story by Scott Davis, special to The City Wire
Benton County Judge Robert Clinard and Assessor Glenn “Bear” Chaney, both in their first term in office, face GOP challengers in the May 22 primary. No Democratic or Independent candidates have filed for any offices, records show.
Two candidates — Mike Jones and Kelley Cradduck — seek to replace Sheriff Keith Ferguson, who is retiring. The other full-time elected county officials are unopposed, according to county clerk election filing records.
Cradduck said he is hopeful this year after coming close in a challenge against Ferguson in 2010. Cradduck, who teaches leadership development classes for an oil-drilling company, previously worked 18 years for the Rogers Police Department, where he gained a wide variety of law enforcement experience, he said.
He is concerned that Benton County leads the state with the most lawsuits filed against the county involving its jail, he said. The county could save money if it did not treat all detainees as indigent, he said.
An “inmate account system” should be established to allow inmates to pay for a portion of their incidental expenses that are currently being paid by the county, he said.
Cradduck also said he’s worried about the high turnover at the sheriff’s department, where nearly 100 people have left in the last three years. He believes his current leadership training prepares him to lead the sheriff’s office.
“It’s time for a different mindset of law enforcement,” he said.
Jones said he is the most qualified with 37 years of experience in law enforcement, including 26 years at Rogers Police Department, where he was chief of police. As chief, he prepared and managed large budgets, which he said is an important qualification for sheriff. Jones serves as a captain for the Benton County Sheriff’s Department.
Jones said he did not have a problem with turnover as chief of police in Rogers. He said a progressive discipline policy for the sheriff’s office is needed to help reduce turnover. Jones also said that detainees can pay more. He said he favors having a “commissary” at the jail where detainees can make purchases.
“I’ve suggested that and would utilize that,” he said.
Jones said he plans to adopt a group of people to meet quarterly with the sheriff’s office to provide input on important issues.
“We’ll have an open-door policy,” he said.
Chaney, who is serving his first term as assessor, faces a challenge from Valerie Brewer of Rogers. Brewer serves as chief deputy for Washington County Assessor Jeff Williams, a Springdale Republican who defeated Assessor Leeann Kizzar in 2010. She previously worked six years in the Benton County Assessor’s office, including four years as chief deputy, she said.
Brewer said she is the most qualified candidate and that under her leadership she will “change the culture” and focus on “what’s best for the people” of Benton County. She said the assessor’s office has a lot of discretion in how it interprets laws and that she will always make sure to have the rights of the taxpayers and property owners in mind.
Efforts to contact Chaney by phone were unsuccessful. He attempted to return at least one phone message.
George Day of Centerton, who retired in August 2011 after 30 years with Benton County Road Department, is challenging Judge Clinard. Day said he is concerned that morale is low among county workers. He said better communication is needed “to make people less mad.”
“People are not always in the loop,” Day said. “We’ve got to get them back in the loop.”
Day said he developed good working relationships as a supervisor for the county and believes he will be an effective leader as judge. He would also like for the county road crew to focus more on maintenance than laying asphalt, which he said may often be handled more efficiently by private contractors.
Clinard, who was a general contractor before becoming judge, said he’s saved the county money by using county crews to pave roads. He said he’s hired well-qualified employees who will continue to help improve the quality of paving by county crews.
“These guys know their stuff,” he said.
He also says he saved the county money by using county employees to construct buildings to replace leased facilities.
He attributed morale problems to policy changes in the road department that require employees to better account for their time. Employees are also no longer allowed to use county vehicles to drive to and from work. He said some employees have been terminated because they have not adapted to the new culture that requires “eight hours work for eight hours pay.”
Assessor Glenn "Bear" Chaney (R)
Valerie Brewer (R)
Brenda DeShields (R)
Gloria Peterson (R)
Daniel Oxford (R)
Tena O'Brien (R)
Judge Robert Clinard (R)
George Day (R)
Mike Jones (R)
Kelley Cradduck (R)
Deanna Ratcliffe (R)