Saturday, May 15, 2010

TOP STORY > >Sheriff says prostitution ring busted in Greystone

Leader staff writer

Two women and one man were arrested Wednesday in Greystone, Cabot’s upscale golf course subdivision, for allegedly being involved in the practice of what is euphemistically called the world’s oldest profession.

Two more arrests are likely, said Lonoke County Sheriff Jim Roberson. The man believed to be in charge of the alleged house of prostitution was in Dallas with the third female resident of the home when the arrests were made.

A.E.Samontry, 33, of 105 Ridgecrest Square, was charged with prostitution and promoting prostitution. Pornpiemon Phouangmany, 40, of the same address, was charged with prostitution. Both women are from Laos.

Jerry Richard, 46, of North Little Rock, was charged with patronizing a prostitute.

All charges are misdemeanors and the cases will be heard in Cabot District Court on June 17.

The arrests were made at about 7:20 p.m., following a two-day investigation that began when neighbors complained to the Lonoke County Sheriff’s Department about the traffic at the home.

Roberson said in-vestigators waited outside the home for two days and interviewed the “Johns” as they emerged, but no detective went inside to talk to the women during the investigation or solicited the services they allegedly offered for sale.
Lt. Jim Kulesa, spokesman for the sheriff’s department, said investigators seized $3,000 in cash from the home, $500 in a safety deposit box, computers and a “little black book” with names of clients.

Their business, ac-cording to a sign posted on Hwy. 5 and advertised on an Internet site was massage, Kulesa said, but the women not only denied that they were prostitutes, they also denied that they gave massages in their home.

The men who came and went from their home were friends, Kulesa said they told investigators.

The sheriff said several neighbors were standing outside when the three were taken into custody.

“The neighbors were very happy we made the arrest, very happy,” Roberson said.

Cabot police assisted in serving the arrest warrant but were not part of the investigation. Although city police usually enforce laws and conduct investigations inside city limits, the sheriff’s department has jurisdiction all over the county.

Cabot Mayor Eddie Joe Williams, who lives in Greystone, said after the arrests that Cabot still has only a fraction of the crime that larger cities like Little Rock have.

Williams said the information he has been given makes him believe the women are prostitutes and that the nice neighborhood in which they lived and worked was chosen because no one would expect to find a business of that kind there.

“It’s a lone incident in a very nice neighborhood and that’s their cover,” the mayor said.

TOP STORY > >Wooldridge: I can win

Former state Sen. Tim Wooldridge of Paragould is one of six Democrats in Tuesday’s primary running for Congress in the First District.

A run-off is likely. The winner will face either Princella Smith or Rick Crawford, the Republican candidates. Rep. Marion Berry (D-Gillett) announced in January he would not run for re-election because of health reasons.

Wooldridge served eight years in each the state House and Senate from 1991 to 2006. He ran for lieutenant governor in 2006, losing to Lieut. Gov. Bill Halter in a runoff in the Democratic primary.

Why are you running for Congress?

I have entered the congression-al race because I feel my experience in the Arkansas House and Senate has given me the knowledge and ability to make sound decisions that represent the people of the First District.

Why are you running for Congress?

My 16 years in the Arkansas Legislature presented many challenges and experiences that are too numerous to mention. It is difficult but necessary to consider all constituents and how each decision affects friends and neighbors. I am proud to say that during my last race, I carried over 80 percent of my home county’s vote.

Why are you a Democrat?

I am a Democrat because I am a product of Democratic policies that have worked. I had a good education at my public school. I was educated at Arkansas State University. I was able to work my way through college. And because factories were able to locate in Greene County, my brothers had jobs. My father farmed. We did not have to go North or West to find opportunity.

That is why I’m a Democrat. I want the disadvantaged to have opportunities to better themselves. Just because I have succeeded does not mean that I should join another party or turn my back on those who have not been able to grab a hand up. It’s tough to put in a 10-second sound bite but this is where my heart is.

How would you have voted on the health-care bill?

Our health-care system is dysfunctional and relies on emergency rooms to be the front line in caring for uninsured people.

The current bill places a heavy burden on small business which accounts for the majority of jobs in Arkansas. I would be in favor of modifications that address more of the costs associated with health-care.

What can we do about health care?

I find much of the legislation coming from Congress does little to help people and puts a terrific burden on small business.

When you hurt small business you hurt the largest job creator in our nation.

What kind of legislation would you support in Congress?

Like it or not our economy is global. We need to be able to compete for jobs and businesses in this district. Modern machinery and manufacturing methods demand intellect and training. Education is our long- term answer. Job training in the short term gives us opportunities in the areas of aerospace, information technology and engineering and will reassure investors that we have the best workforce in the world.

Who is supporting your candidacy?

I am proud to say that over 90 percent of my campaign contributions have come from Arkansas and the vast majority from individuals that have believed in my ability and record.

How will your background prepare you for Congress?

My background has done much to prepare me. My most recent position as director of the Arkansas Association of Public Universities has given me wonderful insight into the successes and challenges of higher education in Arkansas. Prior to that, I served as vice president of development at Arkansas Methodist Hospital. I worked with doctors and administrators.

I saw firsthand the problems that local hospitals face with keeping doctors and the challenges of federal reimbursements. I also was the development officer at Crowley’s Ridge College, which is a private community college. Perhaps the most educational job I had was working at the sporting goods department at Walmart as a young man. I learned the value of service and the needs of average people.

From an agricultural perspective, I was raised on my Dad’s small farm and my daughter and son-in-law farm 5,200 acres near Paragould. All of these areas are directly affected by the successes and failures of the federal government and need proper representation in Washington.

What makes you different from the Democratic and Republican candidates?

My experience and leadership is very much different than most of my opponents. Many have never held public office. Tough choices are part of the job and elected officials must be able and willing to take a stand and be held accountable.

How will you help Arkan-sas if you’re elected to Congress?

Change in government is constant. People need to have confidence in their representative. I can assure you that no other candidate will work harder to communicate with and listen to you concerning your needs.

Rep. Berry and Rep. Snyder have secured millions of dollars worth of projects for Little Rock Air Force Base. Will you support the base if you’re elected?

Little Rock Air Force base is vital to the economy of central Arkansas. I will support the mission of the base as well as the airmen and their families.

TOP STORY > >Surgeon seeks office

Dr. Terry G. Green of Mountain Home, who is one of six Democrats running for Congress in the First District, is an orthopedic surgeon who has practiced medicine in Mountain Home since 1972.

He was born and raised in Dewitt (Arkansas County). He served six years in the Marine Corps Reserves. He has degrees from the University of Arkansas and from the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences.

Dr. Green is married and has four grown children and two grandchildren.

He said he wants to bring a fresh voice to Congress, reduce government waste and protect the environment.

Why are you running for Congress?

I sincerely want to be a member of U. S. Congress because of inspiration, honor, correction of wrongs and sim plification of laws. I would like to help change the way many things are handled.

How has your background prepared you to run for Congress?

I’ve lived in Arkansas for 63 years and have worked in Arkansas for just about that long. I understand District 1. I was born and raised in Arkansas County, and I presently live in Baxter County. I am a small business owner, and I know the ins and outs of health-care, both as a patient and as a doctor. I have life and work experiences.

Why are you a Democrat?

The Democrats are more likely to help the average worker. Democrats are less robotic than Republicans.

How would you have voted on the health-care bill?

We need change, but this bill is too complicated. Government does not need to mandate our health-care. If government is going to use taxpayers’ money to cover the poor, retired, disabled, veterans, prisoners, etc., they need to provide an option to the working taxpayer.

What can we do about health care?

Decades ago, our lawmakers felt that grandma deserved to get her hip fixed and her pneumonia treated with the taxpayers’ help. Later, our lawmakers decided to expand help to the poor. Then, they decided not just to help but essentially relieve the retired and poor of almost any financial responsibility. From there they expanded the socialist program of government-sponsored health care to include nursing-home care, home-health care, chiropractic care and motorized scooters. What started as help for basic care expanded to what is now out of control.

Current bureaucrats cannot deliver to the populace the generous help they promised. Further-more, the federal bureaucracy promised all to everyone except those who deserve it the most – the worker. Our government now encourages persons not to work. If you do work, you may lose your benefits, i.e. Medicaid, Medicare or free drugs.

How things have changed. The government payment for a back brace exceeds that for lumbar discectomy.

The overall cost of care has increased far beyond what a worker can pay. But never mind, the government-covered patient does not care since the money does not come out of his pocket. My promise is that if the government wants to help with health-care payment, it should do it for those who deserve it the most – the worker. Yes, a government system may collapse under its own weight. It seems like we will have to go through all that pain before government bureaucrats understand that there needs to be a sensible reorganization of the system.

What kind of legislation would you support in Congress?

Medicare-type coverage for those who choose. Private insurance for those who prefer it.

When it comes to health-care costs and taxes, what can we do to lessen the
burden on individuals and small businesses?

Levelize taxes; tax earned income at no greater rate than capital gains or dividend income.

How do we restart the economy?

Support the small business owner and encourage one to start his or her own business. Do not wait on publicly-traded corporations to come through with a job for you.

Who is supporting your candidacy?

The doctors. The Arkansas Medical Society. My family. My patients. Anyone who knows me well. The common working taxpayers. University students. Military and Marine Corps veterans.

What makes you different from the Democratic and Republican candidates?

I’m not a career politician. I’m your average working man.

How will you help Arkansas if you're elected to Congress?

I would support local Arkansas schools and oppose school consolidation, thus encouraging a more desirable student/teacher ratio. I would support appropriate disciplining in Arkansas schools. Schools should encourage entrepreneurship in students and instruct them that it is not necessary to go to another state for work after graduation. Overall, I would be a cheerleader for

Arkansas advocating on behalf of Arkansans.

What does your family think about your running for office?

They are extremely supportive and have been loyal campaigners. They can vouch for my character and believe I’m the most “real” candidate.

What drives your campaign?

Freedom – the gradual loss of personal freedoms is scary. The citizen does not see it until it is too late. We are headed toward a total-control state.

We need to allow the practice of religion in our schools, not dictated by the school, but allow students to believe and worship as they want. Fundamental tenants of behavior should be taught.

