Amanda Dickens says she embraces her new role as election coordinator for Pulaski County as she and her staff prepare for two special elections in the summer and the general election in November.
Dickens, the third election coordinator since March 2021, says the largest challenge right now is finding and training someone to fulfill her previous responsibilities as assistant election coordinator while continuing to adjust to her new position.
She added, "My priority has always been to ensure that we run accurate and fair elections and I will continue to do that going forward. Making sure that elections run without any major issues is always the end goal."
Dickens, who has 18 years of experience in elections, moved up to Pulaski County's election coordinator in June, after the resignation of Melinda Lemons. The new role brings Dickens' salary from $67,475.98 to $72,614,88 annually.
Lemons announced her resignation in June after the Quorum Court made downgrades to her position and capped her salary.
Lemons' letter of resignation stated, "Now that this has happened and downgrades were passed, I am capped at my current pay with no chance to advance, so I accepted a position in the private sector."
She also made note of her confidence in the work that Dickens will do after taking over the position.
"I have no doubt the assistant election coordinator Amanda Dickens can carry on the improvements in the office," Lemons said.
Lemons added that she and Dickens worked closely together in her time as the election coordinator and that the skills Dickens brings to the table are "very rare."
Dickens took over the role as election coordinator immediately after Lemons' departure June 10.
"I do plan on remaining in this position for the foreseeable future; it was always the goal. Elections are something that I am very passionate about and care about deeply," Dickens said.
Dickens started out as a voter registration clerk in 2004. She became voter registration supervisor in 2009. In 2010, she became an election systems analyst, a job she did for about 11 years.
In 2021, as turnover occurred in the elections office, she filled two high-level roles temporarily. She became interim assistant director of elections for three months and interim director of elections for two months before becoming permanent assistant election coordinator in October 2021.
She and her staff are preparing for three elections.
Little Rock and North Little Rock are each holding special elections Aug. 9. Early voting starts Aug. 2.
In Little Rock, voters will determine whether to extend three mills for capital improvements and issue up to $161.8 million in bonds to fund six categories of work. The categories are streets, drainage, fire apparatus, parks (including the Little Rock Zoo), construction of a new district court facility and the Little Rock port. Half of the bond proceeds are expected to fund the categories of streets and drainage, with $40.5 million allocated to each under the proposal. When voting begins, residents will be able to vote for or against each of the six items listed individually on the ballot.
In North Little Rock, voters will decide whether to keep a one-half percent sales tax. If passed, the tax would raise about $9 million a year in revenue over five years, according to North Little Rock Chief Financial Officer Ember Strange. Mayor Terry Hartwick said keeping the city's expiring one-half percent sales tax would pay for new fire stations, updated community centers and improvements for streets, sidewalks and drainage.
Then there is the Nov. 8 general election, with early voting beginning Oct. 24.
Interviews with potential candidates for assistant election coordinator is ongoing and Dickens said she intends to have the role filled by Aug. 1.