Fulton County Judge Curren Everett will step down Jan. 1 after 14 years in office. Two candidates, Republican Gary Phillips and Democrat Charles Willett, are vying for his seat.
The News asked candidates to respond to questions about what they each hope to accomplish in office. The questions and their answers follow:
The News: What are the greatest needs for roads in the county? How do you intend to address those needs?
Phillips: While driving the roads of the county it appears that many of our road problems are caused by water management constraints. The road crews have taken some actions to control the flow, like cutting water run-offs in grading berms, but more lasting responses are also required. We should isolate specific problems, such as erosion at culverts and low water bridges, and look at options. Rather than rebuilding the washed out gravel area after each flood, the county might find it less expensive in the long run to extend concrete on segments of the road to add erosion stability.
One suggestion is to select a road that has a variety of problems and make it a model road. As a model road it would get more time and attention. Different ways of solving road problems would be tried, and the most effective ones for our county would be selected. This would allow focused attention on solving specific problems. In return, the final product would be a much better road in that location, and the best solutions would then be applied to roads throughout the county so that we will all benefit.
The model road would also allow the entire road crew to have a common training ground and experience. This would allow comparison of different approaches (e.g. different grader operating styles). Also, some common training for the entire crew would provide a shared base of information from which we could all work together. Often low cost or free training can be gotten from equipment manufacturers on new equipment and techniques when using it.
Willett: After researching what has been effective in other counties with similar problems, it is my intention to solve our problems with similar methods such as crowning roads, removing brush, cleaning out ditches and installing culverts in needed areas and eventually have good chat-based roads.
Also, by removing obstacles near and around roads we can widen and upgrade our roads without compromising the integrity of our farmers' land and fences yet be able to widen roads for the safety of all citizens travelling throughout the county.
Another problem we must solve is systematically replacing the one-lane bridges in our county. This will take time and funds, but I will work with local and state officials to obtain necessary funds for these improvements.
Certainly all problems cannot be solved overnight or even in a short amount of time. However, one by one I will address and begin solving each one.
The News: What will you do to promote economic development in the county?
Phillips: My summary for economic growth is CARE: Create, Attract, Retain and Expand. We must create new business owners from schools and the workforce. Simple things can be done such as our change in the chamber scholarship to focus on encouraging seniors to develop potential business plans. There are young business programs for students as young as the third grade. Business startup assistance would be organized through the judge's office or coordinated through the chambers of commerce.
We should assess our strengths and goals for the future, then focus our efforts on attracting appropriate businesses to Fulton County. We need to take the incentives we use to recruit out-of-state businesses, and offer them also to our local businesses, so that we can retain current employers and community members, and help them coordinate markets, suppliers and resources to expand markets, production and product lines.
Willett: As to our economic needs, I will work aggressively with county, state and individuals to attract and create jobs. No businesses are too small, and I will put forth my utmost effort to draw any viable business. The citizens of Fulton County are hard workers, and the selling point we have as a county is our people. Businesses want to know that a county has a workforce capable of producing quality products. We have some of the top schools in the state of Arkansas. This indicates that our citizens are bright and capable.
I have also looked into the possibility of perhaps creating our own county-owned factory. If we can't draw manufacturers here, then we can attempt to create our own. By negotiating directly with retailers and cutting out the middleman, Fulton County will benefit from all the profits made from our own factory which in turn will add much needed revenue to benefit all county departments. Also this can mean higher wages for employees. Such a facility will be governed by a public facilities board of local people.
Any ideas are welcome and I am available anytime to discuss the concerns of our citizens.