities, pay and benefits and then compare it to like jobs and compensation in neighboring counties and in private industry, she said.

“Right now, everyone starts at same salary and benefits regardless of position and experience,” she said.

“There will be a written job description and a four-step salary scale based on experience, education—on rhyme and reason,” she said. That should help motivate employees and help the county hang on to experienced workers.

“Equitable pay and fairness,” she said.

Minton also hopes for a Repub-lican majority that will back her notion of bulk purchasing of supplies such as toilet paper, copier paper, cleaning supplies—pretty much everything. She believes the county can save money with bulk purchasing.

A former junior high school special education teacher at Cabot, Minton says she favors the one-year, penny sales tax to build a new jail. “We’ve got to have a jail,” she said. “This one is a lawsuit waiting to happen. It’s not safe for inmates, deputies or guards.”

Ridgeway, a social studies teacher and coach at Cabot Junior High School North, says one reason Minton defeated him the first time was because he supported redistributing the county sales tax to help pay for jail improvements. Nonetheless, he supports the penny tax on the primary ballot to build a new jail this time around. “They haven’t done anything for four years,” he said.

“As a citizen I’ll support it. Something has to be done. There’s no money in any other budget (for it).”

Ridgeway, who ran previously as a Democrat in the heavily Republican area he represents, says he lost by 400 votes the first time, 100 votes the second time and that he expects to win this time.

Before losing his JP seat to Minton, he had served two terms on the quorum court. “I thought I was a pretty good JP representative for my area,” he said. “I thought I’d be there a lifetime.”

Ridgeway has served as a Ward alderman for four years. He’s a Navy veteran, against new taxes and he’d like to see an ordinance approved that would exempt seniors from county taxes.

“I’ve knocked on 300 doors,” he said.


Odom, 63, says he’s been on several jail committees over his 18 years on the court.

He provided leadership to pick a jail design, a way to build it and a way to fund it—the penny sales tax proposal on the ballot.

“I got interested initially because old county administration didn’t want state Hwy. 321 built,” said Odom, who has headed the county’s road committee most of the time on the court. “I lobbied three weeks to get Hwy. 321. I led the movement to get rid of nepotism in the county and to move meetings to nights when citizens could come. He started the movement that culminated with JPs paying for their own insurance, he said. Before that they had free health insurance at taxpayers’ expense.

“I worked diligently all these years to work on the transportation situation in Cabot. County Judge Charlie Troutman appointed me chair of transportation committee.”

Odom said the committee helped get the Third Street bridges built and the new frontage road to the Cabot Wal-Mart and a road to the Austin cloverleaf.

He said he had been chairman for the past three years of the county building and jail committees.

“The county has scrounged $1 million to put on third (Lonoke County Circuit) judgeship, to up-date the old John Deere building into a courthouse annex to alleviate overcrowding.

“I’ve supported all volunteer agencies in our communities,” he said.

“Our district was the first in the county that got all the roads chipped and sealed,” said Odom. “I’m running on my record.”


Odom said he had been singled out because “I won’t vote partisan politics right down the line.” He said the Republican women on the court had recruited Lisa Shotts to run against him.

A Cabot-area native, Odom’s family has been in the area almost 100 years, he said. “I’m a farmer by choice, an entrepreneur farmer.”

He has a bachelor’s degree from University of Central Arkansas with a major in math. “I worked with Alltel as a long-range planner,” he said, but he’s been full-time on the farm since 1973.

This is Lisa Shotts’ first run for office, she said.

Shotts, 47, is a registered nurse and educator. “I’ll be training people on the insulin pump,” she said.

“I’ve always been very interested in politics. I’m conservative and raised my kids with Fox News.”

She said she has a son in premed at the University of Arkansas, a son studying the ministry at Ouachita Baptist and a 16-year-old daughter.

“This is a good opportunity to serve the people,” she said. “I’ve been blessed with a lot of blessings.”

She said Odom had been on the court for a long time.

“We’re trying to get a conservative vote on the quorum court. He’s not always a conservative vote.”

She and her family have lived in the Cabot area about 16 years. Her husband, Joe Shotts, is a doctor at the Cabot Medical Clinic.

“I’m really running on an honest conservative vote for Cabot’s future,” she said.

Shotts said the existing Lonoke County Jail is out of compliance, has been for some time and that residents are going to have to deal with it now or deal with it later.

“Hopefully we’ll build it with room for expansion with our growing city,” she said.


Donna Pedersen, 49, has served on the court for two-and-a-half terms, filling in for her husband Pete Pedersen when an election challenge kept him out for the first half of a term. Gov. Mike Huckabee appointed her to that vacancy.

Among the accomplishments she is proud of, “we’ve got the new courthouse annexed without raising taxes, added new judgeship, had to find her a new court house.”

