Sebastian County Judge David Hudson will seek reelection to the post he has held since 1998. Hudson started in county government in August 1976, working for four county judges before being elected to the post in 1998. Hudson has not been opposed since the 2012 general election when he defeated Democrat Tim Dunn with close to 68% of the vote.
Hudson named in a recent press release several issues he wished to address with a new four-year term, including diversion and alternative sentencing of non-dangerous and non-violent offenders to relieve overcrowding at the Sebastian County Detention Center.
“Continued focus on the proactive engagement of the criminal justice coordinating committee will be a priority,” Hudson said, adding that implementation of the Crisis Stabilization Unit to divert the mentally ill from jail to treatment and establishment of a Mental Health Court “are key justice system initiatives.”
At a summit in 2016, Hudson and Sebastian County Sheriff Bill Hollenbeck called attention to the overcrowding/mental health issues, noting that the jail had 352 beds with a “maximum target number of inmates at 320.”
“As of today,” Hollenbeck said at the summit, “we are at 475, so that’s not good at all … (and) we’re probably treating at least 60 to 70 prisoners for mental illness, and these are just the ones we’ve been able to identify.”
As other priorities for the 2018-2022 term, Hudson said he would continue working with the quorum court “for effective and efficient budgeting of county services,” while giving close attention to the maintenance and improvement of county roads and bridges. “Effective delivery of services by Sebastian County EMS Paramedic Ambulance Service” would be a priority as well along with “support and improvement of the Volunteer Rural Fire Protection System.”
Hudson also said he would continue to focus on coordination of the county’s emergency management disaster mitigation and emergency response planning systems, including table top training and field exercises for personnel.
Rounding out his to-do list, Hudson listed “Effective support for veterans through the County Veterans Service Office Administration” and improvement of the county’s library system and parks, including support for soccer, golf, softball, disk golf, trails system, and Parrot Island Water Park programs.
Hudson was a champion of the voter-approved $8 million (eventually $12 million) aquatics facility, a shared venture with the city of Fort Smith that is now heading into its third year of operation.
Other projects that Hudson has helped to implement include courthouse renovations, jail expansion, construction of a new courts facility, and remodeling of the City/County Health Department Building, as well as safe shelter construction at Ben Geren Park, and the construction of a new facility for Sebastian County EMS, to be completed in 2018 (funded through the County Sales Tax Capital Account). Hudson and the quorum court also have partnered with rural fire departments on the construction of six fire stations.
In 2002, Hudson established a county road asphalt overlay program and an aggressive bridge replacement system. From 1999 to 2017, he noted, “the county has replaced 50 bridges, asphalt overlaid 158 miles, constructed and sealed 55 miles, and resealed an average of 50 miles each year.”
The county judge position is responsible for administration of county government through finance, human resources, information systems, purchasing, emergency management, and facilities maintenance. The filing deadline for the November general election is at noon, March 1 and opens on Feb. 22.
In addition to Hudson’s announcement, Sebastian County Chief Deputy Hobe Runion has announced his intent to run for Sebastian County Sheriff, which Hollenbeck will be vacating at the end of the term.
Also, Sebastian County Treasurer/Collector Judith Miller has said she will seek reelection, a position she has held for nine years. The county office is responsible for the investments and distribution of county revenues and the collection of personal and real estate taxes.