“We have an embarrassment of riches here,” said Faulkner County Judge Allen Dodson as he sat in his office pondering over the county’s future.
“We shouldn’t take a back seat to anyone in the country,” he said. “We are in a good place now, but it is nothing compared to what we could be in the next 10 to 20 years, and it is time to get to work on a long-term vision for our county.”
Establishing that long-range vision for Faulkner County is one of the main reasons Dodson chose to run for the office, which he previously held 10 years ago. Dodson was appointed county judge in 2013 and held the office through 2014. He had previously served as the county’s attorney before he was appointed judge.
His first term in office was defined by his administration’s response to emergency and disaster situations. A few months after taking office, an oil line ruptured in Mayflower causing 22 homes to be evacuated.
“We had no more gotten our feet into the office before that happened,” Dodson said.
Major emergency response situations like the oil spill moves other tasks and responsibilities to the back burner, Dodson said.
“It throws you behind on annual things the administration is tasked with, such as roads,” he said. “It’s a big operation — the county has more than 900 miles of road to maintain — and it’s a seasonal cycle. I knew there were things I wanted to accomplish that was not possible due to what we were dealing with.”
The next year, an F4 tornado tore through the county, tracking 41 miles through Mayflower and Vilonia. With 16 fatalities reported, including 12 in Faulkner County, it was the deadliest Arkansas tornado since an F4 tornado in Jonesboro in 1968. The National Weather Service estimated about 500 homes were destroyed.
“It was the most difficult, and challenging time of my administration,” Dodson said. “During that moment, it was a mindset of how I avoid letting the public down. What is the most I can do for the county? I had to help our county heal and we had a massive amount of work to do with many partners, both state and federal, to help our people.”
One of the biggest undertakings was the county’s decision to oversee the tornado cleanup across the county.
“It was a massive undertaking,” Dodson said. “We took more than 1,000 dump truck loads out of one of the worst-hit areas, but I had full belief in our folks that we could devise a system and accomplish it.”
Since taking office a second time, Dodson said he’s focused on providing solid leadership for the county and setting high expectations for the county to meet.
“There is a toxic dynamic that has developed at the national level, and sometimes even the state level, about government,” he said. “That is not what I believe in our government. We are top performers in Faulkner County, and we should have those expectations about our government.”
Being a county judge puts a person in the unique position of having a wide variety of constituents from a rural setting to city dwellers, but it’s a position Dodson believes to be suited for as a seventh-generation county resident.
“I’m at home shoveling gravel and using large equipment, but I’m also an attorney with a Juris doctorate,” he said. “You have to be genuine, understand the value of hard work, and understand the value of people. Having grown up with exposure of swinging a hammer, working cattle on my family’s farm, holding public office, and being an attorney brings a broad range of social experience that comes into play.”
Read more in the 2024 CONWAY+ Community Profile & Resource Guide