Terrorists should be treated harshly. Punishment should be appropriate and fast. How many 9/11’s is it going to take to get the country mobilized?

I see the federal government and our current leaders breaking their legs trying to get money relief to Wall Street. I see a sluggish leadership when it comes to helping the ordinary man. I will make sure the brethren of plutocrats do not get better treatment than the working man.

I want to see the basic doctrine of good government, “For the people and by the people.” I want everyone to have the old-fashioned, warm and comfortable belief that our leaders are doing what is best for us all.

I believe we have too many laws. Some laws should be repealed. It is likely I will oppose most legislation, rather than propose more legislation. A country whose laws are too voluminous and confusing for the common person to understand is a lawless country.

TOP STORY > >Training changes at LRAFB

Leader senior staff writer

Establishing a new Air Reserve component training unit at Little Rock Air Force Base, announced May 4 by Air Force Secretary Michael Donley, is part of a plan to augment the C-130 Hercules training fleet with C-130s from the nation’s Air National Guard and Air Force Reserve Squadrons.

“C-130 training is still to be done by the world’s best at Little Rock Air Force Base, but by 2014, trainers at the base’s C-130 school house will be working with more modern aircraft all the way around,” said Col. C.K. Hyde, commander of the 314th Airlift Wing.

The 314th and the National Guard’s 189th Airlift Wing will still train pilots, crew and maintainers for the Department of Defense and the Air Force, Hyde said, but the active-duty 314th will train airmen for the state-of-the-art C-130J only, increasing the 314th’s number of J models from seven to 14 over five years.

Hyde spoke Friday before leaving the office for his son’s North Pulaski High School senior prom. His son, Robert Hyde, has accepted an appointment to West Point Military Academy.

“It just makes sense,” he said of the realignment. “On the 314th side, my E-model fleet is retiring and I lose some of my manpower—an orderly transferal through 2014. At the same rate my people draw down, the Reserve will come in.”

“This C-130 arrangement is a great example of how the Air Force Reserve leverages its strengths and capabilities to support Air Force and combatant-command requirements,” said Lt. Gen. Charles E. Stenner Jr., chief of the Air Force Reserve. “Within the Air Force Reserve, I’ve emphasized associations and integration to meet (Air Force) operational and training mission requirements by aligning equipment, missions, infrastructure and manpower resources to enable more effective use of assets with our component partners.”

The National Guard’s 189th Airlift Wing, in conjunction with a new Air Reserve Command unit to be stood up at the base, will by 2011 train exclusively on C-130H aircraft and the C-130 avionics modernization program.

C-130s with the AMP designation have the avionics modernization program updates.

Those include a digital cockpit and communications and navigation gear compatible with those on the new C-130Js, the colonel said.

“We’ve known this (realignment) was coming for several years,” Hyde said.

Col. Jim Summers, commander of the Guard’s 189th Airlift Wing, was not available for this article, but Hyde said 17 Vietnam-era C-130Es, average age 46 years old, would be replaced by 18 C-130Hs or C-130 AMPs.

Throughout the Defense Department, 221 planes will be converted to the Avionics Modernization Program updates and over the next five years, active forces will be converting to all J-model aircraft, Hyde said.

Many of the C-130Hs headed eventually for the Reserves and the Guard at the base will be borrowed from eight states and Puerto Rico, in some cases over the objections of governors and senators from those states.

Plans to borrow two aircraft for the program from the West Virginia National Guard were scrapped last week after objections by senators Jay Rockefeller and Robert Byrd.

The Tennessee National Guard is and will continue to conduct pilot, crew and maintainer international training for countries that fly the C-130E and some older C-130H aircraft, according to Hyde.

TOP STORY > >PCSSD fraud found

Leader staff writer

An investigation by the state into the finances of the Pulaski County Special School District over a six-year period has unearthed a wide range of abuses, including fraud, theft, missing funds, improper reimbursements, overpayments, misappropriations, and, in general, slipshod business practices, resulting in losses totaling at least $500,000.

Highlights of the investigation were presented Friday at a meeting of the Legislative Joint Auditing Committee at the state Capitol.

The “limited-scope review” focused on selected aspects of the district’s financial operations – the financial “buyout” settlement with former Superintendent James Sharpe after his resignation in March 2009, school board members’ travel-expense reimbursements and central-office oversight of expenditures. The period investigated, constrained by statutory limitations, was from March 1, 2004 through Feb. 19, 2010.

Acting Superintendent Rob McGill and PCSSD school board president Tim Clark last year requested that the Division of Legislative Audit for the state conduct the investigation because they suspected district accounting practices were not sound.

After the hearing, Clark said that a month after he joined the board in 2008, he began receiving anonymous phone calls and letters at his home that convinced him “it was time to do something” and seek an independent, in-depth audit.

“The next thing I knew, computers were being seized,” he said.

Kim Williams, deputy director of the state audit division, in her presentation to the legislative committee, lauded McGill and Anita Farver, chief financial officer for PCSSD, for their cooperation in the investigation. Williams noted that the individuals mainly responsible for the mismanagement and abuses no longer work for the district.

Williams said that top district managers had set a “tone at the top” that fostered a culture that made the abuses possible.

District management “has been very lax in doing their job,” she said. It was not for lack of sufficient personnel or policies that led to the waste and abuse but a failure of leadership in setting standards of behavior for the district.

The investigation has already resulted in criminal charges against two district employees and a civil case that is pending to recoup funds the district says is owed by Sharpe.

The audit report, which yesterday was turned over to Pulaski County Prosecutor Larry Jegley, may lead to more indictments.
Sen. Randy Laverty (D-Jasper), after listening to Williams’ presentation, said he has served on the Legislative Joint Auditing

Committee since 1995 and had “never seen anything like this.”

He said it is often the little school districts that get called to task for fiscal irresponsibility, but “this is an example of large, urban inefficiency. I would be remiss if I didn’t say that this is what we’ve expected all along.”

Committee member Sen. Kim Hendren (R-Gravette) stopped short of making a motion that the State Department of Education take over the PCSSD.

“It’s time the PCSSD is taken over if this is the kind of foolishness going on,” Hendren said. “This is outrageous.”

Incoming Superintendent Charles Hopson, present at the hearing, said that he too was “outraged” by the investigation findings and vowed that fiscal accountability would be a priority of his administration. He starts work July 1.

In reference to the job he is leaving as deputy director of district-wide programs for Portland, Ore., Hopson said, “We have very strong structures in place that prevent anything like this from happening,” and the one employee he knows of who stole from the district was “prosecuted and is in prison.”

Hopson praised the board for voting in favor of the audit, calling it “a gift — the timing could not have been more perfect.”

Among the findings were that two PCSSD school board members, Mildred Tatum and Gwen Williams, owe $2,788 and $619, respectively for travel reimbursements they received that are not allowed by state law. They include reimbursements to Tatum of $116 for a ticket to a Broadway play and $321 for two nights and valet parking at the Peabody Hotel in Little Rock, when she attended a local conference.

The district alerted legislative auditors in January when discrepancies in the financial records of the Jacksonville High School Activity Fund were discovered. Monies from various activities totaling $23,036 dating back to August 2009 and $8,500 from athletic-event gate receipts over the same time period had never made it to the bank. Rosalind Taylor, a PCSSD employee and bookkeeper for the activity fund, in March was charged with theft of property and is on leave without pay.


School board member Wood concurred. “A year and a few months ago, when we had movement to fire Mr. Sharpe, there was a sense we had about the tone at the top; there were a few things we were concerned about but couldn’t prove,” Wood said. “He just wasn’t running a tight organization.”

The financial buyout amount originally agreed to between Sharpe and the board was approximately $185,000. When it came to light last year that the district had paid him $269,520, Sharpe reimbursed the district $72,918. McGill subsequently requested that the district recalculate Sharpe’s compensation while superintendent and found an additional $17,203 overpayment.

According to district personnel, when Sharpe reached age 65 he got an unauthorized 6 percent increase in his pay – equivalent to the monthly contribution the district had made to his retirement account, which he was no longer entitled to since he was drawing retirement. Evidently, the board never approved the increase. Sharpe says the board president at the time approved the increase. A civil suit by the district against Sharpe is pending in Pulaski County Circuit Court.

Audits also identified “unallowable and questioned expenses” by Sharpe amounting to $7,836 that include duplicate charges, travel expenses for family members, undocumented meals, as well as alcoholic beverages and tips.
Sharpe is now employed as the superintendent of a school district in Oklahoma.


Caught red-handed by DLA investigators, James Diemer, a PCSSD employee since 1999, confessed to his crime. He admitted to defrauding the district “from day one” of becoming supervisor of mechanical systems “because he knew no one was looking.”

Diemer understood how the district system worked and he made it work for himself. The district allows blanket purchase orders for purchases under $2,500. He knew that excesses were allowed and that as his invoices passed up the chain of command to the superintendent, they were rubber-stamped without review.

A part of his scheme was to use one vendor to order items from another vendor so that excesses over monthly limits per vendor would go undetected.

“A (former) superintendent said he looked at the signatures and didn’t look for any documentation,” Kim Williams said. “As long as an invoice had the supporting cover sheet and proper signatures, it was paid.”

Over five years, Diemer made purchases for equipment totaling $439,745. The items included 266 cordless toolkits, seven truck tool boxes, 28 radios, eight generators, and 19 icemakers. Most he had sold; a few were found at Diemer’s residence.

To avoid indictment, Diemer in January pleaded guilty to theft of property from a government entity which received federal funds. His sentencing is scheduled for June 8.


The investigators found that four current school board members had been reimbursed for expenses that were undocumented, questionable or unallowed, according to either board policy or state law.

In question was $36 reimbursed to Charlie Wood and $149 to Danny Gililland. Both have repaid the district.

Still in question and potentially owed to the district is $2,788 reimbursed to Tatum and $619 to Williams.

School board president Tim Clark had no questionable or unallowed reimbursements, nor did Bill Vasquez. Asked about that at the hearing yesterday, Vasquez said, “I can’t see doing that when rain is coming down on our kids’ heads. Yeah, I can see saying, ‘I had a great time in San Diego. Too bad your kid had to put a bucket on his desk’” – a reference to poor conditions at Jacksonville schools. Sandra Sawyer joined the board later than the period that was audited.

