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Olive Garden to ask planning commission for sign variance

On Thursday, the city of Conway posted eight words to its official Facebook page that started a social media frenzy: “Olive Garden has applied for a sign variance.”

As of early Friday afternoon, the simple post had garnered more than 430 comments and 112 shares. Getting an Olive Garden, or Red Lobster, has been a running joke in Conway for decades. Since the advent of Facebook, it has become more predominant. Posters often race to see who can first answer “Olive Garden” on social media whenever a question is posed about what a new building will be.

City spokesman Bobby M. Kelly III confirmed to the Log Cabin Democrat on Thursday that an “Olive Garden property representative” will be at the planning commission meeting at 7 p.m. Monday in City Hall to discuss the sign variance request. On Friday, the agenda for the meeting was posted to the city’s website.

“The applicant is requesting to construct an interstate sign off-site from the future development for the use associated with the sign. The applicant intends to place the sign near the north driveway of the existing Hank’s Fine Furniture and develop the lot to the south of Hank’s Fine Furniture for a future restaurant,” the request reads in part. “The sign will be 75-feet tall and 300 [square feet] in size.”

The agenda includes photos of where the proposed site would be – 554 Museum Road – as well as a more telling sentence: “The applicant has stated the sign would be placed in-lieu of an interstate sign for Hank’s Fine Furniture or an additional sign on the future Olive Garden site.”

The meeting is open to the public and will be live-streamed on the city’s Facebook page. To view the agenda in full, visit

Lawnmower parade

On Friday, Greenbrier High School seniors celebrated their last day of school by arriving in style – with a lawnmower parade. See two more photos on A6

Former Log Cabin Democrat publisher dies

David Meadows, who became publisher of The Courier in 2008 and later group publisher for other Paxton Media Group properties including the Log Cabin Democrat, died Wednesday night at his home in Jefferson City, Missouri.

Meadows, 58, came to Russellville in June 2008 after he served as publisher of The Dodge City Daily Globe in Dodge City, Kansas. He left in December 2019 to become general manager for Central Missouri Newspapers Inc. (CMNI), which is owned by WEHCO Media, a family-owned company based in Little Rock.

Mark Lane, president of the WEHCO Newspaper Division, said Thursday: “Mr. Meadows was an amazing leader who cared deeply for the News Tribune, Fulton Sun, California Democrat and all other businesses associated with the Central Missouri Newspapers Company.

“It was my honor to have the opportunity to work with such a talented professional. Our thoughts and prayers are with the Meadows family.”

News Tribune Managing Editor Gary Castor said Meadows served a variety of roles during his career in newspapers. He had been in production, which allowed him to “talk the talk” with staff in press rooms and mail rooms. However, he also served many years as a publisher/editor and had a clear understanding of news and what it tries to do.

He had more than 30 years experience in newspapers before he arrived in Jefferson City – 16 of which came as a general manager or publisher.

Castor described Meadows as also being an astute businessman whose stops in his career gave him broad perspectives on the industry.

“The man was exceptional. He was a great boss, and frankly, a great friend,” Castor said. “What always struck me was he had a kindness and a gentleness. He would listen well. What I appreciated about him most was, he respected what we are trying to do in the newsroom, and he gave us as much support and encouragement as possible.”

During his time at The Courier, Meadows’ community involvement included the Boys and Girls Club of the Arkansas River Valley, the Salvation Army and the annual River Valley United Way golf tournament.

“David Meadows was my first publisher. He took a chance on me right out of journalism school,” Jeanette Stewart, editor of the Log Cabin Democrat, said. “He taught me a lot during my two years at The Courier. David was a tough publisher, but always fair. He loved the community and the newspaper business. I appreciated his willingness to share the wisdom he acquired through decades of working in newspapers. His death is a blow to the business at large, but especially to the people who were lucky enough to work closely with him. My heart goes out to his family.”

Meadows, a Virginia native, began his newspaper career at Gannett/USA Today in 1984 and spent 10 years with Gannett before joining the Morris Publishing Group in 1994 at the Savannah (Ga.) Morning News.