“I’m just running on my conservative record,” she said. “I’m a true conservative. I don’t even like the word ‘tax,’” she said.

Nonetheless, she supports the jail tax proposal on this primary ballot. “I hate to vote for a tax, but we’re going to have to have one. We put it on the ballot and let the people decide. The jail is in dire straits.

“Our jail is our number-one priority right now. They could come and shut it down anytime.”

Pedersen works for Mayfair Solutions, a collection agency.

The Pedersens have one son.

Tim Lemons, 45, an engineer for 18 years with a degree from Louisiana Tech, is making his first run for office. He owns Lemons Engineering of Cabot.

He’s been a board member of the Cabot Chamber of Commerce, Lonoke County’s representative to Metroplan, served on the Cabot Parks commission, volunteers for the Special Olympics and Relay for Life.

He and wife Janice have been married for 24 years. They have a daughter majoring in nursing at UCA and a son majoring in civil engineering at the University of Arkansas.

Lemons has lived in Cabot for 21 years. “The quorum court can best be described as the city council for the county. I feel my experience as a small business owner will be of great benefit,” he said.

“I will make finding a resolution to our traffic problem a priority. I will work closely with the cities, the county, the state and the federal government to resolve this important issue. As an engineer, I feel that my background and contacts on the state and federal level will be assistance to easing our traffic problems.

“As a fiscal conservative, I am against new taxes. However, in this case I support this sales tax. If the jail tax does not pass, the property owners in Lonoke County are almost ensured an increase on our already high property taxes. An increase in property taxes will last forever. The proposed one-cent sales tax for the jail will last for only one year. Also, since it is a sales tax, anyone who purchases goods in the county, whether they live here or not, will be paying for the new jail. The Republican Party agreed to support this tax.

“I believe the family is the foundation of our community. Conservative family values are most important to me. Second, I offer proven progressive leadership. And last, I offer a fresh positive outlook.”


Alexis Malham, 54, has served five terms on the quorum court since 1992. In 2006, she won a three-way race against independent Harry Roderick and Democrat Chris Skinner .

This time, Roderick is running against her as a Republican.

Why does she want to serve again?

“The work is not done,” she said. “Basic stuff.”

She lives in the county and the roads and ditches are a major problem and part of the area is prone to flooding.

As a JP, Malham has fought for years to change the county’s policy of paying a large portion of the health insurance premiums of the employee’s families. She says its one thing to pay for the employees, but that it’s not good stewardship of the county’s finances to pay for their families’ insurance.

Malham says other counties don’t pay that. “It’s easy to spend other people’s money,” she said.

“Why have an insurance committee,” she asks, if the court is going to ignore its recommendations.

Malham says the county paved other roads and made a new road to Wal-Mart while people in her district need basic road services.

She also wants to help the county build a new jail.

Of the proposed jail tax, she said, “If the people support it, it’s a great deal. It has a sunset and we do have to do something.”

She said she helped set the vote for the primary ballot, instead of a special election where a small group could push it through.

“This is the fairest way,” she said.

“I’m a conservative voice on the quorum court for the people I represent,” she said. “We need safe roads and I supported the sheriff for his new patrol cars.

“I’m for lower taxes, less obtrusive government and want to make sure we use our taxpayer money wisely.”

She works part-time in retail at the mall. She’s married to Mike Malham, Cabot’s head football coach.

Roderick, her opponent, is retired from the Air Force as a master sergeant after 21 years. He was a loadmaster flying on the C-130s based at Little Rock Air Force Base.

Now he’s a representative of Lockheed Martin and works part time as an unpaid deputy for the Lonoke County Sheriff’s Office.

Roderick says people recognize his house by the six flags he flies out front on Campground Road.

“We have lived in the community for 22 years and in our current location for eight,” he said. “We have a lot of road problems, no shoulders,” he said, and the county needs to take care of that.

“Most people around here didn’t know who their justice of the peace was.”

Roderick said he would be the voice of the area and have an open door policy. He’ll put a suggestion box out for people who just want to drop off some feedback.

“Every time they turn around, they want to increase taxes,” he said. “I’ll get a good handle on how the county spends its money. The county is growing, revenue coming in—what are they doing with the excess revenue?”

“I’m for the jail tax. They should have done that a long time ago. The jail should have been condemned. We need a good facility that could actually turn a profit.

“Being a part-time deputy, I see the sheriff almost daily has to decide if he has to release someone to take someone else.”

He said the county has to give the sheriff the tools to do the job.

Roderick said he would put inmates to work on county roads, fixing stop signs for instance.

TOP STORY > >McCastlain, Whiteaker in heated race

Leader staff writer

Like her opponent did 12 years ago, the Lonoke County prosecutor hopes to make the switch from advocate for the people and state to impartial judge.

