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A Republican from Heber Springs on Monday became the first person to announce a run for state land commissioner in 2018.

In an interview, Tommy Land said he has never held elected office but serves as chairman of the 1st Congressional District for the state Republican Party.

"Most of my life I have spent in different roles serving people. Most of my working career has been spent in the service sector," he said. "One thing that I see about the office is that it's not really a policymaking office. It's an office that provides a service to the people of Arkansas."

The land commissioner collects delinquent real estate taxes and grants mineral leases on state-owned lands. The job pays $85,000 a year. It is one of seven elected state constitutional offices, such as governor, secretary of state and attorney general. All have four-year terms.

Land, 61, opened Heber Springs Communications -- which installs and maintains telephone equipment -- after working for Southwestern Bell Telephone Co. for 30 years. He is married, has two children and graduated from Heber Springs High School, but did not attend college.

"I have a very small business," he said. "In other words, I'm the only employee."

Land said he believes John Thurston, the current land commissioner, has done a good job. Thurston has said he plans to seek a different constitutional office in 2018 -- that of secretary of state.

Thurston is term-limited, as is the current secretary of state, Mark Martin.

Land said he didn't have any immediate plans to change the land commissioner's office.

"Decisions like that I'm going to leave until I actually take office and get my feet on the ground," he said.

Land may face a challenge from another Republican; Rep. Laurie Rushing, R-Hot Springs, said Monday that she's mulling her options.

"I am still highly considering it," Rushing said. "I am meeting with Tommy Land this week, as a matter of fact, and discussing and talking. I want to make sure that if him and I do run against each other, we have a good, clean race."

She said she also is considering running for another term in the House and then running for the seat now held by Sen. Alan Clark, R-Lonsdale, in four years.

No Democrats have publicly expressed interest in the land commissioner's office, but landscape architect Mark Robertson, a Little Rock Democrat who lost to Thurston in 2014, said Monday: "I haven't ruled it out, but I haven't ruled it in."

"I've always been interested in the natural resources here in the state," Land said. "I believe we have a great deal of natural resources -- things to be enjoyed, things to be used. I'd say the national resource aspect of the office is what really drew me to it."

Besides Thurston, Deputy Secretary of State Joseph Wood has said he will run for secretary of state. House Speaker Jeremy Gillam, R-Judsonia, said he is weighing his options.

State Auditor Andrea Lea "enjoys serving in her current capacity as the state's general accountant and will make a decision when she feels the time is appropriate," spokesman Skot Covert said Monday.

The secretary of state maintains the state Capitol and its grounds, assists counties with conducting elections and handles corporate filings.

No Democrats have publicly expressed interest in the seat. Republicans won all seven constitutional offices in the 2014 elections -- a first in Arkansas' history.

Metro on 11/22/2016

Print Headline: Heber Springs Republican to run for land commissioner

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