“I was shocked and saddened to hear about David’s passing,” said David Mosesso, retired president of Paxton Media Group’s Arkansas-Mississippi-Louisiana division and former Courier publisher. “So very tragic and our hearts and prayers go out to his family.

“While it’s been a while since I’ve seen David, I’ll always remember his great attitude and common sense approach to his job. He was one of the good ones that seem to be so rare these days. David did a great job when he worked for me, and I could always count on him showing up and performing at a top level,” Mosesso said.

In 2002, Meadows was named general manager of another Morris newspaper, the Topeka Capital-Journal in Topeka, Kan. He was promoted to publisher of The Dodge City Daily Globe in 2004.

“David spoiled me for what I look for in a supervisor and friend,” Joshua Mashon, former editor of The Courier, explained. “He took me under his wing and showed me throughout the years how to properly perform in the different roles I undertook in the newsroom during my 14 years at The Courier.

“If ever there was something I wasn’t sure about, I always knew I could walk to his office, knock on the door frame, take a seat in front of his desk and ask away. The answers usually came quickly with the other time I could squeeze out of him for anything else I might feel the need to pick his brain about,” Mashon said.

The Courier is one of several Arkansas papers owned by Paxton Media Group, a family-owned company founded in 1896.

“David was a great boss and wonderful friend,” Michelle Harris, former advertising director for The Courier, said. “That can sometimes be hard to do, but not for David. He was an awesome leader and cared deeply for the community, The Courier and all of its employees. It was sincerely an honor and privilege to work with him.

“I recall so many good memories over the years, but most of all I will remember his sense of humor and kindness towards others. My heartfelt condolences go out to all of his family.”

Judy Manning, current advertising director for The Courier, said Meadows was one of the best leaders she has had the privilege to work with.

“But more than that, he was a truly wonderful person,” she added. “He had a way of genuinely listening to everyone, ensuring you felt how much he cared. I appreciated his sense of humor and the thoughtfulness he brought to the office every day. He was one of a kind and will truly be missed.”

“In the spring of 2013, I was hired by David to be the production manager at The Courier,” David Weaver said. “I had a long resume of print production and pre-press management but no newspaper experience. He said ‘that I can teach you’ and that he did.

“The relationship of employer-employee soon turned to one of mentor-close friend. He assembled a team of managers that would follow his lead wherever that led. He took pride in knowing all of the employees names and about their families and individual situations. That’s just the kind of man he was. He cared.

“He always kept a dish of candy on the side table in his office that would cause employees to veer into his office during the day for a piece of candy and a conversation,” Weaver added. “Most days I would end by walking into his office and sitting down, where we would talk about some current event or something that was happening in our families.

“David Meadows was a man of faith, he loved his family and was a leader. Someone that we all could learn from. We kept in touch every few weeks, but I didn’t know that when he called just a week ago, that it would be the last conversation the we would have. What I would give for a piece of candy and a chat right now. I will miss you, my friend,” Weaver said.

Meadows is survived by his wife, Dianna, and children, Connor and Garrett.

Carolyn Lewis receives national math recognition

Carolyn Lewis Elementary was named one of 10 schools in the nation as a 2021-2022 School of Excellence for its use of Imagine Math Fact by Imagine Learning.

Imagine Learning is the largest provider of Digital curriculum solutions in the United States and serves 10 million students in more than half of the school districts nationwide. Each year, the organization honors schools from across the country for their use of their Imagine Learning Solutions.

Of the 280 schools that were named an Imagine Nation school for the 2021-2022 school year, Carolyn Lewis was one of only two schools in Arkansas to receive this recognition with the other being Don Tyson School of Innovation in Springdale with the Imagine Pathblazer prize.

“It is an honor that Carolyn Lewis Elementary has been recognized as a School of Excellence,” Stacy Defoor, Carolyn Lewis Elementary principal, said. “This recognition demonstrates the hard work of our teachers to ensure that teaching and learning for our students are done with fidelity.”

