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RIVER VALLEY NOTEBOOK: Russellville mayor eschews 2nd term | Nitrous oxide now option in birthing | Conway Corp gives Clark top HR post

by JEANNIE ROBERTS ARKANSAS DEMOCRAT-GAZETTE | January 9, 2022 at 1:00 a.m.

Russellville mayor eschews 2nd term

Russellville Mayor Richard Harris announced recently that he will not seek a second term.

“Serving as your Mayor for the last three years has been an honor and a privilege, and you can be certain that I will continue to serve to the best of my ability throughout the remainder of my term in office,” Harris said in a news release.

Harris did not give a reason for his decision not to run again for another four-year term. He ran as an independent in 2018. The party primaries are May 24, and the general election is Nov. 8.

“I have no definitive plans once my term in office has expired and will be considering my options as the year progresses,” Harris said. “I know that I will miss serving the city that I care so much about, but one must be able to recognize when it is time to move on to other challenges, and I believe that time has come for me.” Harris has navigated Russellville through two years of the covid-19 pandemic and a contentious battle over the Pope County casino license.

“I have been committed to standing firm on a promise that I made to voters during my campaign. I ran for the office of mayor on the platform that I would not support a casino in our community without the voters’ endorsement, and I have honored that commitment,” Harris said. “It has always been important to me to maintain my integrity by keeping my word. ‘Always do what you say you’re going to do,’ is a maxim in which I try to adhere.”

Nitrous oxide now option in birthing

Women who want to go through labor with minimal intervention now have the option of using nitrous oxide, more commonly known as “laughing gas,” for pain management at Baptist Health Medical Center-Conway, the hospital announced recently.

Nitrous oxide used for labor discomfort is a mixture of 50% nitrous gas and 50% oxygen. It is inhaled through a hand-held mask and self-administered, allowing the mother to use it as needed with each contraction. The gas slows the nervous system, which makes the patient feel less inhibited. It also can create a sense of well-being or euphoria, according to the hospital.

Abigail Davies of Ward said she wanted her first delivery to be as natural as possible, so she used nitrous oxide at the hospital.

“It will take the edge off and let you power through,” she said. “I was totally with it the whole time and could push. It really helped with the anxiety of being in labor.” Starting to inhale before a contraction allows the pain relief to occur when the contraction reaches its peak, providing the greatest relief, said Dr. Audrey Tobey of Baptist Health Women’s Clinic in Conway.

“It puts mothers back in control of their birthing story — allowing them to marry breathing techniques and free movement with patient-directed, self-administered nitrous use without altering the normal physiology and progress of labor,” Tobey said.

Conway Corp gives Clark top HR post

Jim Clark was recently promoted to human resources director at Conway Corp, the utility announced recently.

Clark, who began his career with the company in 2019 as a human resources specialist before being promoted in 2021 to human resources assistant director, replaces retiring director Lisa Douglas.

In his new role, Clark will organize, plan, develop and direct the implementation and administration of human resources functions and carry out policies related to human resources activities at Conway Corp.

Tech announces new legal counsel

Arkansas Tech University announced recently that Edward Armstrong — the former procurement director for Arkansas since 2016 — has been named as the university’s legal counsel.

Armstrong also served as deputy attorney general and senior assistant attorney general in the state attorney general’s office from 2013-16 and as a partner at Wright, Lindsey and Jennings LLP from 2004-12.

Armstrong also served as an adjunct professor of law at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock William H. Bowen School of Law from 2009-13.

Armstrong will succeed Thomas Pennington, who has served as university legal counsel since 1996. Pennington’s request for a change in assignment was accepted by the Arkansas Tech board of trustees in August 2021. As of Dec. 31, 2021, Pennington will assume a full-time teaching role as professor of legal studies in the Arkansas Tech College of Business.

UCA gets $40,000 to study irrigation

University of Central Arkansas geographers were awarded $40,000 from NASA to study how the Arkansas Delta’s declining fresh groundwater supply for irrigation can affect local climates and crop yields.

The study is led by Yaqian He, Ph.D., an assistant professor of geography, and Matthew Connolly, Ph.D, an associate professor of geography, who received the grant from NASA’s Established Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (EPSCoR). Through their research, the UCA team is studying irrigation and climate patterns in the northern Arkansas Delta region, such as Jackson County.

“Arkansas is facing a severe issue with groundwater depletion due to over-pumping for irrigation water,” He said. “We are using our backgrounds in waterways, climatology and remote sensing, to see if we can find overirrigation and potential best irrigation practices.” Crossing Jackson County, they identified farmland to study with the help of the University of Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service in that county. This collaboration connected the UCA team to farmers, allowing a more practical understanding of how often farmers irrigated their crops.

He and Connolly hired two undergraduate students, geography major Marisol Filares and environmental science major Caden Rhodes, to join the team. The grant allowed everyone to gain the Federal Aviation Administration’s remote pilot certification needed to fly a drone.

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