With less than a week before the election, Prosecutor Lona McCastlain and Circuit Judge Phil Whiteaker are campaigning hard for the Second Division seat Whiteaker now holds.

“I’ve been campaigning since January,” Whiteaker said Tuesday, noting that the election was only seven days away. “I’ve been to about every civic organization in the county and every fish fry. I’ve had a lot of fish,” he added.

In Cabot, Carlisle, Ward, Austin, England, Lonoke, Keo and Humnoke, Whiteaker says he’s shaken hands with voters, telling them that his 12 years on the bench make him the best candidate for judge.

In that time, Whiteaker, who presides mostly over civil, juvenile and drug cases, says he has promoted the use of technology to streamline proceedings and he has been a supporter of CASA, the court appointed special advocates who help abused and neglected children through the court system.

But in addition to his experience, Whiteaker says he has “the temperament to be fair and listen to both sides. People want to have a fair day in court,” he said. “I’ve been doing that for 12 years.”

McCastlain also talks about Whiteaker’s time on the bench, but from a different perspective.

“It’s time to bring in something new,” McCastlain said. “I’ve been over there 15 years (10 as prosecutor). I can bring a fresh look at the job and a passion for the job.”

McCastlain says the circuit court is behind the times in technology. Although some prisoners now make their first court appearance via cameras in the jails, that was only started this year, she said.

More needs to be done, like putting the docket on a computer so changes can be made as needed.

Although the judicial races are non-partisan this year, McCastlain has always run as a Republican in the past and she says if elected she will represent the most conservative values.

McCastlain, Chuck Graham, the assistant prosecutor who is running for Division One judge, and Ken Williams, the lawyer and Cabot alderman who is running for district judge in Cabot, were endorsed Monday night by the Lonoke County Republican Committee.

McCastlain said the rules of ethics do not allow candidates to attack each other. But that hasn’t stopped some Cabot residents from putting out large signs that say McCastlain’s integrity is questionable.

McCastlain attributes the signs to Roger Lemaster and his wife, Becky, a Cabot alderman.

In 2007, McCastlain prosecuted Roger Lemaster’s son, who was convicted of child molestation and sentenced to prison.

Alderman Lemaster said they didn’t pay for the signs.

“My husband helped the woman who put them up because she didn’t have a truck,” Lemaster said.

“She’s a longtime friend of ours and we didn’t have any problem helping her out, because, you know, the signs are kind of right.”

SPORTS>>Cabot beats Rogers, falls to Fayetteville

Leader sportswriter

RUSSELLVILLE — It had been a few years, but the Cabot Lady Panthers made their way back into the quarterfinal round of the 7A state softball tournament over the weekend. The No. 4 seed Lady Panthers took a 3-1 win over a pesky Rogers team in the first round on Friday at Hickey Park to advance to Saturday’s quarterfinal game against West No. 1 seed Fayetteville.

The Lady Bulldogs proved too much for the Lady Panthers, however, shutting them out 3-0, to end an up-and-down season for Cabot.
The Lady Panthers ended their season with a 10-10 record.

It was the first time in three years that Cabot has advanced past the first round of the state tournament.

Cabot pitcher Cherie Barfield gave up doubles to the first three Lady Mounties batters in Friday’s first-round game, which led to the only Rogers’ score of the game in the top of the first inning.

She began to find the sweet spot after the early hiccup, striking out 12 batters and allowing only two more hits, both of which came in the top of the fifth inning after the Lady Panthers had seized the lead.

“Cherie starts out slow, she always does,” Cabot coach Becky Steward said. “And then she’ll come through. Thankfully, they only scored one run. When they went double, double, double, I just went ‘Oh no, here we go,’ but she settled down. You’ve got to give her defense credit; they stayed behind her.”

That defensive play resulted in one Rogers runner stranded and another tagged out by second baseman Kristy Flesher in the fifth. Barfield chased down a bunt by Chase Todd and got the throw to first baseman Ashton Seidl for the out. Seidl then tossed it to Flesher when Lady Mounties runner Ashley Brown began to lead off second.

The offensive effort wasn’t as productive as the pair of runaway wins against Mt. Saint Mary three days prior, but a three-hit, three-score performance for the Lady Panthers in the bottom of the second inning proved to be enough.

Cleanup hitter Rachel Lamb started things off for Cabot in the second when she reached on an error. A single to right by designated player Kayla Hart advanced Lamb, and another single by Tara Boyd scored her to tie the game at 1-1.

Becca Bakalakos drove in the next run with a single to right center, and a sacrifice bunt by Jordan Reed allowed Boyd in for the final score of the game.

