Perhaps we shouldn’t wonder why it happened. Perhaps the real question is why it doesn’t happen more often.
When the dust cleared after candidate filings Monday, no one had filed to run for the District 2 seat on the Sebastian County Quorum Court.
Phil Hicks has held the seat since 2007, and he believes he’s done his duty by the county.
"I’m at that point in my life where I’d like to spend some more time with my family, and I need to put more emphasis on my business," Mr. Hicks told the Times Record. "It’s been a great trip, and I’ve met some wonderful people. We’ve got some good things going on here, but it’s time for some new blood, some fresh ideas."
In other words, Mr. Hicks is limiting his own term.
In many ways, it’s a thankless job to serve on the Quorum Court in Sebastian County. Last year, the panel met 12 times in regular session and 12 times in special meetings. At least a few of those meetings were long and rancorous. Annual compensation for justices of the peace here is $6,697.
Mr. Hicks missed five meetings. We respect his acknowledgement that he can’t be everywhere and do everything, so he’s stepping down from this role.
After eight years, it would seem reasonable to expect someone else to stand up and take a turn. But no one did.
And it’s not just in this one race that filing turnout seemed thin.
The marquee races — U.S. senator, U.S. representative, governor — drew multiple candidates, but at the county level, contested races were few. County judge, sheriff, coroner, county clerk, circuit clerk and JP districts 1, 3, 4, 5, 6, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12 and 13 are all uncontested, and of those 16 races, 15 will go to incumbents.
Of the 12 Arkansas House seats in the Times Record circulation area, nine are uncontested. One, the District 76 race between Bobby Altes and Mat Pitsch, both Republicans, will be contested at the primary level, but not in the general election in November. Two, District 20 where incumbent Republican Nate Bell is challenged by Democrat Chase Busch and Libertarian Marc Rosson and District 80 where incumbent Republican Charlene Fite faces Libertarian Taylor Watkins, are uncontested at the primary level but contested in the general election.
Of the five state Senate seats, just one, the District 9 Republican primary contest between incumbent Bruce Holland and challenger Terry Rice, is contested in either May or November.
There is no magic number of races that should be contested, and there’s certainly no reason for a popular and hardworking elected official to face a challenger. An uncontested race sometimes means there is consensus about the best person for the job, and that’s a good thing.
Nevertheless, it’s worth noting that in this election at least, a bare minimum of people have stepped forward to participate in the democratic process. Much elected service at the city and county level is compensated poorly, the hours are long and the insults are many. So maybe it’s to be expected.
To those who stepped up to run, we say thank you for your service. To those whose skills tend to the administrative, we say please consider taking your turn.
The quality of our government depends on the quality of our elected representatives.
This editorial originally appeared in the March 7, 2014 edition of the Times Record.