Terry named city prosecutor for Fort Smith

by Tina Alvey Dale ([email protected]) 1,515 views 

District Judge Sam Terry has been hired as the new city prosecutor for Fort Smith. Terry will begin as the city prosecutor Jan. 4 and report directly to City Administrator Carl Geffken.

“We are honored and excited to have landed such a uniquely qualified individual for this position,” Geffken said. “Sam has a long history of leadership and a multitude of professional accolades in the community.  We found this speaks volumes about his commitment to the city, and complements his impressive professional experience that will be incredibly helpful to the city.”

Terry was appointed a district judge for the Fort Smith District by Gov. Asa Hutchinson in 2019. He lost his race for Sebastian County Circuit Court Judge, Division VII, to Dianna Hewitt Ladd in March.

He is a former deputy prosecuting attorney for Sebastian County and previously served as a trust officer and assistant vice president at First National Bank of Fort Smith. He was also previously appointed to serve as special associate justice for the Supreme Court of Arkansas. He has a bachelor’s degree and law degree from the University of Arkansas.

“I am looking forward to the opportunity to serve as the prosecuting attorney for the City of Fort Smith, and I appreciate the confidence that Mr. Geffken and the board of directors have placed in me for this important job. I will continue to uphold the law and to treat all litigants with fairness, dignity, and respect, as I have during my entire career. I am proud to call Fort Smith my home, and I am excited to continue working to make it a wonderful, safe place to live,” Terry said.

The city prosecutor position was left open when John Settle, who served as the city’s prosecuting attorney for 11 years, died Oct. 26 after suffering a heart attack at a gym. An initial search for a new prosecutor brought seven applicants applied for the position: Matt Davis, Christina Scherrey, Joshua Bugeja, Barry Neal, Patrick Flake, Joseph Self, Natalie King and Lee Davis. That group was narrowed to two – Scherrey and Davis, both attorneys with the Sebastian County Public Defender’s Office – who took part in panel interviews Feb. 7. Geffken said in June that he had decided to renew the search.

Sam Terry

“Based on the fact that we required candidates to live in the city of Fort Smith, that narrowed the pool a little,” Geffken said.

Though the original search brought the city many qualified candidates, Geffken said many excellent lawyers who practice in Fort Smith and might have applied could not be considered because they do not live in the city. Therefore, the requirement for a candidate applying for the position will be changed so that they must live in Sebastian County, he said.

Rick Wade with Daily and Woods, PLC, has handled the city’s prosecuting duties since Settle’s death and even prior to that when Settle was on vacation. Wade is paid $160 per hour for prosecuting work for the city, Talk Business & Politics was told in February by then city communications manager Karen Santos.

The salary range for the full-time position is $27.27 to $41.84 per hour, which calculates to a range of $57,721.60 to $87,027.20 annually, Santos said in February. In the city’s 2020 budget, the city prosecutor’s office was budgeted for $204,357 for the year, with $193,972 for personnel and $10,385 for operating expense.

The proposed 2021 budget has $195,886 budgeted for the prosecutor’s office, with $181,386 for personnel and $14,500 for operating expense. The estimated final 2020 expenses for the office is $171,570 with $164,610 for personnel and $6,960 for operating expense. The office is budgeted for two employees, the prosecutor and a legal secretary. Total expenditures for the office in 2019 were $175,000. Of that $169,548 went to personnel expense and $5,452 went to operating expenses.