First job of next Arkansas governor may be to appoint a Sebastian County JP

story by Ryan Saylor
rsaylor@thecitywire.com

One of the first actions of the new Arkansas governor will not be policy-related once the individual takes office in 2015. Instead, the new governor is likely to fill at least one likely opening on the Sebastian County Quorum Court after Justice of the Peace Phil Hicks did not file for re-election to his District 2 seat and no one else filed to replace him.

According to Hicks, he declined to run for re-election after long deliberations with his wife about the possibility of running again.

"Me and my wife talked about this for a long time," he said, adding that he wanted to spend more time with family.

"My oldest son lives north of Denver and my youngest son, who lives in (Washington), D.C., is a flight engineer on Air Force Two. And I want to start spending more time with my kids and grandkids."

Hicks added that he also needed to focus more time on his insurance business, which has "been on the back burner for the last five or six years."

With Hicks declining to run for re-election, the Secretary of State's office said there were two options for filling the position. According to Alex Reed, spokesman for the Secretary of State's office, Hicks could decide to hold the office until the 2016 election.

"The justice of the peace, he can continue on until his successor is elected. So he can hold over."

Another option, Reed said, was the governor appointing his successor "if (Hicks) gives notification that he doesn't wish to serve at the end of his term this time."

Sebastian County Judge David Hudson said he would rely on the county's legal counsel when filing the position, adding that he has already been in communication with Prosecuting Attorney Dan Shue regarding the position.

Hudson said "this is the first time something like this has occurred (in Sebastian County)," according to the best of his knowledge.

The gubernatorial campaigns of Republican Asa Hutchinson and Democrat Mike Ross were contacted regarding how they would deal with what it likely to be the first appointment of their potential governorships.

Hutchinson's campaign evoked job creation as one of his top priorities in whoever he appoints.

“As Governor, I would appoint someone who understands that job creation is a priority in the River Valley. My number one priority is economic growth and job creation so the person I would appoint would need to share that priority. To find that person, I would consider suggestions and recommendations but, having lived in Sebastian County for nineteen years, I have personal knowledge of qualified individuals that I would either consider for the position or ask for their advice and recommendations. Ultimately, I will appoint the person that best represents the people of Sebastian County.”

Ross said he would look for qualified and competent individuals who have a "history of working with others."

"Once the quorum court officially declares a vacancy, I would take applications from any qualified person within the district who wanted to apply, and I would strongly rely on the recommendations from the remaining quorum court members and the county judge in making my decision. As governor, each and every appointment I make would be someone who is qualified, competent and who has history of working with others - regardless of party affiliation - to put sound public policy over partisan politics.  I have always considered public service a tremendous honor that requires a strong work ethic and unwavering integrity, and I will appoint people who share those same values."

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Hicks said should it become necessary for him to continue serving on the Quorum Court, he would continue serving, "but I'm 99.9% sure (the next governor) would have someone ready by January 1."

"It's one of those things (that) I've thought about it for a long time. I've got to get my priorities right. I've spent a lot of time doing stuff for the city (of Greenwood) and the county. It's time to put my family first again and that's what I'm going to do."

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