By JOHN HOFHEIMER
Leader staff writer
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.
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
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 jaila
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
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-
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.