- Associated Press - Monday, July 7, 2014

WALDRON, Ark. (AP) - On the heels of the one-year anniversary of deadly flooding that claimed the life of former Scott County Sheriff Cody Carpenter, the county renamed its detention center in his honor.

County Judge James Forbes asked the Quorum Court for permission to rename the facility in the late sheriff’s honor, and it agreed.

“He worked quite a few years on trying to get this jail built, as our previous jail was substandard,” Forbes told the Times Record (https://bit.ly/VIesPG). “He was dedicated to law enforcement and the safety of the people of this county, so I think it’s appropriate to rename it after him.”

The county purchased and engraved a 6-foot-long-by-4-foot-wide slate of rock bearing Carpenter’s name, forever etching his name in stone outside of the county’s jail facility.

The $5.5 million, 76-bed, 20,500-square-foot detention center next to the courthouse in Waldron has a long, difficult history.

County voters agreed in 2006 to levy a temporary 5/8-cent tax to build the facility, but in the same election they rejected a 7/8-cent tax to staff and operate the facility. As a result, the jail was built but did not open.

Voters eventually approved a 1 percent tax in May 2009, with half dedicated to jail operations and half to the county’s general fund, reducing the county’s real estate and personal property taxes by one-half.

As part of an effort to promote the importance of passing the tax to open the facility, in the days preceding the May 2009 election, Carpenter toured residents through the empty structure and answered questions about it. Perhaps that work compelled voters to support the tax after seeing the new building going to waste.

That sort of dedication to his county made the renaming seem a natural fit, Forbes said.

“There is not enough that I can say about him,” Forbes said. “We were good friends and he was a dedicated public servant and one of those guys who always treated everyone with respect and kindness, and he did the best he could to serve public. He did a lot of things people didn’t know he did. You could always depend on him to help.”

The flooding on May 31, 2013, killed Carpenter, 41, Arkansas Game and Fish Commission wildlife officer Joel Campora, 32, Cathy Ann Holder, 41, of Dallas and Vivian Sue Reimer, 65, and Regina Kay Shearn, 60, both of Y City.

Last year, the Quorum Court appointed Amie Carpenter, Carpenter’s widow, to serve the remainder of her husband’s term as sheriff.

“He worked so hard to get the jail built and it took another couple years to get it open, which was a very stressful time for Cody and something he worried about constantly,” Amie Carpenter said. “Through his entire career, he was always dedicated to the people of the county. We are honored by the gesture. This jail wasn’t for him and his department; it was for the county and for the safety of the county.”

The private dedication ceremony, open only to the Quorum Court, Sheriff’s Office deputies and staff and Carpenter’s close friends and family, was emotional, Amie Carpenter said.

“It’s been a hectic and stressful year with everything being so public, so I’m glad they did it that way,” Amie Carpenter said. “It’s not often you get a jail named in someone’s honor, and when they took the cover off (of the monument), I just cried.”

Amie Carpenter said her husband would have appreciated the gesture.

“I was thinking back on all those years of him worrying about what they were going to do to get it open and his emotions about it. . I went through all of that with him,” Amie Carpenter said. “It was a very special gesture, and he would be tickled and grinning from ear-to-ear. His name will be etched in stone here forever, no matter who comes in here as sheriff.”

Carpenter’s colleagues at the Sheriff’s Office say they feel honored as well.

“We are very honored that the name was changed,” Chief Deputy Terry Staggs said. “We’re honored his name will be attached to this jail from now. Not only was he my boss and our sheriff, but he was my best friend. He was very respected within the department and other agencies in the state. He wasn’t your normal sheriff, as he was very hands-on and wouldn’t have guys do anything he wouldn’t do. That ultimately cost him his life.”

Staggs, who overwhelmingly won the Democratic nomination for sheriff in the May 20 primary, will face Republican nominee Julie Evans in the November primary. Staggs said if elected, he would try to build on the foundation Cody Carpenter left behind.

“Those are some hard shoes to fill; I’m not Cody,” Staggs said. “He set an example of how the office should be run, and if elected, we’d try to follow those plans he set out as best we can.”


Information from: Southwest Times Record, https://www.swtimes.com/

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