New Perry County judge wants local government to ‘run smoothly’

Carol Rolf/Contributing Writer Published January 29, 2017 at 12:00 a.m.
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PHOTO BY: William Harvey

Perry County Judge Toby Davis points out names on a memorial honoring the soldiers of the 239th Military Intelligence Co. that served in Operation Iraq Freedom II from 2003-2005. Davis served as an Arkansas National Guardsman in the unit, along with others from several states. The memorial was first located at the National Guard Armory in Perryville, but when the armory was closed a few years ago, Davis asked that the memorial be moved to the Perry County Courthouse.

PERRYVILLE — As the new Perry County judge, Toby Davis oversees a variety of operations in the county government.

“My job is to keep everybody going,” he said, smiling. “I want to make sure the county government runs smoothly.”

Davis, 44, oversees the county courthouse and all physical property owned by the county. He is the chief officer of the Perry County Quorum Court, and he oversees the road department, the solid-waste department, the Office of Emergency Management and 911, the flood plan coordinator and the veterans services office.

“I am in the office five days a week, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., … and on call,” he said.

“I preside over the Quorum Court meetings, but I do not have a vote,” he said, adding that he does have the power of veto. “We meet at 7 p.m. the second Monday of each month. The public is always welcome at these meetings.

“I work with nine justices of the peace.They are Charles ‘Nub’ Camp, District 1; Carmon Wise, District 2; Ronnie Lee, District 3; Bill Gipson, District 4; Edward Evans, District 5; Charlie Clements, District 6; Bob Conley, District 7; Marie ‘Sissy’ Hackett, District 8; and Jimmy Ray Evans, District 9.”

Davis said he served as a justice of the peace on the Perry County Quorum Court for six years.

“I was elected in 2010,” he said. “I had a friend talk me into running for the Quorum Court. I thought it would be something like being on the school board. It was not a paid position. I liked it.

“I decided to run for county judge after I had been on the Quorum Court,” he said. “I knew [former Perry County Judge Baylor House] was getting ready to retire as judge. I had taken a liking to being on the Quorum Court, so I decided I would run for county judge.

“I ran as a Democrat,” he said. “I had lots of opponents — five Democrats in the primary. There was a runoff. Then in the general election, it was me and a Republican. I won.

“It was the will of the people.”

Davis said a big issue for any county judge is roads.

“That’s always an issue. Perry County has about 650 miles of county roads and has about 10,500 people,” he said.

“I am going to try to get some grants and work with the state Highway Department to get the roads fixed. I am going to follow through with what Baylor was doing and hope to finish that,” Davis said.

“Most of our roads are in pretty good shape,” he said. “I just want to make them better.

“I also hope to get four or five roads designated as priority roads, so we might be able to get some state aid for those.”

Davis said solid waste is also an area he hopes to address.

“We operate a solid-waste transfer station,” he said. “We have been charging by the bag, and I’d like to see us start charging by the pound. We take what we collect here to the landfill in Morrilton.

“I want to streamline the process. I want to streamline the entire county-government process. I want to simplify what I can.”

Davis said the courthouse itself is under his purview as the county judge.

“I want to keep it working smoothly,” he said. “The courthouse is old. It is history, and we are making history now. I want to keep it functional and up to date.”

According to information found on the Arkansas Historic Preservation Program website, arkansaspreservation.com, the Perry County Courthouse was built in 1888 and was the county’s third courthouse. It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1976.

Davis was born in Heber Springs but raised in Perry County. He now lives in Houston.

He is a son of Aubrey and Alice Thomas of Mayflower and Jerry and Sheree Davis of Conway and a grandson of Nellie Teas Simon of Mayflower.

Toby Davis has four brothers — Scotty Davis of Conway, Joshua Thomas of Mayflower, Jacob Thomas of Jacksonville and Aaron Thomas of Conway; one sister, April Kratz of Vilonia; and one stepbrother, Thomas Payne of Conway.

Toby Davis graduated from Bigelow High School in 1991. He attended Arkansas State University at Beebe for two years.

“I quit because I wanted a real job,” he said, laughing. “I became a meat cutter and worked at the Kroger in Morrilton for 21 years.”

He and his wife, Pam, who is also a graduate of Bigelow High School, have been married 23 years. She works in the cafeteria at Bigelow High School.

They have two sons: Cody Davis, 20, who is in his third year at the University of Central Arkansas in Conway, where he is majoring in occupational therapy, and Clayton Davis, 17, who is a junior at Bigelow High School.

Toby Davis spent 20 years in the Arkansas Army National Guard, serving with the 239th Military Intelligence Co. in Conway. He spent one year in Iraq in 2004-2005.

“I joined in 1990 when I was a junior in high school,” he said. “I was 17. My mom had to sign for me.”

Davis also raises cattle.

“I have a mixed breed of about 50 head,” he said.

“I didn’t have to give up anything to run for county judge,” Davis said. “I had already retired from Kroger and from the National Guard. I can still keep my cattle farm.”

Davis said his term as Perry County judge is for two years.

“Next time, it will be a four-year term,” he said, referring to the passage of a recent law affecting term limits in the state.

“I plan to run again next election. I want to [serve as county judge] for 20 years. I spent 20 years plus at Kroger,

20 years in the National Guard, and I want to spend 20 years as the county judge. But in politics, you just never know,” he said, laughing.

“I’m happy with my life. Everything I’ve done so far has worked out well, … from quitting college to becoming a meat cutter, to joining the National Guard, to running for county judge. I chose to do it all,” Davis said.

“And my wife has been right beside me,” he said.

“When I won this election, I promised her I would take her to the beach,” Davis said. “I guess I had better do that. We’ll probably go to Florida or Alabama.”