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FORT SMITH -- Candidates to be Sebastian County's top executive offered voters a choice Wednesday between years of experience in county government or a fresh voice and new strategies.

County judge incumbent David Hudson, a Republican, and attorney Mosie Boyd, a Democrat, faced off in a forum at the University of Arkansas at Fort Smith before about 75 people. The two will appear on Tuesday's ballot.

During the 90-minute forum, Boyd said her three top priorities if elected county judge were saving lives by fighting against drugs, especially opioids; protecting families that lose children to the foster-care system as a result of drug addiction; and growing the local economy to be competitive in the global economy.

She noted that 72,000 people died in 2017 from opioid overdoses in America.

"I will make that my mission as your next Sebastian County judge," she said.

Hudson pointed to his 41 years in Sebastian County government, the past 20 as county judge, and the accomplishments he's made in that time.

Most recently, the county opened a new ambulance station in Greenwood last month. And, in late February, it opened the state's first crisis stabilization unit as an alternative to jailing people police encounter who are having mental-health episodes that make them a danger to themselves and others.

Starting with earning a master's degree in public administration, Hudson said, "I chose local government as a career path. I have been actively involved in promoting the improvement of Sebastian County government since I started in 1976."

Over the years, he said he has developed governing skills such as financial management, an understanding of personnel administration, information technology, capital planning and budgeting, as wells as collaborating and cooperating with other government officials and residents.

During questioning by a panel of students, Boyd criticized the county for a lack of transparency for not permitting more input from the community at Quorum Court meetings. There is a public comment period at the start of the meetings before the Quorum Court takes up its business. However, the public has no opportunity to comment as the county's governing body transacts that business.

Boyd also said people have told her during the campaign that Hudson has become too accustomed in his position and has lost the ability to be respectful of others who serve in government.

Given an opportunity, Hudson declined to respond to the accusation.

In addition to stemming drug addiction to reduce jail overcrowding, Boyd said she supported the county's search for a consultant to analyze the criminal-justice system and recommend ways to reduce the jail population.

She also voiced support for the criminal-justice coordinating committee that Hudson said he was responsible for establishing. The committee is composed of different parts of the criminal-justice system, such as judges, prosecutors, probation offices and law enforcement officials, to devise solutions to the jail problem.

State Desk on 11/04/2018

CORRECTION: The Criminal Justice Coordinating Committee in Sebastian County is not composed entirely of white men. An earlier version of this story incorrectly quoted Sebastian County judge candidate Mosie Boyd’s comment during a candidate forum last week.

Print Headline: Hopefuls square off in county judge race

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