Board expenses from July 1, 2006 to March 3, 2006 included $37,855 for travel reimbursements and $8,544 for food and catering for workshops and meetings. Board policy does not impose a limit on food purchases.

Clark said that he had instructed all board members to attend the hearing yesterday.

Williams, Tatum and Sawyer did not attend.

Deputy auditor Kim Williams said that part of the impropriety around the reimbursements stemmed from lax practices that have been allowed.


Examples of “internal control deficiencies” noted in the review included:

Desegregation funds used for purposes other than designated programs.

Overtime pay for 31 employees in the maintenance department from July 2006 to May 2009 totaling $193,279. Documentation was lacking, Williams said. The reason commonly given was to move furniture.

An overpayment of $11,975 not fully reimbursed.

Instances of non-compliance with policies for bid laws and policies, including $320,103 to a communications company without any bidding or a contract. Payments included retainer fees totaling $105,000.

Payment to a lawn maintenance company $40,553 over the amount in the contract. “He was only mowing every other week.

Nobody was making sure he was complying with terms,” Williams said.

Numerous instances of central office administrators being off the job without cause. “There was a lot of discussion about upper management being out of the office, off campus after lunch.”

The auditors’ report noted that top PCSSD personnel employed during the period investigated have left the district – besides Sharpe, Larry O’Briant (chief financial officer), James Warren (executive director of support services) and Sinclair Winburn (director of purchasing).

Clark said some of what was uncovered by the auditors was “a big surprise” and that he was “very pleased” with their work.

“If not for the auditors, taxpayers’ money would still be wasted,” the school board president said.

Friday, May 14, 2010

EDITORIAL >>Consider Crane for Pulaski clerk

You start thinking that it is immaterial who holds a ministerial job like the circuit-county clerk until someone poorly prepared for the task screws up everything, including our elections. Pulaski County voters learned that bitter lesson a few years ago and picked someone with demonstrated competence.

Now we must make that decision again in the Democratic primary. Larry Crane and Steve Walden present good credentials and sound knowledge.

You may not go wrong whichever you elect, but we recommend Larry Crane because he has a long history of administrative experience and competence. He has been the chief deputy state auditor, an assistant attorney general under four attorneys general and director of the state Assessment Coordination Division. It would be hard to find someone with a better grasp of property and election laws, the judiciary and the whole sweep of county and state government. That is exactly what the job needs.

EDITORIAL >>Davenport choice for commissioner

For commissioner of state lands, our choice is Monty Davenport. Experi-ence, knowledge and a public record are the keys. Davenport, a farmer and businessman from Yellville, has served three terms in the state House of Representatives. He voted progressively and was the primary sponsor of a dozen laws, including reform of the land office’s duties to protect school districts.

Of his two opponents, one, L. J. Bryant of Jonesboro, evinces a good understanding of the land office’s work and an interest in introducing more technology into the auctioning of tax-delinquent lands.

But experience and a good public record are hard to beat when you are choosing a steward of a purely ministerial office like land commissioner. That gives the nod to Monty Davenport.

EDITORIAL >>O’Brien for state secretary

We should not be electing the secretary of state and commissioner of state lands, who are hired to maintain some of the voluminous records of state government and very little else. There are at least a thousand government jobs more crucial to the lives and fortunes of Arkansas people, but 135 years ago, the framers of the Constitution deemed these jobs important enough to require popular election, so let us take our obligation seriously.

As it happens, three excellent candidates are running for secretary of state, who must maintain the state Capitol, its grounds and many government records. The secretary of state also supervises and monitors elections, which has raised the profile of the office and gives the secretary the little discretionary authority that he or she has.

Two county and circuit clerks, Pat O’Brien of Pulaski and Doris Tate of Sebastian, and the current commissioner of state lands, Mark Wilcox, are the Democratic candidates. A county and circuit clerk performs almost precisely the same duties as the secretary of state, but at the county level, so it is the perfect training for the state office. O’Brien has been the clerk in Pulaski County, the state’s largest, for six years and Tate the clerk in Sebastian, the fourth most populous, for 20 years. Tate is widely respected for running an efficient office and nearly error-free elections. Wilcox has made some innovations in the land commissioner’s office, which disposes of land that has been forfeited for failure to pay property taxes.

We endorse Pat O’Brien, although we candidly confess that proximity is a factor. He lives in Jacksonville and we know his work in a number of roles. But the remarkable job he did in rescuing the clerk’s office and the county from the mess left by his predecessor deserves a promotion. Who can forget the chaos of elections in 2002 and 2004 in Pulaski County and the rage of judges and prosecutors over the condition of judicial records? Pat O’Brien, thank goodness, has made all that at least a distant memory.

EDITORIAL >>For Bryles (D), Smith (R)

We take an uncommon interest in the politics of the First Congressional District, the western boundary of which we lie athwart.

The First District once embraced most of the delta farm region, but now it is about half mountain, and redistricting next year almost certainly will detach White County from the Second District and join it to its neighbor Lonoke County in the First District, which is what we used to call the farm district. The First probably will pick up another mountain county or two along the Missouri border and perhaps lose a farm county or two in the south.

All that is two years away and we have an election for Congress next week. We mention all the geographical trivia because this may be the last election in which the farm counties will be the dominant influence in the election of the district’s delegate to Congress and crop farming the congressman’s pre-eminent concern.

If you live in Lonoke, Prairie or one of the other counties of the middle Delta, you ought to keep the changing demographics in mind. In other words, choose someone who is unusually studious, attuned to the needs of an agriculture-based economy and politically gifted enough to keep the seat in a new geographical order.

Six Democrats and two Republicans are running in the primaries Tuesday. Let’s review the Democratic field first.

Rep. Marion Berry, who is retiring, has thrown his organization behind his chief of staff, Chad Causey of Jonesboro, which undoubtedly will give the young man a leg up in the big field. Causey insinuates that he will vote just like Berry would vote. He adopts Berry’s stance on matters such as health-care reform. Berry, you will remember, voted for the most sweeping health-care reform bill last year but then switched and voted against the more conservative version from the Senate and the final compromise. The suspicion was that he detected rising opposition to reform in the district and voted against it to give his protégé some cover in the elections.

Tim Wooldridge of Paragould, who was a state legislator for 16 years, was made the front-runner from the start because he was the best known. He was beaten four years ago by Bill Halter in a race for lieutenant governor and then took a job as a lobbyist for public universities in Arkansas. As a state senator and representative he was given to filing weird bills, such as one requiring that executions be done in public like the good old days of public hangings so that the executions would presumably be televised. He has run a homophobic campaign. He said employers should be able to fire employees if they think they are gay or lesbian and in fact should be encouraged to do it.

Given his posture on so many issues, Wooldridge has been beset by speculation that he would switch to the Republican Party after his election. His 2006 campaign manager went to work for Jim Holt, the Republican nominee for lieutenant governor that year and now the most extreme of the eight Republican candidates of the United States Senate. Last week, Wooldridge said flatly that he would remain a Democrat, and Democrats should take him at his word.

Nevertheless, his election would prove to be an embarrassment to the state. We have had enough humiliation.

The other candidates are Terry G. Green of Mountain Home, an orthopedic surgeon; state Rep. David Cook, a Vietnam veteran and retired school administrator who lives in Williford, a small town east of Cherokee Village; Ben Ponder of Mountain Home, a young businessman with a flashy résumé, including a doctoral degree, and a head full of innovative and off-the-wall ideas, and state Sen. Steve Bryles of Blytheville, who is in the cotton business.

The best candidates, we think, are Bryles and Cook because they have a record of effective lawmaking and consensus building. Congress could stand more of those qualities.

Our choice in the end is Steve Bryles owing to his relative youth — yes, we count 52 as young — and his remarkable success in crafting solutions to big problems and building consensus for them in the legislature, particularly for education and economic development. Government reporters for the Arkansas Democrat Gazette named him one of the most influential legislators and he was honored by the Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families, the Arkansas Education Association and the Arkansas Municipal League for his work for school reform and economic development.

Washington could use some of those skills.

The Republican primary will pit Rick Crawford of Jonesboro, a radio broadcaster, and Princella D. Smith of Wynne. No Republican has represented east Arkansas in Congress since Reconstruction, but Republicans are hopeful that this is their year.

We find Smith’s candidacy unusually attractive. She is smart and smooth and at the age of only 26, she has some impressive political experience. In 2006, she worked in the losing Maryland Senate campaign of Michael Steele, the current chairman of the Republican National Committee, worked for a spell in Newt Gingrich’s political organization and been an aide to freshman Louisiana Republican Rep. Anh “Joseph” Cao of New Orleans, the renegade who cast the only Republican vote in Congress last year for a universal health-care bill.

Smith would be the first African-American member of Congress from Arkansas — Arkansas is the only Southern state never to have been so represented — and the first African-American Republican female in Congress, from anywhere. Arkansas could use some recognition like that.

She would be pretty good, too. Princella Smith has our endorsement in the Republican primary.

Make your own judgment, but whatever district you live in and whatever party you favor this year — vote. It’s important.

EDITORIAL >>For Elliott (D), Wallace (R)

Although we often wish that he were more combative and less obliging of the other side, our template for a congressman is Rep. Vic Snyder. He studies hard, follows his conscience on every vote, defers to his foes and critics and eschews the year-round money chase that consumes every other member of Congress. No solicitation went out and his campaign coffers were always empty until the day he filed for election, so during the intervening two years there was not the constant tug of obligation from financial interests when he cast a vote.

There Snyder was in the letters section of a Little Rock newspaper last week defending Rep. John Boozman, the Republican with whom he shares little in common except civility. Boozman is a candidate for the U. S. Senate and Snyder backs Senator Blanche Lincoln, a Democrat and his friend. The newspaper had criticized Boozman for visiting 14 foreign countries on the taxpayers’ tab last year and compared him unfavorably with the good Democrat Snyder, who took no trips. Snyder explained to the paper that he took no trips because of family obligations — he had new triplets and a gravely ill wife. Boozman ought not to be condemned, he said, but praised for expanding his knowledge and understanding of the global ramifications of nearly every vote that a congressman takes. Criticizing a Republican for taking congressionally related travel, he seemed to be saying, was a cheap shot.

