New assessor

Voyles Martin, left, stands Monday with Columbia County Judge Denny Foster during her swearing-in ceremony as new Columbia County assessor. The longtime county employee was appointed by the Columbia County Quorum Court to fill the position until December 31, 2022.

After an hour-long executive session Monday night, the Columbia County Quorum Court by overwhelming majority appointed Voyles Martin as the new Columbia County assessor.

The longtime county employee was among four applicants for the position and now fills the void left by Sandra Cawyer, the former tax assessor who resigned her elected office on July 5 to become director of the Arkansas Assessment Coordination Division.

Martin brings plenty of experience to the position. She has been an employee with the local assessor’s office since 2001. She was previously a deputy assessor and since 2015 has held the title of team leader.

“I’m just very appreciative of the Quorum Court considering me for the position, and I look forward to serving the citizens of Columbia County,” said Martin after her swearing-in ceremony on Monday night.

The appointment was also historic. Martin is the county’s first African-American tax assessor.

“This is history in the making,” said Martin’s husband, Leroy, who serves as an investigator for the Columbia County Sheriff’s Office.

Multiple family members and friends of Martin were present Monday in the Columbia County Courthouse. Once the decision was made and she was announced as the new assessor, she received a warm ovation by the Quorum Court and members of the audience.

Martin had strong support among the Quorum Court, with 10 of the 11 JPs publicly voting for her appointment. JP Steve Lee voted “here,” while JPs Marjie Blair, Annette Pate, Russell Thomas, Penny Cook, Rick Waller, Oliver Thomas, Terry Williams, Burnie Sharp, Lynn Story and Jason Ray all voted “yes."

Martin was sworn into office immediately following the Quorum Court’s meeting.

The new county official will fill the remaining 25 months on Cawyer’s term, which does not expire until December 31, 2022. Cawyer had been the Columbia County tax assessor since January 1, 2011. The county had been without a tax assessor since her resignation 15 days ago.

By rule of the appointment, Martin cannot run for tax assessor at the conclusion of her term.

Three other applicants -- Cathy Allen, Antoinette Copeland, and Sharon Crump – also nominated themselves to fill Cawyer’s unexpired term. The interviews were held behind closed doors, but JPs typically use a list of pre-set questions to ask each applicant during appointment situations. The interviews usually take 15-20 minutes each, then the remaining executive session time is used for deliberation among the Quorum Court members.

No other candidates received public votes Monday since Martin, who was voted on first, had already received enough votes to fill the vacant position. The appointment requires only a simple majority.

Martin is now the second Columbia County official this year and the third in the last two years to be appointed by the Quorum Court to fill a vacant position.

County Judge Denny Foster, who presided over Monday’s meeting, was appointed in January after former County Judge Larry Atkinson retired early. Sherry Bell, the former County Clerk, also retired early in May 2018.

After Martin’s appointed, a resolution of appreciation for Cawyer was read and approved unanimously by the JPs for her service to the county.

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