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Candidates offer voters a choice for justice of the peace

BENTONVILLE — Joel Edwards, the Republican incumbent, faces Democrat Asele Mack for the District 15 seat on the Benton County Quorum Court.

“I want to offer a choice,” Mack said. “When there’s a choice, the quality of candidates improves. For too long, too many people have run unopposed. People don’t know who their JP is, what a JP does.”

District 15 includes parts of northwestern Bentonville and the area west to Bella Vista, Gravette and Center-ton.

Justices of the peace serve two-year terms and are paid $230 for each Quorum Court and Committee of the Whole meeting and $144 for each meeting of a committee of which they are a member.

Edwards, who is in his first term on the Quorum Court, said he wants to continue working to provide a check on county officials in their spending and how they provide the services county government offers.

“One of the biggest problems is keeping the balance between holding everyone accountable from a budget standpoint and still helping those people get things done,” Edwards said. “I can’t just say ‘no’ to everybody. How do I find the balance between what’s reasonable and what isn’t?”

Edwards said he supports the proposed $30 million courts building, but had reservations about the temporary, one-eighth cent sales tax to fund it and about having the plan put to a vote in a March 2019 special election.

“I thought we could have used more from our reserves, and we could have done a better job of scaling the building down,” Edwards said.. “I also questioned having a special election that close to November. Elections should happen in a forum where the most citizens can vote. In the end, we absolutely need a new courts facility, and I will be supporting it going forward.”

Mack said she has reservations about the courts project and isn’t ready to say she will support the plan proposed by the Quorum Court.

“I feel it is a lot of money,” Mack said. “Nobody wants to say ‘I’m for more taxes.’ especially a sales tax. It’s a fine proposal, and I respect the process for reaching that decision, but I haven’t made up my mind yet.”

Mack said she sees a split between rural and city residents and between long-time residents and relative newcomers.

She said wants to help bridge that divide.

“We need to be mindful of everybody,” she said. “It’s important that the county be welcoming.”

Early voting begins Oct. 22 and the general election is Nov. 6.

JOEL EDWARDS

Republican (Incumbent) AGE: 51

RESIDENCY: Six years in the district.

EMPLOYMENT: Business analyst manager with Arvest Bank.

EDUCATION:

Master’s in information assurance from Capitol College, Washington, D.C. POLITICAL EXPERIENCE: First term on Benton County Quorum Court.

ASELE MACK

Democrat AGE: 51 RESIDENCY: Three years in Bentonville and the district.

EMPLOYMENT: Librarian at Northwest Arkansas Community College. EDUCATION: Master’s in library and information science from Georgia State University in Valdosta.

POLITICAL EXPERIENCE: None.

Tom Sissom can be reached by email at tsissom@nwadg.com or on Twitter @NWATom.

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