What politician does things like that anymore?

But Vic Snyder isn’t running and central Arkansas must choose someone from a field of seven, five Democrats and two Republicans, who seek to replace him. We mentioned Snyder’s rare qualities not because we expect a clone but because he offers a certain standard by which many voters may want to measure the candidates.

If you’re voting in the Democratic primary, the five candidates offer a great variety of experience but only subtle differences in political philosophy. As far as anyone can judge from their debates and position statements, each would follow the progressive footsteps of Snyder and the former U. S. senators, Dale Bumpers and David Pryor. The candidates are David Boling, Snyder’s chief of staff; John Adams, a young Little Rock lawyer and assistant attorney general; state Sen. Joyce Elliott, a former school teacher who also served four terms in the Arkansas House of Representatives; state Rep. Robbie Wills of Conway, the current speaker of the House, and Patrick Kennedy, who was until recently director of public programs at the Clinton School of Public Service.

Each makes a good case for Snyder’s mantle, and a voter is not likely to go wrong whomever he or she chooses. With little room among them to choose a distinctive philosophy, our recommendation is Senator Elliott based on her experience. She taught school for 31 years and has been one of the most effective legislators of modern times. That is remarkable for one who is so distinctly a minority in the legislature. She is an African American and a woman. The Arkansas Democrat Gazette twice named her one of the 10 best legislators. She helped craft the education reforms that consumed the legislature for six years.
Elliott’s campaign has presented Democrats with a dilemma. No matter how popular she has been in her own constituency and among Democrats, many doubt that an African American and a woman can win in the big district in November and they opt for a more practical political choice since there are good ones. But there is little profit in distrusting voters. After all, she was elected the majority leader of the white- and male-dominated Senate, which is about as representative of Arkansas as you can get.

Our recommendation is Joyce Elliott in the Democratic primary.

Republicans have a different dilemma, a paucity of choices. The candidates are Tim Griffin, a former White House operative who has been the center of a maelstrom over Justice Department corruption, and Scott Wallace, a restaurateur and longtime Little Rock businessman. National Republicans are backing Griffin, who was an acolyte of Karl Rove, the White House political director under George W. Bush. Leading Arkansas Republicans like former Gov. Mike Huckabee and former U. S. Rep. John Paul

Hammerschmidt support Wallace.

How they might vote is not an issue. Either would vote 100 percent of the time with the Republican stance or else he would not be around long. So what else do you want in a congressman?

Griffin is a political operative and nothing more. He won his spurs with the party by manufacturing political attacks on Democrats, first for the party and then for the White House. When the White House decided that a number of Republican prosecutors around the country were not using their jobs to discredit Democrats and protect Republicans, it had them fired and replaced by men like Griffin who were not so committed to impartial justice. Bush sneaked Griffin into the U. S. attorney’s job for east Arkansas by a recess appointment, angering even good Republicans like John Boozman. Unable to be confirmed, Griffin left after a few months to run for Congress.

Wallace doesn’t have such a checkered past, although a few Republicans have questioned his ownership of a liquor store. He sold the store to Philander Smith College, which considered it a nuisance to the next-door campus and shut it down.

But Scott Wallace doesn’t seem to be out to get anybody. For us, that makes him an easy choice in the Republican primary.

SPORTS>>Badgers join Bears in bracket

Leader sports editor

The Beebe Badgers continued to raise the profile of their baseball program with a berth in the 5A state tournament while the tradition-laden Sylvan Hills Bears made yet another appearance.

The tournament began Friday at Monticello High School and the University of Arkansas-Monticello. Beebe qualified as the No. 2 seed from the 5A-Southeast Conference and Sylvan Hills got in as the No. 3 seed.

Beebe drew Greenbrier, the West’s No. 3 seed, in its first-round game Friday and Sylvan Hills faced West No. 2 seed Harrison on Friday night.

A Beebe victory would put the Badgers in the second round against the winner of the Magnolia-Forrest City game at noon today. If Sylvan Hills advances, the Bears will play the winner of the Batesville-Pulaski Academy game at 2:30 p.m. today.

Semifinals are scheduled for Monday at 4 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. at Monticello High School. The state final is Friday at 2 p.m. at Baum Stadium in Fayetteville.

Beebe (21-7, 9-3) is making just its third state tournament appearance after winning its first tournament game last year.

The Badgers have only four seniors — pitcher/third baseman Logan Ballew, center fielder Lawson Bryant, first baseman Adam Narramore and catcher Ryan Williams — while junior Griffin Glaude has been a standout on the mound and at the plate.
Glaude has thrown three no-hitters this year and was a hitter away from a perfect game against Mills, when he struck out 18 of the 22 he faced. Glaude also is batting over .400.

Ballew has been a capable second starter for the Badgers while Williams, a Williams Baptist signee, also hit well over .400.

“This is the best year we’ve had so far,” Badgers coach Mark Crafton said.

Sylvan Hills, coached by Denny Tipton, is making its 40th state tournament appearance and gunning for its 12th state finals appearance and eighth championship. The Bears last won the state tournament in 2008.

The Bears (15-13, 8-4) boast four seniors, including right-hander and UALR signee Jordan Spears. They suffered a four-game losing streak this year but wrapped up the season with a sweep of a conference doubleheader against White Hall.

SPORTS>>Voskamp leads crowd of Cabot contenders

Leader sportswriter

Cabot contenders played to their strengths, but fell to their weaknesses in the 14th annual heptathlon at Cabot High School on Wednesday and Thursday.

Lady Panther junior Ariel Voskamp claimed a seventh-place finish in the two-day event, two spots ahead of sophomore teammate Sabrina Antimo. Senior Lady Panther Theresa Delapaz finished 33rd in her first attempt at the heptathlon.

Mansfield’s Jessica Otto became the new queen of the heptathlon with 5,067 points, 231 better than second-place finisher Macey Rodely of Jonesboro. Competitors went into the heptathlon knowing there would be a new champion after 2009 winner Kristen Celsor, of Searcy, withdrew because of a hip injury.

Voskamp was in the top five for most of Day 1 until her 27.54 in the 200-meter run made her 25th in that event and knocked her to eighth on the leader board. She overcame the disappointment of a 4-6 high jump and 17th-place finish to start Day 2 by taking third in the shot put, and Voskamp ended the heptathlon with a time of 2:41.17 and 16th-place finish in the 800-meter run.

Her throw of 30-08 in the shot put was a personal best, and came directly after her frustrating turn at the high-jump mat.

Voskamp said her performance in the shot put was no accident.

“I think that’s why I threw so good; I was not very happy,” Voskamp said. “Before my foot started hurting, I thought I was going to be able to clear five feet, and maybe even more than that. My first one, I just let it all out, then the rest were like 26’s.”

Voskamp had discomfort in her left foot from the start of the heptathlon, and the situation worsened as the two days of competition went on. It began to affect Voskamp in the long jump, and forced her to push off with her right foot in the high jump instead of her usual left.

“I’m pretty excited,” Voskamp said. “My foot hung in there. It’s dying, though. But I’m about to go stick it in some ice. I’m satisfied for this year. It’s not top five, it’s not first, but for how I feel, I finished it the best I could. I can’t get too mad at myself.”

Antimo played catch up for most of the heptathlon after starting out in 46th place after the 100-meter hurdles. Her 16-6 in the long jump was seventh best and bumped her to 32nd overall, and the sophomore sprinter closed out Day 1 by winning the 200-meter run, which put her in 10th heading into the final day.

Antimo did not finish out of the top twenty in any of the three events in Day 2, closing out the heptathlon with a third-place run in the 800-meters with a time of 2:32.08.

Delapaz, younger sister of former Cabot track standouts Jacob and Marissa Delapaz, traded in her cheerleading pom-poms for track gear her senior year, and had her share of strong performances in her first and only try in the heptathlon.

She finished 13th in the discus with a throw of 74 feet, and was 11th in the shot put with a throw of 28-7.

Delapaz finished 26th in the 200-meter run with a personal best time of 27.69.

“My performance was good for what I was practicing,” Delapaz said.

“Just trying to keep the Delapaz legend going. My coach said I had potential; I should have done it sooner. But not so much sooner, because it seems like a lot of people are getting injured.”

SPORTS>>Red Devils, Lions march into postseason

Leader sports editor

Jacksonville coach Larry Burrows knows too well the Red Devils’ season could be down to just one game.

Burrows and the Devils will be doing their best to make it a three-game finale when they open play in the 6A state tournament at noon today at Benton’s Bernard Holland Baseball Complex. Jacksonville, the 6A-East champion with a first-round bye, will face either defending state champion Benton or Marion.

With two victories in the single-elimination tournament, Jacksonville (20-7, 12-2) can reach the final at Fayetteville’s Baum Stadium on Friday. One loss, and the Red Devils go home, as they did after finishing second in the conference and getting a bye last year.

“I wanted to make sure we at least got into the top two but it doesn’t assure you of anything,” Burrows said. “We finished second last year and got the first-round bye and lost by one run to Lake Hamilton.”

After a season full of conference doubleheaders, and with the colleges and pros playing series, Burrows said he wished the state tournament format also offered multiple games to show a team’s true measure.

“It’s tough; I’d like to see the top four teams in double elimination,” Burrows said. “They don’t care about my opinion. But you’ve got to play well. You’ve got to take advantage. It’s tough to have it all boil down to one.”

Searcy, beaten 8-5 by Benton in last year’s championship, is on the Jacksonville side of the bracket and opened play Friday against Texarkana as the No. 3 seed from the 6A-East. A victory would put Searcy in the second round against Watson Chapel at 2:30 p.m. today.

If Jacksonville or Searcy reach the semifinals, they will play at 6:30 p.m. on Monday at Benton High School. The championship is at 4:30 p.m. on Friday.

“It’s going to be intense, all of them, because it is one and done,” Burrows said. “If you’ve won three pretty intense games in a row you probably deserved to win the state championship.”

Though the Red Devils lost three starting pitchers from last year’s team and returned just one senior, Burrows said he felt his players would hit this season. It is the pitching, led by sophomore right-hander Jesse Harbin (8-0, 1.25 ERA) that has been a pleasant surprise.

