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Incumbent will try to hold JP District 4 seat

by MIKE JONES NWA DEMOCRAT-GAZETTE | September 29, 2020 at 1:00 a.m.
Tom Allen (left) and Jennifer Smith candidates for Benton County JP 4 seat.

BENTONVILLE — Incumbent Republican Tom Allen will face Democrat Jennifer Smith for the Benton County Justice of the Peace District 4 seat.

Fifteen Republicans comprise the Quorum Court. Justices of the peace serve two-year terms.

The district covers southwest Rogers, Cave Springs and west Lowell.

Quorum Court members are paid $244 for each Committee of the Whole meeting and Quorum Court meeting they attend, and $152 for each meeting of another committee they serve on, according to the county.

The election is Nov. 3. Early voting starts Oct. 19. A voter may request an absentee ballot application by contacting the county clerk in the county where he’s registered to vote, according to the Arkansas Secretary of State website. Voters may download the application from the county websites.

The Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette emailed the same questions to the candidates. Their responses are below. Candidates were limited to 200 words per answer.

Question: Benton County’s share of tax revenue is expected to shrink after the census. Where can the county cut costs or raise revenue?

Allen: As many know, we revised the 2020 budget early after the pandemic began having an impact in our country and the state. So far, the revenue during the pandemic has not been hit as hard as we feared.

But, revenue has been less than our original budget. I expect the Quorum Court to once again look for some obvious areas to cut as a result of possible lingering effects of the covid-19 such as less travel expenses; fuel expenses; training and education at conferences; and other expenses that are naturally not going to be needed as a result in a change in how the county operates during the pandemic.

Smith: The first thing I want to do is take a close look at the departments that receive the bulk of the funding from the annual budget, with an eye toward eliminating waste and reimagining how those departments operate.

We should also be looking for ways to generate additional sales tax revenue in the county, not by raising taxes, but by making it attractive to develop businesses and hold events within the county.

Question: What is the biggest challenge facing county government? How would you address it?

Smith: I think the biggest challenge facing county government is that most people don’t know what the Quorum Court is or what it does.

One of the reasons I decided to run for JP is to pull back the curtain on county government and make it easier for residents in District 4 to learn about what the Quorum Court is working on.

The way I will do that is through social media, email, phone calls, town hall style meetings and attending community events. The theme of my campaign is “Let’s Talk,” and that is what I plan to do as JP — talk to the residents of District 4.

Allen: While Benton County is probably the healthiest county from a financial perspective, we are still going to face serious funding challenges for our growing needs.

We now have covid-19 to add to our list of concerns affecting our budget from added expenses in dealing with the virus, but also a decline in sales tax revenue.

Other serious and real challenges upcoming will be the result of the census that occurs every 10 years. The reason that affects the county’s budget is because the population of the county is growing significantly, but it is growing by far mostly in the cities and not as much in the unincorporated areas of the county (those that don’t live in a town or city).

The state law mandates that the county receive a proportionate share of the majority of its tax revenue with the incorporated cities within the county.

We expect the county’s share of the population to decline by at least a percent if not a percent and a half which will have a significant, negative impact on our tax revenue, but the cities will receive an increase as a result of a higher percentage of the population within the county.

Question: What makes you the best candidate for this position?

Allen: I have many years of experience as a member of the Quorum Court. I’ve chaired the finance committee for many years and have a good understanding of how the elected officials’ offices operate as well as the many departments underneath the elected officials.

I’ve been a resident of Benton County since 1994 and a resident of Arkansas almost all of my life. I have a good relationship with all of the cities within the county, which is important.

Smith: I am the best candidate for this position because I want to work on solutions to address the concerns of all District 4 residents, seek out their ideas for how we can improve the experience of living in Benton County, and I want to invite District 4 residents into the process.

Tom Allen (R)

• Age: 58

• Residency: Has lived in District 4 for 20 years.

• - ment: Principal broker, executive vice president and principal with Cushman & Wakefield|Sage Partners

• Education: Bachelor’s degree in marketing, University of Arkansas

• Political Experience: Benton County Justice of the Peace, 2000-2006 and 2009 to the present. Rogers City Council Ward 4 Position 2, 1996 to 2000.

Jennifer Smith (D)

• Age: 47

• Residency: Has lived in District 4 for about five years

• Employment: Director, ethics and compliance for Sam’s Club

• Education: Juris doctor, University of Oklahoma

• Political Experience: None

Mike Jones may be reached by email at .

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