Baxter County court honors 4 justices nearing end of term
MOUNTAIN HOME, Ark. (AP) — The Baxter County Quorum Court recently recognized four of its justices of the peace that were attending their final meeting as county officials.
County Judge Mickey Pendergrass presented plaques on Dec. 4 to justices Rick Steiner, Bill Lucas, Marilyn Williamson and Neal Pendergrass, whose terms all expire on Dec. 31.
A total of five new justices will take office on Jan. 1. With the Quorum Court holding having 11 justices, the 2019 infusion of new faces will be the largest turnover on the Quorum Court in recent memory, the Baxter Bulletin reported.
Steiner, the justice of the peace for District 3, served the least amount of time of the four justices recognized. He served for 18 months, having been appointed by Gov. Asa Hutchinson to complete the term of former justice Eric Totty, who had moved out of the district.
“Rick stepped up when we had a resignation out of necessity,” Mickey Pendergrass said. “He stepped up and has been a wonderful JP.”
Under Arkansas law, county-level appointees are unable to seek immediate election to the office they were appointed into. Steiner’s District 3 seat on the Quorum Court will be filled by Robert Lowery, who ran unopposed for the JP position.
“What motivated me was to learn a lot and meet you all. Everyone has been so nice and welcoming,” Steiner said. “If it becomes an opportunity to run in the future I would run again. I really enjoyed it.”
Williamson, the justice of the peace for District 7, served on the Quorum Court for four years. She sought re-election to a third two-year term this fall but was defeated in the Republican primary by Charles Osgood.
Lucas, the justice of the peace for District 4, spent six years on the Quorum Court. The retired U.S. Air Force colonel announced earlier this year that he would not seek a fourth term as JP.
“He’s retired from the military, and now he’s retired from Baxter County,” the county judge said, drawing a round of laughter from the Quorum Court audience.
The county’s new personnel policy is named after Lucas in recognition for his efforts in revising and updating the document.
“That’s his legacy,” Mickey Pendergrass said.
Lucas’ District 4 seat will be filled by Dirk Waldrop, who ran unopposed in the 2018 election.
Neal Pendergrass was the longest-serving of the four justices recently recognized, spending 10 years as the District 9 representative to the Quorum Court. He is also a long-serving member of the Mountain Home School Board and ran unopposed to retain his seat on that board in the 2018.
Recent changes to Arkansas law prohibits candidates from appearing on the same ballot more than once, and Pendergrass announced in early 2018 that he would not seek re-election to the Quorum Court.
“It’s been an honor to serve my district. Unfortunately, the law caught up to me a few years ago and I can’t serve those two positions at the same time anymore,” Neal Pendergrass said. “I had to choose, and I’ve worked with kids an extremely long time, so I wanted to continue that.”
Neal Pendergrass’ seat will be filled by Cameron Davis, who ran opposed for the District 9 office.
The Quorum Court will also welcome Maryanne Edge as its fifth new member on Jan. 1.
Edge ran unopposed for the currently empty District 5 seat on the Quorum Court. The district’s former justice of the peace, James Kerr Jr., resigned in May to accept a summer job that would preclude him from completing his duties as justice, and his position was not filled by an appointee.
Information from: The Baxter Bulletin, http://www.baxterbulletin.com