Benton County residents to decide sheriff, surveyor in May 22 primary

by Jennifer Joyner ( 96 views 

Benton County residents will vote May 22 in primary and school board elections – with a number of Republicans facing off ahead of a November election that features several Democrat and Libertarian challengers. The candidate filing period ended March 1.

The county surveyor position drew a contested primary, where County Surveyor Micheal James and challenger Grant Nevill, both Republicans, will face off.

Incumbent Justice of the Peace for District 1, Mike McKenzie, is being challenged by fellow Republican Dale King, and Republicans Dustin Todd and Kelli Latham will vie for the Justice of the Peace District 11 seat. The winner for that District 11 seat in the primary will then face Democrat Susie Kuilan in the general election Nov. 6.

Justice of the Peace for District 15, Joel Edwards, will face fellow Republican Jamie Sheppard in the primary, and the winner will take on Democrat Asele Mack in November.

As there are two Republican candidates for Benton County sheriff, the race will be decided during the primary. Glenn Latham is challenging Sheriff Shawn Holloway. The two previously competed against each other for the position in 2016, when Latham ran as an Independent. Latham said he previously ran as Independent, rather than Republican, because the Republican primary was overcrowded. That year, Holloway won with 72% of the vote.

“The biggest thing I’ve brought as sheriff is stability to an office that was in turmoil,” Holloway said.

Holloway succeeded former Sheriff Kelley Cradduck, who resigned in 2016, facing charges of tampering with public records that stemmed from an investigation following employee complaints entered in fall 2015. Cradduck ultimately pleaded no contest to a misdemeanor tampering charge and was given six months probation.

“We have been changing the image of the sheriff’s office,” Holloway said, pointing to new inmate programs that include a program where nonviolent female inmates train and care for dogs in partnership with area animal shelters and an inmate garden, in addition to community engagement programs that include a mentoring program and First Friday event booth.

“We have re-evaluated how we were providing service and the mindset the deputies had toward our community. I think there was an extreme disconnect with the community in general. Now, our motto has been community first,” he said.

Latham, a former deputy who now works in computer forensics at Walmart, said sheriff’s employees were not being treated well when he left the office in March 2014, and he believes the trend has continued under Holloway, previously chief deputy. Latham cited what he said was a high number of resignations and terminations within the department between Jan. 1, 2013, and April 2017. He obtained the employee data through a Freedom of Information Act request and has submitted another request for the full 2017 year, he said.

Latham said as deputy he helped grow the county cybercrimes division, and his focus was on protecting children through investigating child pornography in addition to cyberstalking. In terms of what Latham would bring to the sheriff’s position, he said: “Ethics, integrity and honesty, openness with the public.”

In the general election this November, Libertarian Ronnie Smith is challenging County Judge Barry Moehring, R, for his seat. Incumbent County Assessor Roderick Grieve, R, will face Democrat Rey Hernandez.

Libertarians Trina Wilson, Jacob Faught and Cody Martin are running against Republicans Debra Hobbs, Adriane Carr and incumbent Susan Anglin for the Justice of the Peace District 3, District 12 and District 9 seats, respectively.

A three-way race also is underway for Justice of the Peace District 8. Candidates are Sam Slaton, D; Shirley Sandlin, R; and Jeff Wadlin, L.

Republican incumbent JP Joel Jones, District 7, has two challengers: Democrat Matthew Kezhaya and Libertarian Joseph Bollinger.

Also in November, Democrat Parker Zielinski will face Republican Carrie Perrien Smith for the Justice of the Peace District 5 seat, and incumbent District 6 Justice of the Peace Pat Adams, R, will face Brie Madden, D.

Running unopposed for 2018 are Circuit Clerk Brenda DeShields, County Collector Gloria Peterson, County Coroner Daniel R. Oxford, Treasurer Deanna Ratcliffe, all Republican incumbents.

Justices of the Peace Joshua Bryant, District 2; Tom Allen, District 4; Michelle Chiocco, District 10; Kurt S. Moore, District 13; Brent Meyers, District 14; all Republican incumbents, stand unopposed. Betsy Harrell, R, is unopposed in the county clerk’s race.

Contested school board elections in Benton County are in Gentry and Gravette. Larry Scribner and David Williamson will face off for Position 7 – At Large for Gentry School District. Robyn Skaggs Lovell and James Brown will compete for Position 7 in the Gravette School District. Randall Bolinger is unopposed for the Zone 4 seat in Gentry. Jeffrey Neil is unopposed for Position 3 in Pea Ridge. Curtis Clements is unopposed for the Zone 2 seat in Rogers School District. Audra Farrell is unopposed for the Zone 3 seat in the Siloam Springs School District.