Despite his youth, Burrows said he was confident in Harbin, who will start today, while Mike Lamb and Nick Rodriguez have blossomed.

“They don’t have the power arms that some people have but we’ve pitched extremely well,” Burrows said.

Pitching probably was less of a concern for Searcy, whose staff features 6-4, 210-pound prospect Dillon Howard, a junior who has drawn interest from both pro and college scouts.

The Red Devils got to Howard in a 5-4 victory in the first game of their last conference doubleheader on May 4.

“We thought we were going to swing it pretty good,” Burrows said of this year’s hitters, led by junior catcher Patrick Castleberry.

Castleberry is batting .446 with a team-high 54 RBI.

“There’s no doubt he’s one of the best hitters in the state,” Burrows said. “When you have 50-something RBI’s there’s people on base. I feel like, when we’re focused in, I don’t think anybody can swing it better one through nine than us.”

Setting the table for guys like Castleberry are outfielder D’Vone McClure and shortstop Jacob Abrahamson. McClure is batting .434 with 26 RBI and Abrahamson is hitting .423 with 26 RBI and a team-high 36 runs.

Burrows agreed Benton may have a home-field advantage, though that is lessened somewhat by the one-and-out format. As for the possibility of seeing 6A-East opponents like Marion or Searcy again, Burrows said there could be an advantage in having faced their pitchers before.

But really, Burrows said, it’s more important how the Red Devils go about their business and not what the other team is up to.

“It’s about us. We need to play well,” Burrows said. “That’s what needs to happen. If we play well I’ll take my chances with any of the 12 in that thing.”

Thursday, May 13, 2010

TOP STORY>> Cabot is new campaign hot spot

IN SHORT: Wooldridge visits, as do two others in the First District race.

By Jeffrey Smith
Leader staff writer

Former state Sen. Tim Wooldridge of Paragould is one of several Democrats who want to represent the First District in Congress.

He made a campaign stop Tuesday in Cabot and told supporters that he is an experienced legislator who would best represent the people of the district.

“I feel compelled to offer someone that is real, that has raised a family, made house payments and car payments, and that represents Arkansas values in Washington,” Wooldridge told The Leader in an interview.

Wooldridge and state Sen. Bobby Glover (D-Carlisle), who is term limited, were guests of Cabot Rotarian Bill O’Brien at the club’s noon meeting Tuesday at Colton’s Steak House and Grill.

Several Democrats and Republicans are running in the First District since Rep. Marion Berry of Gillett announced in January that he won’t be running for re-election.
Other Democrats running in the May 18 primary are state Sen. Steve Bryle, state Rep. David R. Crook, Chad Causey, Terry G. Green and Ben Ponder.

Republican candidates are Rick Crawford and Princella Smith, who also campaigned in Cabot this week.

Wooldridge, 49, is the executive director of the Arkansas Association of Public Universities, a position he has held since August 2007. He divides his time between Paragould and Little Rock.

He earned a bachelor’s degree in communications-public relations from Arkansas State University.

“My emphasis will be to provide opportunities for job creation, which in my estimate is the best stimulus to build a strong economy,” Wooldridge said.

He added, “In Washington there is too much acrimony and gridlock.”

Wooldridge said he would work to find real solutions to the challenges of the nation. He plans to create real jobs, to be fiscally responsible and have conservative values.
“We can’t keep compromising our future with massive debt,” Wooldridge said.

If elected to Congress, Wooldridge said he won’t live in Washington but will continue living in the First District, so the voices and concerns of the people will be heard.
“I recognize the importance of the presence of this part of the district and I will maintain a congressional office in Cabot,” he said.

Wooldridge said Cabot will continue to grow, and he will respond to the challenges and meet the needs of the community. He would be in the Cabot office regularly, he said.
Wooldridge said one of his goals if elected to Congress is to strengthen the infrastructure in the district.

He said he will work on building the north interchange in Cabot and extend the widening of Hwy. 5 to four lanes to El Paso.

He said he wants to expand educational and broadband opportunities to improve more communities.

Wooldridge said he has a background in farming and is supportive of agriculture. He was raised in the 1960s and 1970s on his family’s 600-acre farm near Paragould. The family grew cotton, rice, beans and milo.

His son-in-law, Dustin Jackson and his family, are farmers in southeastern Missouri, where they grow approximately 4,500 acres of cotton.

Wooldridge was in the state legislature for 16 years. He was a state representative from 1991 to 1998. He was in the state Senate from 1999 to 2006.

He was chair of the Revenue and Taxation Committee and he was chair of the Legislative Council.

Wooldridge served on the Agriculture, Economic and Industrial Development Com-mittee, the Joint Committee on Energy, Joint Budget Committee and the Efficiency Committee.
Before Wooldridge worked for the Arkansas Association of Public Universities, he was vice president for Institutional Advancement-Legislative Affairs at the Arkansas Methodist Medical Center Foundation in Paragould for seven years. Wooldridge was the vice president of development at Crowley’s Ridge College for seven years.

Wooldridge is a graduate of Greene County Tech High School. He and his wife, Lisa, have two children, Jeremy and Tiffany.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

EDITORIAL >>For Halter, Boozman

Whether you vote in the Republican or Democratic primary, when you mark your ballot for the U. S. Senate on Tuesday, you will be choosing whether to keep an incumbent. That’s right. The leading Senate candidate in each party, Sen. Blanche Lincoln in the Democratic and Rep. John Boozman in the Republican, must be considered an incumbent and an agent of the status quo, although neither will accept that description in the current reactionary climate.

Although Lincoln is a moderate but often unreliable Democrat and Boozman an ultraconservative and uniformly loyal Republican, their careers in Congress are not that different. If your major concern is how the United States got into its current fiscal distress — it is a big issue with us — then you must give heavy weight to their votes on those matters. They voted nearly the same on the big economic issues from 2001 through 2009, when their careers overlapped. They voted for the big tax cuts for the rich and corporations, the unfinanced expansion of Medicare that helped explode the budget deficits, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan (both financed by borrowing) and the bailout of U. S. financial institutions in 2008.

They cast opposite votes on the two major fiscal initiatives of the Democratic administration last year, the economic-stimulus program and health-care reform. We happen to think Lincoln cast the right votes, which were for them. The stimulus program cushioned the nation’s economic collapse, nowhere with better effect than in Arkansas, and health-care reform will reverse the climb toward greater deficits, secure medical attention for everyone and prove to be an unusual economic bonanza for Arkansas.

Nevertheless, our recommendations would be Bill Halter for the Democratic nomination and John Boozman for the Republican nomination. That may seem inconsistent, but Lincoln and Boozman are not running against each other, not yet anyway. Lincoln must be weighed against her two opponents and Boozman against his seven.

Boozman is an easy choice. All of his opponents offer to be clones of the Third District congressman, except where he has voted badly, most of them promise to do even worse. For example, they would vote for even more irresponsible tax cuts for the rich and corporations. One of Boozman’s two serious opponents, Jim Holt, wants to abolish Social Security, Medicare and other forms of government-sponsored health insurance, farm aid, deposit insurance, and business regulation of every kind — in short, every federal program but the military and Interstate highway work.

The only issue the Republicans seem to have with Boozman is his vote for President George W. Bush’s $700 billion corporate bailout in 2008. It is easy for them to say now they would have opposed it since they were not there when the Republican president, the secretary of the treasury and the head of the Federal Reserve, all the leaders of their party and leading economists were saying that a banking collapse would plunge the nation into another Great Depression.

Unlike Lincoln, who tries to leave the impression that she was against the bailout, Boozman owns up to his vote and defends it. He did not want to take a chance on all the experts being wrong. But, he explains, he voted for a resolution just before Bush left office to block the release of the second half of the bailout funds, which would be dispensed by the new Democratic president. Lincoln voted to block release of the second half of the money, too, although President Obama imposed new controls to halt the rampant misuse of the bailout funds — all the executive bonuses and acquisitions — that made the bailout so unpopular. Obama has not spent all of the allotment, and the banks and auto companies that received the money are rapidly paying it back. By year’s end, the bailout may prove to have been an unalloyed benefit to the taxpayers, but voters long ago made up their minds that it was a cataclysmic evil. Republican voters seem willing to give Boozman a pass anyway.

We don’t admire much about Boozman’s voting record but we like his honesty. That elevates him from the field in the Republican primary.

Halter is a harder choice because we don’t care for his single achievement as a public official in Arkansas, the state lottery.

The lieutenant governor does not have a chance to do great deeds, but Halter went out of his way to do harm when he engineered a ballot position and a resounding vote for the lottery in 2008.

How differently he will perform as a senator from Lincoln we cannot be sure, but he indicated that he would have voted the opposite on all those initiatives of the Bush administration that turned federal budget surpluses into the mammoth deficits and converted the most buoyant economy in the nation’s history into the worst in 70 years. Neither do we believe that he will be at the service of people of great wealth and the petroleum and coal industries, which have pumped fortunes into the campaign of Lincoln.

The third Democrat is D. C. Morrison, who is indistinguishable from the eight Republicans. He’s in the race to force Lincoln and Halter into a runoff so that they will exhaust more of their treasuries.

The campaigns that both Halter and Lincoln have waged have been irrelevant and needlessly vicious. Both accuse each other of driving jobs overseas. The ads by Lincoln and the shadow groups that support her or the Republicans have been particularly shameful, accusing Halter of sending jobs to India and wanting to destroy Social Security, both patently lies. Each Democrat may have made the other unelectable, the ultimate disservice to the party and to the state.

So our choices on May 18 are Bill Halter and John Boozman. We wish we could say “without reservation.”

TOP STORY > >Snyder’s aide wants top job

Leader senior staff writer

Of the five people in the May 17 Democratic primary seeking to succeed Second District Rep. Vic Snyder in January, his former chief-of-staff, David Boling, is perhaps the most Snyder-like.

He alone among the candidates has said that like Snyder, he won’t fundraise in non-election years, and Boling sought in a recent interview to associate himself with Snyder’s platform, saying that as chief of staff, he worked on legislation for the congressman.

