Leader Blues

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

TOP STORY > >Successor moving in as county prosecutor

Leader staff writer

Although Lona McCastlain is officially the Lonoke County prosecutor until Jan. 1, Will Feland, her replacement, is already on the job.

Feland, a former Lonoke County prosecutor, has been sworn in as an unpaid deputy prosecutor so he can review cases, but he says he is in contact with McCastlain, who is using vacation days to spend Christmas with her husband in Germany where he is stationed.

McCastlain’s husband, Bruce, who serves full time in the National Guard, was promoted Sept. 14 from lieutenant colonel to full-bird colonel. He got his orders for Europe Sept. 17 shortly before McCastlain announced that she was retiring as Dist. 23 prosecuting attorney.

McCastlain said when she announced her retirement that December was a slow month for the courts and therefore a good time for the transition to a new prosecutor.

Feland, 56, said this week that the transition is going well. The only major change, he said, is the chief deputy prosecutor. Stuart Cearley resigned to take the chief deputy position in Benton County, Feland said.

Cearley’s replacement is Bart Dickinson, a former deputy prosecutor for Pulaski County who now works for the attorney general. Feland said while Dickinson was with Pulaski County, he prosecuted more than 60 cases in criminal court.

Cearley’s departure was completely voluntary, he said, adding that he was pleased with his replacement.

“Because of his experience, I am really excited for Bart to come aboard,” Feland said.

Longtime Circuit Judge Lance Hanshaw is retiring at the end of December. His First Division seat will be filled by Judge Barbara Elmore, who was appointed as circuit judge in 2007 to the newly created Third Division. Judge Phillip Whiteaker presides over Second Division and Hanshaw’s son-in-law, Sandy Huckabee, won over McCastlain for the Third Division seat that Elmore will vacate at the end of the month.

Currently, the judges divide the workload with Hanshaw hearing mostly criminal cases, Whiteaker mostly civil cases and Elmore mostly domestic violence and juvenile cases. But that arrangement changes in January, when Elmore, Whiteaker and Huckabee will share the criminal case load. Getting ready for the change is keeping Feland and the staff in the prosecutor’s office busy.

“We’ve worked hard to get organized,” Feland said. “I wanted to hit the ground running in January.”

In addition to being a lawyer, Feland is pastor of the First Christian Church in Sherwood and the owner of Pinnacle Structures in Cabot, which manufactures metal buildings. He said this week that while he is prosecutor, he will turn the operation of his business over to Ken Kincade.

Feland was one of two lawyers McCastlain recommended to Gov. Mike Beebe as her successor. She also recommended one of her former deputy prosecutors, Norene Smith.

“I couldn’t have been more pleased if I had (picked him) myself,” McCastlain said after Beebe selected Feland. “He’s professional and will serve the people well. He did it before and I know he will do it again.”

Feland served four two-year terms as Lonoke County prosecutor before deciding in 1992 to go to seminary instead of seeking reelection.

Because he’s appointed to the position, he’ll not be eligible to succeed himself at the end of his term. He will serve until Dec. 31, 2010.