More than 21,000 schools across the nation were eligible for an Imagine Nation School of Excellence Award, which are a part of the Imagine Learning motivational program which aims to ignite engagement and strengthening confidence for all students.

The award is presented to schools that are able to demonstrate outstanding commitment to effectively implement an Imagine Learning program throughout the year.

“The most rewarding part of our work is collaborating with educators to create solutions that better empower them and improve student outcomes,” Sari Factor, vice chair and chief strategy officer for Imagine Learning, said. “Schools across the country have worked hard to achieve greater learning among their students this year and we’re honored to provide innovative solutions that have helped them accomplish their goals.”

The other nine schools that received the School of Excellence award this year for Imagine Math Facts include:

C. Wright Elementary of Wilkes County Schools in North Carolina.

Academy C School of Guymon Public School in Oklahoma.

Evergreen Elementary of Three Rivers School District in Oregon.

Nescopeck Elementary of Berwick Area School District in Pennsylvania.

Hollywood Elementary of Saluda County School District in South Carolina.

Saluda Primary of Saluda County School District in South Carolina.

Hutchins Elementary of El Campo ISD in Texas.

Highland School of Highland ISD in Texas.

Sunnyside Elementary of Marysville School District 25 in Washington.

As early voting continues, Ryals vies for re-election

As early voting began this past week, Tim Ryals vies for re-election as Faulkner County Sheriff.

“Under my leadership as your Faulkner County Sheriff, the Sheriff’s Office has advanced in several areas over the past five years. These include communication, partnerships, training advancements, and hiring to name a few,” Ryals said. “Communication within the department has been a critical advancement during my time thus far in office.”

Ryals said he meets with all commanders every other week and with administrative staff every Monday to discuss current issues and strategic plans to address concerns.

“In my opinion, there is no better form of strategic planning than face-to-face planning on a regular basis,” Ryals said. “This has also allowed us to strengthen and grow our partnerships outside of the office.”

In the past few years, FCSO has partnered numerous times with all other law enforcement agencies in the county to benefit the community through events such as Cops & Bobbers, Faith & Blue National Weekend, Concerns of Police Survivors Blood Drives and Gold Tournaments, Share-A-Bear Holiday Police-Community Relations Event and others.

“Our Public Information Officer has drastically expanded our community outreach and notification efforts with Website Press Releases, Community Notifications in the local paper, and a very active social media presence that keeps the community advised of office functions, case closures, investigations, sex offender notifications and weather alert information,” Ryals said. “Under my leadership, we both began and grew a strong partnership with local school districts and colleges. Our partnership with UCA has allowed us to host ride-alongs, panel interviews, trainings, and other events for students, and it provides students an opportunity to complete internships with the department.

“We have two students who have already completed internships, and we have a third student beginning a six-month internship this summer. We are also actively involved in the local school systems. In addition to having a full-time School Resource Officer servicing Guy, Enola, and Mt. Vernon School Districts, we have hosted Drunk Driving Simulation Exercises with the Faulkner County Coroner’s Office in preparation for prom and have surprised local teachers with certificates for Teacher Appreciation Week each year.”

Since taking office, Ryals has made many successful structural changes within the department.

“One of my earlier initiatives was to centrally locate our CID Office near the jail and justice building, a move which has successfully improved the efficiency and effectiveness of CID as well as evidence preservation,” he said.

The effectiveness of the CID along with Patrol, Administration and Reserve Deputies has also allowed the implementation of quality Saturation Patrol, which has shown to be a very effective local measure, to identify locations of highest crime areas and utilize all resources to saturate areas with traffic stops and command presence, he said. In the most recent saturation, deputies partnered with the 20th Judicial District Drug Task Force and Arkansas State Police to conduct over 75 traffic stops, make multiple felony arrests, and recover thousands of dollars of stolen property. This unit was also recently able to uncover a multi-jurisdictional theft ring and recover over $40K of stolen property from five different counties.