Boling said he’s seen the benefits of limitingfundraising. Instead, he’d “focus on solving problems and listening to constituents. It’s a good policy, and I’d like to see it continue.”

Boling, 46, a Little Rock lawyer with a wife and two children, served as Snyder’s chief-of-staff for the last two-and-a-half years.

“I loved the work and working for him and the people of the Second District,” he said. “I want to be an advocate. I’ve been doing that type of work and want to continue.”

Boling said that thanks to his experience as Snyder’s chief of staff, he would be able to hit the ground running. “I can’t imagine any better preparation,” he said.

Boling resigned as the congressman’s chief of staff in January to run for the seat Snyder is vacating.

“Getting the economy going is the big issue right now,” Boling said. “There’s too much anxiety; the unemployment rate is too high. I’ve been unemployed myself.

“Congress passed the recovery act about a year ago. It was the right thing to do. I would have supported it. I worked on the bill,” he said.
“The private sector has to be the engine,” Boling added. “The economy was on the ropes. It needed a kick in the pants.”

Boling said unemployment has started to plateau.

He said he would like to find money for small businesses that need credit.

“I would take some of the money set aside for TARP and move it over to SBA, extending more credit to small businesses,” he explained.

Boling said he’d help to implement retraining programs for the unemployed or underemployed and also work to open export markets.

Of the 10 years he worked for the Justice Department, Boling said he worked intensely for two years on negotiating trade agreements, especially with East Asia.

“I’m the only candidate in this race who has experience opening up foreign markets,” Boling said, “and that’s a key to economic growth in the future.”

The final piece of Boling’s plan to jumpstart the economy is to expand broadband to rural areas. “That’s particularly important in Arkansas,” he said. “ (In) communities that get broadband, small business will have more business, access to markets and customers they otherwise wouldn’t have.”

Regarding the health-care bill that President Obama recently signed into law, Boling said he would have supported both the bill that passed in November, which he worked on, and the final bill that was signed in March.

He says he likes the law because it helps children by expanding Medicaid in Arkansas, where most recipients are children, and helps young adults by allowing them to stay on their parents’ policies until they turn 26.

“A young lady on my campaign, 24, had been denied insurance because as a child she had attention-deficit disorder and asthma. Within a few months, she’ll be able to get on her father’s policy,” he said.

Because of the new law, insurance companies can’t deny coverage for pre-existing conditions or rescind contracts. The new law will help seniors by closing the prescription-drug donut hole. It also allows small businesses to join state exchanges to get a basic package of benefits and tax credits, he said.

“It also helps reduce the deficit over 20 years by $1 trillion, according to the Congressional Budget Office,” he said.

Boling, who comes from a family split along party lines, said he’s a Democrat because that party best reflects the principles and values that moved the country forward, with programs like Social Security, Medicare and passage of civil rights laws.

Boling said he’s a fourth-generation Arkansan, born and raised in Pine Bluff.

“My grandfather was a watch repairman on Main Street. My father was the first in the family to go to college, on a ROTC scholarship,” Boling said.

Boling graduated from law school at the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville. He went to Japan on a Rotary Scholarship. He earned a master’s of law degree at Columbia University.

He went to work for the Department of Justice in 1995 as an anti-trust lawyer.

He served in both the Clinton and Bush administrations and worked on civil and criminal matters and international trade.

He worked at the Mitchell Williams Law Firm in Little Rock on business litigation from 2005 until he went to work for Snyder.

“I share his commitment to Little Rock Air Force Base,” Boling said.

He cited the Joint Education Center at the base as a project Snyder helped enable, and he applauded the work the residents of Jacksonville did in passing a tax to contribute $5 million to the construction of that college.

He said the C-130 base has “a bright future, and we want to do all we can to support it.”

TOP STORY > >Bryles seeks Berry’s seat

Leader editor in chief

Sen. Steve Bryles of Blytheville is one of six Democrats running for Congress in the First District to succeed Rep. Marion Berry (D-Gillett).

The other candidates are Rep. David Cook, former Sen. Tim Wooldridge, Chad Causey, Terry Green and Ben Ponder. Two Republicans, Princella Smith and Rick Craw-ford, are seeking their party’s nomination in the May 18 primaries.

Bryles, a cotton dealer, has represented Senate Dist. 15 in the Arkansas Senate since 2001, which includes Mississippi and Poinsett counties.

His committee memberships include Public Education; Agriculture, Economic Develop-ment and Forestry; Joint Budget and Legislative Council.

In 2005, Bryles received the Distinguished Service Award from the Arkansas Municipal League, was honored for distinguished service by Arkansas State University and was the recipient of the “Friend Award” from the Arkansas Association for Gifted Educators and Administrators.

He was also recognized by the Arkansas Education Association for “outstanding leadership on behalf of public education” and has time and again been selected as a legislative champion for children by Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families.

Born in Piggott, Bryles at-tended public schools in Star City, Osceola and Blytheville and majored in agricultural economics at the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville.

A member of First Presbyterian Church in Blytheville, Bryles and his wife, Pamela, have one son and two daughters.

Why are you running for Congress?

Our economy is hurting. People are worried about their jobs and their futures. I know what that’s like. I’ve struggled to make a living in the cotton business. I have three children – two in college. I worry about how to pay for their education and what kind of opportunities they’ll find when they get out.

I’m running for Arkansas’ First congressional seat being vacated by the retiring Marion Berry because I believe that my deep roots in the First District, my background in agri-business and my record in helping create jobs and improving our schools can best serve the people in our area.

My family roots in the First District are deep. My great-great grandfather settled in Hickory Plains in Prairie County in the 1850s. I have family scattered across the district which gives me a strong sense of the every day, meat and potatoes issues that are important.

My record reflects that I’ve created jobs, brought new and innovative ideas to the public education arena, and as state senator helped build consensus on tough issues facing the state.

I have the experience and skills to be an effective congressman for the people of Arkansas.

Who is supporting your candidacy?

I have been encouraged by the response to my candidacy as I have campaigned across the district. The folks I meet on Main Street, in courthouses, at factories and in coffee shops are responsive to and supportive of my candidacy.

I have not been hand selected by a politician to run. I am running because I believe I have the experience, skills and temperament to be an effective congressman.

Will serving in the legislature prepare you for Congress?

I believe my 10 years in the Arkansas Senate has given me an understanding of the legislative process that will be valuable; but more importantly, I have developed consensus building skills in the legislature. I have been voted an outstanding legislator by the Arkansas Democrat Gazette and received the Outstanding Leadership Award from the Arkansas Education Association on behalf of public education.

In addition, I received the Legislative Champion for Children from the Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families and the Distinguished Service Award from the Arkansas Municipal League. Congress is in desperate need of more consensus builders and leaders; I believe I have proven that I am both.

What makes you different from your Democratic opponents and your potential GOP opponent?

I bring a unique set of experience and skills to this campaign. I am the only candidate with a combination of agri-business background, job creation and education reform experience and a track record of success building consensus on tough legislative issues.

How will you help Arkan-sas if you’re elected to Congress?

My first priority will be to get the economy on track and to create jobs in Arkansas. Beyond jobs and the economy, I will work to insure that we get spending under control, put the brakes on Wall Street greed, improve our schools, give farmers the tools needed to be successful and work tirelessly to help restore faith in government.

I have a record of creating jobs. Working with local and state officials, we created incentives to attract new jobs and encourage existing companies to expand. Our efforts have brought 2,700 high-paying jobs to the Delta, with hundreds more on the way. I have written a three step plan to grow jobs and get the economy moving in Arkansas. The plan calls for 1) establishing a federal Quick Action Job Development Closing Fund; 2) encouraging the use of clean, abundant, Arkansas-produced natural gas, and 3) deploying high-speed Internet to rural areas.

Why did you get into public service?

To give back to my community and to the state I so dearly love. I wanted to make a positive difference. I believe strongly in participatory democracy so I offered myself as a candidate for state Senate. The good people of Mississippi and Poinsett counties elected me twice. I am now term limited in the Arkansas Senate so I am offering my experience and skills to the people of the First District as I seek to represent them in Congress.

Has the political scene changed much in the past few months? Will that help you?

It seems politics have gotten progressively nasty over the last few years. Congress is full of people who seem to have agendas that are not consistent with the needs of their district. Too much media grabbing, posturing and partisan bickering takes place.

One of my stronger skills is consensus building. In the state Senate, I brought together people and organizations with differing philosophies to work for the greater good.

How close are you politically to Cong. Marion Berry?

For the past 14 years, Cong. Berry has worked hard for the people of the First District. I respect him for his willingness to serve and his tireless work. As a state senator, I have worked closely with Berry and his staff on agriculture, education and economic development issues.

I am not his hand-picked successor, but if I prevail in this campaign for Congress, I will seek his advice and counsel.

What can you do about health care?

The American health-care system is broken. Too many people who need care are not getting it, insurance companies have too much influence on medical decisions and the cost is skyrocketing out of control.

The bill Congress passed makes some improvements: eli-minating pre-existing conditions, closing the Medicare donut hole for seniors, and allowing children to stay on their parents’ insurance until age 26. Even with those improvements, I am concerned about the cost of health-care reform and whether it will actually limit access to care when Medicare reimbursement rate cuts are imposed.

I don’t have all the answers. I will work hard to gain an understanding and the knowledge to fix the system so that all Americans can have access to affordable health care.

What kind of legislation will you support in Congress?

My first priority will be to focus on legislation that gets the economy moving and creates jobs. I will support bills that rein in spending and help balance the budget. In the Arkansas Senate, I championed education reform. Education is the cornerstone for community and economic development, so I will continue to focus on that policy arena.

When it comes to health-care costs and taxes, what can we do to lessen the burden on individuals and small businesses?

I don’t have all the answers on the impact of health-care reform. I have been a small businessman my entire adult life, so I am sensitive to the ramifications of the legislation. In these tough economic times, the last thing small businesses and families need are higher bills. I will do all in my power to insure that the financial burden of health-care reform is not placed on the backs of small business and individuals.

How do we restart the economy?

There is no magic bullet to jumpstarting the economy. There are many interconnected components for a healthy, stable economy. Job creation will be my number-one priority. Additionally, we must restore consumer confidence in spending.

