Allen Dodson took the step from County Attorney to County Judge last month, a step that will last only two years. But it is during that time that he hopes to continue the work that his predecessor has done with even more of a bipartisan nature.
Dodson, who claims no political affiliation, was hired as county attorney by former County Judge Preston Scroggin, a Democrat, in 2012. Scroggin accepted the appointment of Arkansas Director of Livestock and Poultry by Gov. Beebe shortly after being re-elected, leaving the judge’s chair open.
A quorum court made of up seven Republicans and six Democrats voted behind closed doors to appoint Dodson to fill the judge’s spot for the remainder of his term. Dodson will not be able to run for re-election, a circumstance that he says is fine with him. The court’s vote between Dodson and former Conway Alderman Mark Vaught was reportedly 7-6 in favor of Dodson. The court came back to a packed courtroom and appointed Dodson with an 12-1 official vote. At the time, Dodson said he was "humbled" by the appointment, and he has since presided over one quorum court meeting and dealt with what he calls the "two eggs" on any county judge’s plate — roads and buildings.
Log Cabin Democrat: What was the time like leading up to the court’s appointment?
Allen Dodson: There were all sort of implications that occurred when Preston revealed that he was resigning. At that moment, I was the county attorney, and we all had to protect the integrity of Faulkner County. I was getting legal questions left and right about what needed to be done, what could be done and how we needed to go about it. I knew a number of people thought I was the best person for the position, but this wasn’t something that you campaign for or jockey for. What was most important was to act as the attorney for the county and make sure the perception was that this was a solid, well-run group.
LCD: Was being County Judge ever something you had aspired to?
AD: No, not at all. I guess if there was a career track, it may have involved something along the lines of maybe a circuit or district judge position. I was very interested in the county attorney position because it was the type of law that interested me. And it has shown me in the time that I have been here that no matter what else happens, Faulkner County needs a county civil attorney.
LCD: So is there a time frame for replacing you as attorney?
AD: We are certainly looking at our options. The most important thing in this state of transition is stability. We have cases that are already going, and in some instances, our resources are limited. We have asked David Hogue to help on an interim basis. (Hogue acted as interim county attorney before Dodson was hired) He is able to pick up where he left off, and he is comfortable with us, and I think everyone is comfortable with him. Of course we are in a position where we need to find out what hours he has available. He has his own private practice to deal with. But I am available with a certain expertise. We just need to find that balance, and where it would not a conflict of interest, I would be able to help out. Maybe it would help us save some money.
LCD: The court’s decision was reported to be 7-6, but they came out nearly in unity to support your appointment. How has it been dealing with them so far?
AD: I think with the fact that I cannot run again and the fact that I do not have a party affiliation frees me up to be more open to cooperation, and I hope it frees up our JPs to be more open with their constituents. They are able to focus on their core values and beliefs. I have been able to talk with every single justice of the peace, and I hope they have been surprised by me. I do have a rapport with everyone. I have had a six-month track record already.
LCD: Where does the focus lie in the short term?
AD: Right now it is with the new criminal justice building and with the roads. We have several projects set up in the spring, and we just need to hope for not that much rain.