Three Republicans vying for Sebastian County treasurer/collector seat

Gregory Charity (R)

Age: 44

Residence: green wood; lifelong resident of Sebastian County.

Occupation: Unelected Treasurer for Barling

Education: Bachelor of Business Administration-Accounting, University of Arkansas-Fort Smith

Political experience: Nothing.

Lora Rice (R)

Age: 59

Residence: green wood; lived in Sebastian County for a total of 51 years

Occupation: Controller at SPF America in Fort Smith.

Education: Greenwood High School. Attended Westark Community College (now University of Arkansas-Fort Smith), John Brown University, and Dallas County Community College (now Dallas College)

Political experience: Unsuccessful candidate for Greenwood City Council, 2020.

Ken Blevins (R)

Age: 48.

Residence: Fort Smith.

Occupation: Blevins refused to provide

Education: Blevins refused to provide

Political experience: Elected Sebastian County Circuit Clerk in 2010; lost a 2012 re-election bid. Unsuccessful Democratic primary candidate for Sebastian County judge in 2018

FORT SMITH — The race to become Sebastian County’s new treasurer/collector will come down to three Republicans this year.

Charity Gregory, Lora Rice and Ken Blevins are running for four-year terms for the office in the May 24 Republican primary election. The winner will face no opposition in the November general election, according to the Sebastian County Clerk’s Office.

The treasurer is responsible for the custody and disbursement of all county money, as well as appropriate school district money, according to the county’s website. The collector collects property taxes for the county, including municipal, county, school, and improvement district taxes.

Outgoing Treasurer/Collector Steve Hotz was appointed by the Court of Quorum to serve the remainder of Judith Miller’s term effective January 1, 2020, following Miller’s resignation. Hotz is unable to run for office under state law. He is running as a Republican primary candidate for the county judge seat against Denny Altes and Jeff Turner.

The treasurer/collector position has an annual salary of $98,558, according to the county.

The Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette sent Gregory and Rice the same three questions about their candidacy. They were told that their answers would be limited to 300 words each and could be edited for clarity.

Blevins, a former Sebastian County circuit clerk, declined to participate. A county grievance board ruled in May 2011 that Blevins sexually harassed three female employees of the circuit clerk’s office in violation of county personnel policy.

Blevins sued in 2013, accusing County Judge David Hudson of sabotaging his administration and removing him from office. A Sebastian County Circuit Court judge dismissed the lawsuit in 2014, a decision the Arkansas Supreme Court upheld in 2016.

QUESTION: What makes you the best candidate for the position of Treasurer/Collector of Sebastian County?

GREGORY: My experience, combined with my education, has given me the tools to serve the citizens of Sebastian County. I have over 20 years of finance experience, including eight years in government accounting, and understand the laws established by the state and county to run the office of treasurer/collector.

I am currently Treasurer for the Town of Barling. While at the city, I worked with the board, city administrator, and department heads to cut expenses and implement budget controls that resulted in surpluses for 2020 and 2021.

As the Purchasing/Facility Administrator for Sebastian County, I contained major project costs and reduced expenses across all departments. Over the years, I have worked closely with elected officials to increase accountability with your tax dollars.

Sebastian County is my community. It’s where my husband and I were born and raised, and it’s where we raised our children. As treasurer/collector, I will have the privilege of continuing to serve my community with integrity and transparency.

RICE: I have the experience, skills and integrity required to fill this position and to do it well.

Experience: In my more than 37 years of experience in various accounting roles, I have been a controller for several multi-million dollar companies, worked in public accounting and successfully managed several accounting departments.

Skills: In addition to the financial basics required, I am a problem solver and am particularly good at streamlining processes. I’m always looking for ways to make things better, faster and more profitable.

Integrity: I am a Christian and strive to make all decisions and live my daily life in a way that honors God.

QUESTION: What do you think the residents of Sebastian County want from the Treasurer/Collector’s Office? How do you plan to help facilitate this?

GREGORY: The citizens of Sebastian County want more transparency, accountability and fiscal accountability from their elected officials. I will increase transparency and accountability within the Treasurer/Receiver’s office by creating easy to understand financial statements. I will also make public reports easily accessible to any citizen. I have proven that I am fiscally prudent and will continue this practice as Treasurer/Collector.

RICE: When residents interact with the Treasurer/Receiver’s Office, I believe they should see honesty, fairness and transparency and be treated with exceptional customer service. As Treasurer/Receiver, I will actively participate in maintaining a well-trained team to accomplish this. I would also like to see an expansion of payment methods available to the public to make their commitments as easy as possible.

QUESTION: If elected, what would your priorities be and how would you use your position to address these issues?

GREGORY: My top priority will be to ensure clarity by providing easy-to-read and understand financial statements, streamlining services for all citizens, and ensuring that cities and schools quickly receive taxpayers’ money that is due to them. I recognize the responsibility to meet the needs of our community and will continue to seek innovative ways to improve citizen services and the management of the Treasurer/Collector’s office.

RICE: Currently, the Treasurer/Receiver’s office is functioning well and productively. A review of the Legislative Audit Committee’s reports for the past 10 years reveals no significant deficiencies, significant weaknesses or instances of non-compliance. My goal is to continue this positive trend while vigilantly monitoring possible areas for improvement.

Lora Rice

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