Consumer spending on things like houses, automobiles and other durable goods will help jumpstart manufacturing, which in turn creates jobs.

Again, I have written a three- step plan to getting the economy moving in Arkansas. 1) Establish a federal Quick Action Job Development Closing Fund; 2) encourage the use of clean, abundant, Arkansas-produced natural gas, and 3) deploy high-speed Internet to rural areas and provide incentives to purchase a computer for those who cannot afford one.

What does your family think about you running?

My wife Pam and our three children are supportive. Two of my girls are away at college and cannot campaign with me on a daily basis, but they’ve called and sent texts to all their friends in the district. I am blessed to have family all across the district who are working hard to get me elected. My father, Mark Bryles, is a retired county agent. Over the years, he developed friends in virtually every county in the First District. His network has been helpful. I have a brother who is a farm-implement dealer in Prairie County who has been working hard to help me reach folks in the agriculture community.

Will you support Little Rock Air Force Base if you’re elected?

Wholeheartedly! I understand LRAFB’s importance to the community, state and nation. Little Rock Air Force Base is vital to our economic future.

TOP STORY > >Wall is signed as new armory is taking shape

Leader staff writer

A ceremony was held Tuesday at the National Guard armory in Cabot, even though the $10 million facility is nowhere near finished.

Workers from Nabholz Construction Co., which is building the armory, representatives from the Arkansas National Guard, Mayor Eddie Joe Williams, two city council members and other project supporters gathered to sign the wall that divides the armory in two before it is covered in rocks.

“It’s symbolic,” the mayor said. “It says you’re part of it. The wall is completed and they’re beginning to put the rock on.

“It’s sort of a time capsule of all the people working on it andthe people supporting it,” Williams said.

The rocks that will cover the signatures are part of the facility’s passive heating system. Sunlight coming in through the glass front will heat the rocks that will in turn help heat the building.

Steve Elliott, the architect, designed the armory to be unique. Elliott, who spent 28 years as a guardsman, told the audience during the groundbreaking ceremony that he had been to armories all over the country and they are all much the same.

But the armory located off Hwy. 367 will be somewhat different, he said. Its glass front symbolizes that it is open to the public and its rock wall will be made from Arkansas stone.

To further cut the cost of energy at the facility by 25 to 30 percent, a geo-thermal heating and cooling system is part of the design.

Williams, who pushed for the armory to be built in Cabot, hoped when construction started early in December that it would be completed before he left office.

Williams has opted to run for state Senate instead of re-election for mayor and he hoped construction would take only 12 months.

But he said Tuesday afternoon construction is on schedule despite the rain and the armory is expected to be completed in the spring of 2011.

The economic impact to the area from the armory is expected to be about $1 million a year.

The facility will be home to F Company, a forward support company for the 2nd-153rd Infantry Battalion. F Company is one of six companies, spread over 11 armories in northeast Arkansas, that report to the infantry battalion headquarters in Searcy.

F Company is responsible for re-supplying food, water and other essentials to the Infantry Battalion. They also provide transportation, maintenance, and mess services for the infantry battalion.

TOP STORY > >Board says no to teachers

Leader staff writer

The school board for the Pulaski County Special School District last night approved the contract for a new superintendent and voted down contracts for district teachers and support staff.

The board voted unanimously to table a motion to revise the bell schedule for all district schools. Several parents spoke against the new schedule, saying that it would be bad for young children by making them get up earlier and get home later in the day.

Arkansas native Charles Hopson, who currently serves as a deputy superintendent for Portland, Ore., schools, will be paid $205,000 a year to head the third-largest school district in the state. His contract is for three years, renewable annually. He will be at his new post full-time July 1, but is expected to spend much of the interim in the district and will be paid as a consultant.

Marty Nix, president of Pulaski Association of Classroom Teachers, the collective bargaining agent for district teachers, said before the 4-3 vote against contracts that teachers would be in classrooms the rest of the week.

“A strike is only one option,” Nix said. “We have a lot of options – in the courts, through discussions in the community and with parents. Parents should contact board members to tell them that the contract remains in effect and to resume negotiations.”

On separate motions made by Bill Vasquez to approve the teachers’ and support staff’scontracts, board members Danny Gilliland, Mildred Tatum and Charlie Wood and school board president Tim Clark voted no. Vasquez, Sandra Sawyer and Gwen Williams voted yes.

Before the vote, Vasquez told fellow board members he was not interested in telling them how to vote, but simply to vote one way or the other, in accord with the terms of the existing contract, which requires either ratification or a return to negotiations.

The tentative agreements had been awaiting board action since December, when they were ratified by the union members.

Instead of ratification, the board on Dec. 8 voted to withdraw recognition of PACT as the teachers’ bargaining agent. On April 8, Pulaski County Circuit Court Judge Tim Fox declared that the board’s Dec. 8 vote violated state law and hence was null and void. He said that the board had the authority to rescind recognition of the union, but had to follow state law.

Vasquez took fellow board members through the preamble and several clauses in the current contract that spell out the obligation of both the district and teachers to negotiate in good faith and the process to follow, even in the event of impasse.

“Judge Fox put us back to Dec. 8,” Vasquez said. “We either need to vote up or down or go back to negotiate.”

Vasquez defended the contract as a “useful tool and very simple document to follow,” akin to the PCSSD student handbook, which is explicit about expectations for behavior and the consequences if the rules are not followed.

“The contract does the same thing in relation to employees; it doesn’t tie your hands at all,” Vasquez said.

The contract, which is 150 pages, has been criticized for its length. However, most of the policies that comprise the contract came straight from the PCSSD personnel policies manual that existed before PACT became the collective bargaining agent for teachers more than 20 years ago.

If the board ultimately withdraws recognition of PACT, it must form a personnel policies committee to serve as an advisory body that recommends policies for board vote. The committee would consist of five classroom teachers, elected by their peers and three administrators, appointed by the superintendent.

Before the vote, Gwen Williams alluded to the board discussion last week about the contract the district has with a provider of after-school programs, D.R.E.A.M. (Directing Resources to Excel All Minds), who had fallen behind on meeting its obligations under a contract.

“Last week, when we were dealing with the D.R.E.A.M. program, Tim Clark asked Ms. Abernathy if she had a contract with the district, and when she said yes, you told her she needed to honor her contract,” Williams said. “We as a board need to follow the contract that we have in place.”

Board member Charlie Wood, who led the charge to withdraw recognition of PACT, said before voting, “We are taking about the process. I am glad Mr. Vasquez put it on the agenda. Nobody will say we didn’t vote it up or down.

Wood went on to say that the main reason he would vote against the contract was the policy in it allowing for teachers to rollover accrued leave from one year to the next and then use large amounts of leave in one school year. He said he knew of “a few” teachers who had used 75 days of leave in one year.

“I don’t want the teachers to miss that many days,” Wood said. “It is not in the contract.”

Board member Sandra Sawyer said she would vote for the contract because it was in accord with process “as stated in the (contract) and the courts.”

She asked Wood if he understood that if he had a problem with something in the tentative agreement, which had been reached by the chief negotiators, then “that is the purpose of negotiating – to remove the things you disagree with.”

During public comment before the vote, eight school patrons went to the podium to urge the board to follow the bargaining process laid out in the current contract and to support teachers by ratifying the contract.

Donna Morey, president of the Arkansas Education Association, also implored the board to reconsider its December vote.

Morey, who started her teaching career in PCSSD in 1978, recalled a time when there was harmony among teachers, administrators and parents “working together so that all students could achieve.” She said she was saddened at this point that this relationship no longer exists.

“I urge you to find some way to come back to the table so all teachers and support staff can be included in decisions” that affect students, Morey said.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

SPORTS>>Price tag taking toll on E-Mods

Leader sportswriter

The price wars in local racing never seem to end.

It started more than a decade ago when super late models began to disappear because of the enormous cost to run them.

Open-wheel modifieds then became the top dogs of the local dirt-track circuits around the country, as street stocks also began to suffer lower car counts.

The streets were running on average of $200 to $400 for first place in a class where competitors could easily spend in excess of $15,000 for a competitive engine, not to mention thehigh-end aftermarket suspension and chassis components.

Sanctioning from IMCA helped curb the cost of running modifieds in the local area initially, but as more and more tracks dropped the sanctioning because of disagreements by competitors over the engine-claim rule, the newer “outlaw” style rules allowed for more and more spending to gain an advantage.

That led a group of budget-minded racers and tracks to begin running economy modifieds, or E-mods. The E-mods started out using outdated modified chassis with cheaper tires and more stock engines, and gave drivers a chance to run in an open-wheel division without the cost of a full-blown modified.

But as the class has grown, so has the cost. So much so that the lap times between the outlaw mods and front-running E-mods are very similar, which has caused local modified enthusiasts to call for limited sport mods with an IMCA sanctioning.

There are essentially two versions of limited modifieds. The Northern Limited Sport Modifieds are similar to the current economy modified, only with a stricter engine specification, and the Southern Limited Sport Modified is an open-wheel racecar, which is built from a stock chassis.

The southern sport mod is by far the most cost efficient, and judging from Joey Simmons’ performance at Beebe Speedway on Friday, just as competitive. Simmons led from flag-to-flag over E-mod regular Robert Woodard, but was disqualified for being underweight.

“The sport mod is not much different; it’s on a hobby frame,” Beebe Speedway track promoter Harold Mahoney said. “It’s pretty much all stock suspension, but they have to weigh the same as our E-mods if they’re going to run here, because they have the same motor rules and all that.”

Mahoney was put in a difficult position Friday when Woodard’s team vehemently protested Simmons’ car, which was well under the required weight of 2,500 pounds with driver. The rules state drivers can receive one courtesy night, but also note that is allowed in the case of “minor infractions.”

“I’ve watched them run; they’re fast cars,” Mahoney said. “But everything stays on the ground and hooked up. We’re going to try and start running some of them. (E-mods) are basically a second-hand modified, is what they are. Just a little bit smaller motor, but they’re running pretty good times.

“It’s a cheaper-built car. I’ve watched them run at Monticello, and they had about 30 of them, so everybody likes them.”

