Columbia County Judge Larry Atkinson will retire effective Friday, January 31.
Atkinson made the announcement at the end of Monday night’s Columbia County Quorum Court meeting. Atkinson is undergoing treatment for cancer and said he was taking early retirement on advice of his oncologists.
“I wish this was different, but this is the way it has to be,” Atkinson said.
County Attorney Becky Jones outlined the process for finding someone to replace Atkinson through the remainder of his current four-year term, which ends at midnight December 31, 2022.
The Quorum Court will be offered a resolution at its Monday, January 6 meeting. The resolution will declare a vacancy in the position and name the person the Quorum Court has selected to fill it.
The vote on the resolution will come after an executive session during which justices of the peace will interview people who have submitted their resumes for the post.
The County Judge’s Office issued a public notice on Tuesday morning saying that anyone interested in the appointment should turn their name into the office, located in the Courthouse Courthouse, by 9 a.m. Monday, December 30. People with questions may call the office at 870-234-2542.
Justice of the Peace Marjie Blair said that JPs need to settle on a list of questions that they will ask all of the applicants.
Justice of the Peace Ricky Wilson expressed his appreciation for the job that Atkinson has done. Justice Steve Lee led the Quorum Court in giving Atkinson a standing ovation.
Atkinson has been elected to six two-year terms as county judge. Countywide officials began serving four-year terms on January 1, 2019, and Atkinson is presently in the first year of a four-year term.
Prior to his election as county judge, Atkinson was the manager of the Columbia County Rural Development Authority, which was created to operate Lake Columbia.
In Arkansas, a county judge acts as an executive officer. The county judge is the custodian of county property and public buildings, which in Columbia County includes overseeing the county road and solid waste departments. A county judge also prepares the agenda and presides at meetings of the Quorum Court. A county judge must be at least 25 years of age.
The most recent four-year official resignation in Columbia County was in 2018, when County Clerk Sherry Bell took early retirement. She had already decided not to run for re-election and Diane Ferguson was appointed to fill the remainder of her term. Tammy Wiltz was unopposed in the November 2018 general election.