Taking office

By JOHN HOFHEIMER
Leader staff writer

__The wives of three prominent Lonoke County Republicans were sworn into office as justices of the peace on Saturday morning, giving Republicans control of the quorum court there for the first time in history.
__None of the women had previously run for office, but Donna Pedersen, appointed by Gov. Huck-abee, held the seat on her husband's behalf in 2003 until the state Supreme Court decided he could serve in the seat to which he was elected. He ran for another office this year and lost.
__ All three women are from Cabot, the Republican stronghold, and their election shifted the court from an 8-5 Democratic majority to a 7-6 Republican majority. Pedersen defeated Bill Miller in November. Jeanette Minton, wife of former state Sen. Randy Minton (R-Ward), unseated incumbent Democrat Larry Ridgeway. Randy Minton is among the most active Lonoke County Republicans, organizing and strategizing for the party.
__ Lynn Weeks Clarke beat Democrat Barry Weathers. Her husband, Larry Clarke, is the Republican member of the Lonoke County Election Commission. Many issues in the past term have been decided along strict party-lines and some actions are likely to be revisited, perhaps reversed with the shift in power.
__ Some Republicans have said they expect to consider another jail tax vote and perhaps will review the county's nepotism law. The Democrats on the court previously forced upon the Republicans a countywide vote on a new quarter-cent sales tax dedicated to expanding the jail–a proposal that lost by a 2-1 margin. Republicans will now be in a position to try to force a vote on redistribution of the existing countywide penny sales tax to fund the jail, although several mayors, including Republican Stubby Stumbaugh of Cabot, have promised to challenge in court.
__ Other new faces sworn in this week included Deborah Oglesby as Lonoke County circuit clerk, replacing Karol DePriest. DePriest was sworn in as the new county treasurer, replacing Jorene Shurley, who retired in August, and Julia Williams, who served out the balance of the term.
__ On the last half day of her 20 years in office as Pulaski County circuit/county clerk, Carolyn Staley traveled to Lonoke to see Oglesby – her niece – sworn in. Lonoke County Judge Charlie Troutman, a Ward area Democrat, reelected without opposition, said he could work with the Republican- dominated court.
__ Asked what he expected from the newly configured court, he said "I expect them to do their jobs. The more things change, the more they stay the same. Don't look for any drastic changes." Troutman attributed the Republican sweep of the three quorum court seats more to the national Republican success in the general election than to the Republican strength in Cabot. He said Lonoke County is full of independent thinkers. Pedersen, Minton and Clarke join four other Republicans on the quorum court, unopposed in the November general election.
__ They are Larry A. Odom, Alexis Malham, Gina Burton and Martin "Marty" Stumbaugh. All are from the Cabot area. Returning Democrats on the court include Joe T. Gunter, Richard Kyzer, Woody Evans, Robert Sonny Morey and Norman Walker, the court's only black. Lonoke County Deputy Sheriff Effrim Jones, a sergeant, was sworn in as a Lonoke alderman by freshly minted District Judge Barbara Elmore. In Pulaski County, Jacksonville native Pat O'Brien, a Democrat, was sworn in at noon Saturday to straighten out the county/circuit clerk's office previously run by Staley.
__ Republican Bob Johnson, who ran unopposed, was sworn in as the District 11 justice of the peace, representing the Jacksonville area. Johnson replaced Dennis Sobba. Sobba was sworn as constable.