“While my opponent states that he will create a task force, he should realize that a task force is already in place. As noted from results of the last saturation and numerous past and ongoing investigations, this unit has been extremely successful in partnering with the 20th Judicial Drug Task Force and Arkansas State Police,” Ryals said.

Ryals is also proud that an increase in office effectiveness has assisted investigators in their ability to solve cold cases from previous administrations. “I am very proud that we were able to provide closure to the family of Pam Felkins,” he said.

Ryals also implemented a third-party medical service and a Guardian Jail System for the Faulkner County Detention Center, both of which substantially reduced the risk of lawsuits and increased the safety for both inmates and staff.

“While my opponent states he will make more room in the jail to house violent offenders, he seems to not realize that, this too, is already being done,” Ryals said.

There are already several proposals in place with the county for the future of Unit 2, plans which require engineering and needs assessment to occur before expansions can actually take place.

Recently, Ryals chose to fund life-saving body armor for 22 Reserve Deputies, and FCSO is in the process of equipping every patrol deputy with body cameras that were made available through a state grant. He also recently implemented a 3-acre training facility and firing range in central Faulkner County to accommodate all agencies within the county at no additional cost to the taxpayer. University of Central Arkansas Police Department was able to take advantage of this new facility earlier this year.

“Under my leadership, we have drastically transformed and expanded our training for all divisions of the office. I promoted our first Department Training Commander and created a new recruit training program to better prepare deputies,” Ryals said.

New training courses include physical fitness, life-saving training, and Spanish classes to prepare them to serve the growing Spanish-speaking population in the county.

FCSO already exceeds the standards of the Arkansas Commission on Law Enforcement Standards and Training. These are the state standards that departments should meet and exceed in the State of Arkansas.

“My opponent has argued that we should become accredited with the Arkansas Law Enforcement Accreditation Program (ALEAP)”, Ryals said. ALEAP is a voluntary accreditation program based in the Arkansas Association of Chiefs of Police. This is primarily a municipality or city-based accreditation program and agency. To participate in this program, the agency Chief must be a member of the Arkansas Association of Chiefs of Police, and this voluntary program also comes with several costs in addition to that membership. “Annually, this accreditation would cost the department approximately $2,000 in addition to also having to pay for a committee member to travel and stay in Faulkner County during the application process,“ Ryals said. “The department would also have to hire a program coordinator, a position that is mandated by ALEAP for us to maintain. The ALEAP program also supports membership in CALEA, and offers a discount on annual fees if the member organization maintains CALEA accreditation, something that would cost well over $11,000”. Currently, there are no Arkansas Sheriff’s Departments which are ALEAP accreditation members.

Ryals said that money can be better spent equipping deputies with life-saving equipment, training and body cameras.

“I will always advocate for a standard of excellence, strong leadership and a solid commitment to core values within the Sheriff’s Office,” he said. “This is accomplished by continuing to utilize funds in ways that strengthen our local community and department rather than outsource thousands of dollars to a voluntary accreditation program with little research to prove effectiveness.

“I realize that, like me, many citizens of Faulkner County are concerned about vicious animals, a problem that has caused tragic deaths in recent years within our county. While my opponent states he will create an animal control team, this too has already been in process for several years now.” Animal control within the county cannot be accomplished until an animal shelter is in place, he said.

“I have worked avidly over the past five years to bring this plan to fruition. Currently, the animal shelter is in planning stages with the County Judge’s Office and Quorum Court,” Ryals said.

“Now is not the time to reinvent the wheel. Nor is it the time to spend thousands of dollars on red tape bureaucracy like voluntary accreditation which will tie the hands of the Sheriff’s Office. My opponent is making the same promises to you that I have actually delivered upon over the past five years. Clearly, he lacks an understanding of the many accomplishments, partnerships, training, and policies that the Sheriff’s Office already has in place. Our CID, Deputies, Court Security, Transport, Dispatchers, and all other staff are doing a tremendous job with the funding available and it is important that we continue to build on these successes in the years to come. That is why I ask for your vote to re-elect me, Tim Ryals, as Faulkner County Sheriff.”