It remains to be seen if the sport mods will be used in addition to or as a replacement for E-mods, which can run with the outlaw mods using a few changes to the engine and chassis.

SPORTS>>Young Lady Lions kick in, take crown

Leader sportswriter

The points Searcy needed all came from freshmen while the seniors provided the leadership — and a few assists.

That’s how the Lady Lions claimed their third 6A state championship in four seasons in a 3-1 victory over previously unbeaten El Dorado at Fayetteville’s Razorback Field on Friday.

The Lady Lions (18-4-2) took the lead when senior McKenzie Clark assisted freshman forward Avery Albright for the first goal with 16 minutes left in the first half, and Albright got another assist from classmate Ashley Barnes in the final minute to give
Searcy an insurance score after the Lady Wildcats began to rally.

“Any time you’re up by one goal, you get nervous,” Lady Lions coach Larry Stamps said. “It was close the whole game. They had a good goalkeeper; she was probably the toughest we’ve seen all year.

“Of course, we helped her out a few times and took it right to her, and we had one sail just barelyover her head. It looked like it was going to go over but the wind sent it back down. We’ll take that.”

The score remained 1-0 until freshman McKenna Smith scored to put Searcy up 2-0 mid-way through the second half. El Dorado stayed alive with a goal from Megan Clay around the 30-minute mark to make it 2-1, and then began to dominate possession.

But Albright scored her second goal of the match to stop the Lady Wildcats’ rally and give Searcy the 3-1 lead with little time for El Dorado to strike back.

“That girl can just go,” Stamps said. “She has played that way all year long. I don’t want to build her up too much, but the girl can go. I actually believe she would cough up a lung before telling somebody she needed off the field. She’s that determined and competitive.”

Senior forward/midfielder Clark was held without a goal in her final match as a Lady Lion, but she set up Searcy’s first score with a breakaway feed to Albright. Clark, a four-year standout, was named MVP.

“Those seniors knew what was on the line,” Stamps said. “They knew they could be the group that was first to win three championships and go to the finals four years in a row.

“We had a player go down in a practice, and she went to leave the field, and the seniors started yelling, ‘Get back here, we need you.’ That’s the kind of leadership you have to have. You have to have leadership like that from your seniors, or it can be a long season.”

While the underclassmen should help with Searcy’s success for years to come, Stamps said the loss of Smith will leave the Lady Lions short a strong leader next year.

“She has just done so much this year,” Stamps said. “Plus, she has put up with me for four years, so that’s pretty good.”

Stamps was somewhat reserved after the game as a show of respect to El Dorado, which had a dream season end with its only loss to Searcy in the final. Last year, it was Stamps and his Lady Lions who fell to Mountain Home in the championship game.

“I didn’t want to jump up and down too much and cheer and all of that,” Stamps said. “Because I’ve been there, and I know how El Dorado felt. I remember how I felt last year, and it’s not fun.”

SPORTS>>Searcy’s victory was in the cards

Leader sportswriter

Make it four for four.

The Searcy Lions won their fourth-consecutive 6A state soccer championship with a 4-0 shutout over Mountain Home on Friday night at Razorback Field in Fayetteville. It was the third finals victory over Mountain Home in as many years.

The Bombers (11-5-1) shot themselves in the foot with five yellow cards and two red cards during the match, and the infractions forced them to finish the match short two players.

Junior forward Steven Seitz scored two goals to cap off a standout tournament run and earned MVP honors for the Lions (18-1-1).

“To start the game off, they were playing really good like we thought they would be,” Lions coach Bronco King said. “I told our kids to be ready for Mountain Home’s best game, and it started out that way.

“There were five or six times where we could have scored and didn’t. We just kept plugging.”

Searcy rebounded from some early near misses when Seitz got behind the defense and charged toward the net in the 27th minute. That drew heavy contact from Bombers defender Brock Barnhill, who officials said tackled Seitz in the box.

Barnhill drew a red card and Seitz converted the penalty kick to give the Lions a 1-0 lead.

“Whether he tackled him or not, I just call it a foul,” King said. “You can’t make contact like that inside the box, and the referee said he tackled him, which warranted a red card. Steven Seitz got behind the defense, and once we put a goal in, we got into our normal routine and played lights out the rest of the way.”

Mountain Home’s problems compounded in the second half when Phillip Walker was ejected for bad sportsmanship.

“That young man coming out of the game changed their strategy,” King said. “It takes them out of their game.”

The Lions kept their composure despite the rough play. King said the past experience against the Bombers had his players prepared for any situation.

“I’m one of those old-school coaches,” King said. “I went back and watched the film from the two previous games.

“I’m a disciplinarian. They understand that they will be in more trouble with me than they will anything else. They know they’ll be dealt with.

“I’m more interested in them being fine young men than I am championships.”

Brandon Treece put Searcy up 2-0 at the break with a goal in the final 10 minutes of the first half, and the Lions took a 3-0 lead early in the second half with a goal by Trey Oliveto.

Seitz provided the exclamation mark with his second goal in the final three minutes. The MVP award marked a fitting end for
Seitz, who led the Lions in scoring all season and had seven goals during the tournament, including three against Jonesboro in the semifinals.

“Seitz is a fierce competitor,” King said. “When he gets that adrenaline going, he’s hard to handle. He has a real big leg; he can boom the ball. He’s our leading scorer, and he’s also our field-goal kicker in football, so he pulls double duty.”

King also praised the efforts of Oliveto and Harriman and defenders Andrew Moore, Evan Scarborough and Ben Buterbaugh.

SPORTS>>Cabot’s Voskamp no-name no more

Leader sportswriter

Who the heck is Ariel Voskamp?

It’s a question that is sure to be asked much less frequently at this year’s heptathlon, but it was a pretty common inquiry at the 2009 event.

Voskamp’s meteoric rise up the leader board last year has made her one of the favorites to knock off defending champ Kristen Celsor of Searcy when the 2010 heptathlon begins at Cabot High School today at 11:30 a.m.

The 2009 heptathlon centered on the battle between Celsor and Nashville’s Jasmine Ellis, who narrowly beat out Celsor the previous year. And for Cabot fans, it was a fond farewell for longtime track standout Marissa Delapez, who was competing in her final event as a Lady Panther.

That all changed when Voskamp, then a virtually unknown sophomore, began to emerge as a potential top 20 finisher by finishing the first day in 11th place. She finished 12th overall to change her status from field filler to outright contender.

“Ariel has improved so much in most of the events that she will be doing in the heptathlon from last year to now,” Cabot track coach Leon White said. “Her hurdle time has dropped tremendously. And her long jump is better; her speed is better.

“As far as her place, we feel like for sure she will be in the top five, and possibly with a chance to win.”

During her junior high days Voskamp made a name for herself locally as a pole vaulter, a rare feat among female track athletes. Unfortunately for Voskamp, the pole vault is not one of the seven events in the heptathlon, but her efforts in the 300-meter high hurdles have made that event a second weapon in her arsenal.

“I love being the underdog,” Voskamp said of her surprise performance last year. “Working your way to the top is what it’s about. You can’t always be at the top, you have to work yourself up there.”

Voskamp is the 17-year-old daughter of Jeff and Susan Voskamp and the youngest of three siblings. When not at the track she attends Cabot United Methodist Church and prefers swimming or hanging out with friends.

Voskamp’s underdog status ended on the second day of the 2009 heptathlon when she ran a stout 2:43.34 in the 800 meters and cleared 4-9 in the high jump, two events in which she had little experience.

“Her thing has been the pole vault,” White said. “Ever since she was in junior high, everybody starting knowing Ariel because she could pole vault. She went 11-6 in the ninth grade at the state indoor meet. So if you weren’t in the pole-vault circles, you really didn’t know who Ariel was.”

Still, with Celsor, coming off an appearance in the 6A state basketball finals and returning stronger than ever to defend her heptathlon crown — a top-five finish for Voskamp will make her the favorite for next year’s event.

“This year, she’s matured so much, everything she’s done in competition has not intimidated her,” White said. “Where in the past, she would get nervous. Now, she just believes she can do it.”

One advantage Voskamp feels she has over competitors is the ability to put pressure and expectations out of her mind.

“I don’t have a lot of pressure on me, because I know I do better when I’m not stressing about it,” Voskamp said. “It’s a lot different from last year, but it’s not worrying me by any means.”

Voskamp also has a background in gymnastics. She credits her early years of work on the beam, uneven bars and pommel horses in her strength development, and also her competitive spirit.

NCAA Division I schools cannot officially talk to Voskamp until July 1, but when that date arrives, Voskamp is interested in talking to Arkansas State University and the University of Arkansas. There have also been smaller schools that have expressed interest.

Voskamp has had her share of injuries, and her rehabilitation has made an impact on her. So much so that she sees physical therapy as a possible career path.

Voskamp has what she defines as a “slight” case of scoliosis, which she combats with massage therapy every two weeks.

“Everything on me just gets out of line,” she said. “I think that’s the cause of a lot of my injuries.”

A heptathlon victory would put Voskamp in the state record books alongside some pretty big names, including Arkansas track star Whitney Jones, who won the event twice as a Searcy Lady Lion in 2007-08. But the biggest record in Voskamp’s eyes sits 14 feet above the pole-vault standards.

The 7A state record is 12-10 and the overall state record is 13-6.25, set by Lake Hamilton’s Stephanie Foreman two years ago. Voskamp is aiming even higher.

“I would love to have the state title,” Voskamp said. “It’s what I’m shooting for next year, it really is. And to maybe be the first girl in Arkansas to get 14 feet is something I have to strive for. It’s a good goal.”

Coach White is also confident in Voskamp’s quest.

“She’ll break the state record next year for sure,” White said. “We’re hoping she will break the overall state record of 13-6. It’s just that she has to get a lot of vaulting in this summer, and she’s planning on doing some summer meets.

“If she progresses like we think, we believe she’ll have a chance at the overall record.”

But until those summer meets begin, Voskamp is focused on the heptathlon. And should the battle Thursday with Celsor come down to the 800-meter run, traditionally the final event of the heptathlon, Voskamp’s strategy is simple.

“I’m just going to gut that thing out,” Voskamp said with a laugh. “I’m going as fast as I can — I mean, I don’t care.”