New Faulkner County judge has unique skill setOriginally Published February 17, 2013 at 12:00 a.m.
Updated February 15, 2013 at 11:08 a.m.
Faulkner County Judge Allen Dodson of Conway may not be the only county judge with an advanced degree, but he’s surely the only one who is a former county attorney/Navy pilot/dirt-bike rider.
“That’s not even the half of it,” he said. “I used to race stock cars.”
A stock-car-racing, plane-flying county judge with a law degree?
What are the odds?
Scott Perkins, communications director for the Association of Arkansas Counties in Little Rock, said no records are kept on the educational experience of the 75 county judges.
“He’s in the minority, certainly, in having a law degree and being a county judge. It’s not the norm,” Perkins said.
Dodson was appointed Jan. 31 as Faulkner County judge by the Faulkner County Quorum Court.
“It was the right thing to do,” he said about accepting the appointment. “I had a firm conviction of that. It’s an enormous honor and responsibility.”
Former County Judge Preston Scroggin resigned to become director of the Arkansas Livestock and Poultry Commission.
Dodson was county attorney for six months — also by appointment — beginning in June when former county attorney Stephan Hawks resigned. After Dodson was named county judge, all he had to do was move down the hall.
On this particular day, an employee was hanging the last of Dodson’s diplomas on a wall in his new office.
He said it has been a seamless transition from county attorney to county judge.
“It hasn’t missed a beat, and I see that as a win for the county,” Dodson said.
A graduate of Conway High School, he also lived in Mayflower as a child, and in Wooster.
Dodson said he is proud of his heritage, which includes his great-great-grandfather Benton Turner, the first sheriff of Faulkner County, 1873-1874, and a grandfather and a great uncle who were justices of the peace.
Dodson didn’t start out to be in county government. He went to the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville, where he played football for the
Razorbacks at the fullback position and graduated with a marketing/transportation degree and an eye toward all the trucking companies.
During the first Gulf War, he was accepted into Navy Flight School near Pensacola, Fla.
“It was a blast,” he said.
He graduated from primary flight school as the top student in his squadron, but after the brief first Gulf War, “the shrinking of the budget by Congress was massive and final,” he said.
Dodson was halfway through intermediate flight school and had 100-plus hours of flight time in a T34C.
“We didn’t have any money to fly fuel, so we just shut down,” he said. After a year of no new students being accepted, the military “offered a bunch of us to take an honorable discharge,” which he did.
Dodson said he doesn’t talk about it much, “because I was never deployed” and others have made great sacrifices.
He worked at Virco Manufacturing in Conway, then Acxiom, where he stayed 11 1/2 years.
“I did just about everything except sweep the floor,” he said.
Dodson was a team leader and ended up on the software side of the business as a product consultant.
With the possibility of downsizing in the back of his mind, Dodson, now 46, started to law school in his 30s while still working at Acxiom.
“I’d always wanted to be an attorney,” he said.
Sure enough, about a year into law school in Little Rock, his job was downsized.
He said it was good that he went to law school later in life.
“If I had gone right out of college, I might not have made it. My mind was not prepared to think like an attorney at that age.”
Bob Fahr of Conway was working at Acxiom, too, and ran into Dodson at law-school orientation.
They became friends and attended night school together.
Fahr, legal counsel for PerfectVision Manufacturing Inc. in North Little Rock, said he wasn’t surprised to hear that Dodson had been appointed county judge.
“I think he’s an ideal candidate for that, just because he doesn’t lean to the left or the right,” Fahr said. “He looks at the facts, and he’ll make a clear decision based on the facts and the law.
“He’s just basically a good guy, ... a good friend and somebody you really want to have around.”
Dodson graduated from the William Bowen School of Law and almost immediately opened his own practice in Conway in April 2007.
“It’s risky and unnerving,” he said.
His specialties were oil-and-gas and property laws.
He also sat as a special judge for every district court in Faulkner County, except Damascus, he said.
“I’ve always had judicial aspirations,” he said.
Dodson said his disposition would be a good fit.
What is his disposition?
“Fair,” he said. “I trust my judgment.”
Dodson said he brings that balance to his role as county judge. He said he’s never affiliated with Republicans or Democrats.
“I always just focused on the person,” he said.
“I think I demonstrated a track record in my time of county attorney of not only a willingness to reach across the party aisle, but to reach across county government. I’m just not a lightning rod.
“I really feel like it’s time for everybody in county government to work with each other. I think everybody’s ready.
“The main thing is just that everybody does right. We have no black helicopters landing on the roof.”
Dodson said the key to being successful in his new position is, “You’ve got to lead by example, first and foremost.”
“I have a very blue-collar background,” he said.
His father, Greek Miller, is in construction. Dodson’s biological father died in a car wreck when Dodson was 6 years old.
“My background is in dirt work, construction or farming,” Dodson said. He said he knows his way around the county road shop, an asset for a county judge.
“I grew up on, in and around heavy equipment,” he said.
Because he was appointed, he can’t run for county judge in two years.
He’ll have plenty to do in that time frame, though.
Construction is under way on a 71,505-square-foot, $10.6 million criminal justice center.
“We’re just thrilled,” Dodson said. “It’s going to consolidate our court system; it’s going to modernize security.”
He flipped large pages in a thick set of plans on the conference table in his office, pointing out the advantages of the new center.
On another table, he had a copy of the Hot Springs/Garland County Animal Control regulations.
Building an animal shelter is a subject the Faulkner County Quorum Court has hashed and rehashed.
Dodson said it’s an issue that will take some time to resolve.
Mention his hunting dog, a Labrador named Tucker, and Dodson gets his iPad and shows photos of his 11-year-old sidekick, “my buddy,” he said.
He gave up dirt bikes a couple of years ago when he “thought better of it,” he said. Stock-car racing is another hobby of his younger days, and he said he won the first track championship in Plumerville.
“I affectionately call myself a gearhead. I’ve always had a love of anything mechanical, from the time I played with my first toy car,” he said.
Dodson said he’s active in the Conway Rotary Club, teaches Sunday School at Gold Creek Baptist Church and is a member of the Women’s Shelter of Central Arkansas Board of Directors.
“I really think each person should think seriously about community involvement. I think we all have a duty,” he said.
Senior writer Tammy Keith can be reached at (501) 327-0370 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Niche Publications Senior Writer Tammy Keith can be reached at 501-327-0370 or email@example.com.