“One inning can do it,” Steward said. “You’re supposed to have the best of the best here. We’ve been working on that outside pitch exclusively all year long. When we see it, usually, we connect with it. I just wish we would have gotten more runs.

“It’s like this all year long. They score some runs and get ahead and then they just kind of go into coast mode. You can’t do that.”

Steward was all smiles after Friday’s win, and attributed her squad’s late-season surge on what at the time seemed like an unlikely win against a very tough opponent.

“I’m going to go back to the Conway game,” Steward said. “When we beat Conway in the tiebreaker in eight innings, that started our run. That was great to beat the state champs for the last two years in a row. This is good for us. We have not been past the first round in three years, so this is a good win.”

For Seidl, it was her final weekend as a Lady Panther, as she will move on to Central Baptist College to become a part of the Lady Mustangs softball program. The Lady Panthers team captain was also jubilant after the big win over Rogers.

“We were very nervous out there, but we came through with it and did pretty good,” Seidl said. “The second inning took us from low to sky high. We did amazing at the end of the second inning, I was really proud of all of us. That was what turned the game around for us.”

SPORTS>>Jacksonville upended by Lady Wildcats

Leader sports editor

MOUNTAIN HOME — Jacksonville’s season came to an end in the first round of the 6A state softball tournament at Mountain Home on Saturday in a 4-1 loss to Watson Chapel.

Shoddy defense and struggling bats ended the Lady Red Devils’ campaign at 14-8 after they had earned a No. 2 seed into the tournament.

Jacksonville committed four errors and picked up only two hits against Lady Wildcat hurler Kristen Johnson, while striking out eight times. Watson Chapel went on to beat Sheridan before falling to Mountain Home in the semifinals.

An error, a pair of passed balls, a single and a wild pitch allowed Watson Chapel to take a 2-0 lead in the second inning.

The Lady Devils scored a run in the fifth and had an opportunity to knot things up. Paula Burr walked and moved to second on Alexis Whatley’s sacrifice. After Riley Zinc reached safely after striking out on a wild pitch, Tyler Pickett had an infield single to score Burr.

With runners at second and third, Johnson got a strikeout to leave the go-ahead run at second base.

Chapel scored individual runs in the sixth and seventh, both the result of Jacksonville errors.

Jacksonville hurler Jessica Lanier pitched well, allowing no earned runs and just six hits, while striking out nine.

SPORTS>>Red Devils suffer extra-innings loss in quarterfinals

Leader sportswriter

The next to the last inning of Jacksonville’s season was somewhat of a microcosm of the Red Devils’ entire year. After missing the postseason the past four years, only one out stood between the Devils and the 6A state quarterfinals.

But a fielding error allowed Watson Chapel to stay alive in the bottom of the 12th inning.

Jacksonville led 5-2 at that point with two outs, but the Wildcats tied the game to send it into the 13th inning, where WC shut down the Red Devils in the top half before scoring on a pair of singles in the bottom side to secure the marathon win.

Jacksonville’s strange-but-successful season ended at 16-14.

“We didn’t play as well as we could have all year,” Jacksonville head coach Larry Burrows said, “but we competed hard all year long. We hung in and battled, and we got rewarded for playing tough. I told them that we may not have played well enough to get a ring, but that we can still be satisfied with the effort we gave, and the things we accomplished.”

Burrows said he felt his potent young squad was on the brink of greatness all season. That great thing came with a 4-3 win over Sheridan in the first round on Friday, and he said Saturday’s near upset of the top-seeded Wildcats will generate even more excitement for 2009 and beyond.

Pitcher Michael Harmon was working on a no-hitter until the bottom of the sixth inning on Saturday, when the Wildcats plated a pair of runs. The Red Devils answered with four hits in the top of the seventh inning, including a RBI-double by Patrick Castleberry that scored Cameron Hood and a single by Seth Tomboli to bring in Castleberry for the tie.
That score stayed the same for the next five innings.

Hood and Castleberry singled and Tomboli reached on an error, bringing in Hood to give the Red Devils the lead. Wisdom walked to force in another run, and a bad throw on a squeeze play gave the Red Devils a 5-2 lead.

“We can build on this,” Burrows said of the bad season turned good. “We told the seniors that it’s our plan to build on what they have started.”

Plenty of talent remains on the Jacksonville roster, but the loss of first baseman/pitcher Jason Regnas, along with outfielders Cameron Hood and Tyler Wisdom leaves a big gap in the middle of the Devils’ batting line-up. It also means Jacksonville will be losing three of its best defensive players.

“We’re losing our two-hole hitter, and our three-hole,” Burrows said. “And Regnas is the best first baseman I’ve ever coached. Wisdom and Hood have both been good in the outfield for us over the past years, and they both batted over .400, so they are going to be tough to replace.”