Many voters in Van Buren County will be choosing a representative for District 66 in the Arkansas Legislature. Clinton’s Jeff Pistole and Heber Springs’ Josh Miller are vying for the position. The Democrat posed some questions to the two men. Here are their answers.

Jeff Pistole, Democrat

Q: What shape do you believe Van Buren County’s economy is in and how could you, as our representative, help it grow?

A: I believe the biggest issue for Van Buren County is jobs. Van Buren County has lost hundreds of manufacturing jobs, many of which are not coming back. I think that we need to put more emphasis on economic development regionally. If we work together with other communities within our labor shed then our chances of bringing new jobs to the area will improve. It is always better when communities work together than it is to compete. We have opportunities in Van Buren County to encourage more tourist-based industry. In this county, we have a wonderful asset in Greers Ferry Lake and Highway 65, the road to Branson. These are assets that we can capitalize on when developing a plan for the economic success of Van Buren County.

Q: Do you believe the natural gas industry is a “good neighbor” and do you believe there is enough state oversight of the industry?

A: I have been following this issue closely, and I believe that the gas industry can thrive in Arkansas and be good neighbors at the same time. First of all, I want to mention that as a JP I lead the effort to do baseline water testing in Van Buren County. Establishing a baseline of water quality is an important part of the process of protecting local water sources. With an established baseline we can confirm what the state of our water quality was and how it has or has not changed since the time of the first test. I am a firm believer that water testing needs to be done periodically in order to gauge the impact, if any, that drilling is having on local water sources.

Second, there are guidelines called best management practices that, when followed, are effective at protecting our environment from harm. Best management practices or BMPs, have been proven to eliminate or minimize adverse impacts of natural gas development. Setbacks are another way to minimize the impact of drilling. Currently, the setbacks for rivers and streams established by the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality (ADEQ) are 300 feet. I would like to see those setbacks increased, depending upon the geography of the particular drill site, to a minimum range of 500 to 1,000 feet.

The natural gas industry has been good for the Arkansas economy. The gas industry has created much needed jobs and royalty payments to landowners has given our local economy a shot in the arm. I believe that through the use of best management practices, continued water testing, and establishing better setback requirements we can keep our environment healthy and the natural gas industry booming in central Arkansas for years to come.

Q: Why do you want to be our representative?

A: I want to be your state representative because I feel, as small business owner, that we need more local representation. It has been a many years since we have had one of our own county residents to represent our interests in Little Rock. I am asking for your vote so that I can go to Little Rock and work with Gov. Beebe to continue an agenda that balances our state budget, cuts taxes for Arkansas families, and creates jobs right here in our community; unlike my opponent who only wants to oppose that agenda at the risk of moving our state backwards.

For 13 years I’ve successfully owned and operated a small business right here in Van Buren County. For most of that time, I personally managed our budget and day-to-day operations of the business. I know what it means to balance a budget and live within my means. I will bring that same sense of fiscal responsibility to the state House as your next representative.

I previously served as a Van Buren County JP. As a JP I learned how to govern effectively. Those skills will help me to serve as a state legislator.

Currently, I am a member of the Clinton Chamber of Commerce and I also serve as the president of the Clinton Rotary Club. In these roles, I see first-hand the needs of our community and will serve you well by bringing good-paying jobs to our area and cutting taxes while balancing our budget and improving K-12 schools.

I know that when I consider who to vote for I look for the candidate with an agenda that will benefit our community. My agenda is to listen to your needs and work to see those needs met. My No. 1 priority will be jobs, because that’s what I’ve heard from you. I have the experience of a small business owner, community leader, and former county legislator. Those qualities coupled with the fact that I am willing to listen makes me the right candidate for the position of state representative District 66.

Q: Why do you think public service is important?

I believe public service is important to maintain and grow our communities. I also believe that public service is important because it gives the individual a sense of pride and belonging in the community in which he or she serves. By serving the community we take ownership in the community. When we own something we tend to care for it and appreciate it a little more.

Josh Miller, Republican - USE THIS AS DECKHED

Q: What shape do you believe Van Buren County’s economy is in and how could you, as our representative, help it grow?

A: We have had many jobs leave our area over the last few years and Van Buren County has taken a big economic hit. Arkansas needs to find better ways to attract new jobs. I believe that can be done by lowering taxes, simplifying our tax structure, and stopping government mandates like Obamacare that hurt employers and families. Also, investing in quality education for our kids, as well as, more work-force training will be beneficial.

As your state representative, I promise to work toward these things. I will also meet with potential employers about why our area is ideal for their business and with current employers about what type of incentives would encourage job growth.

Q: Do you believe the natural gas industry is a “good neighbor” and do you believe there is enough state oversight of the industry?

A: I am grateful the natural gas industry came to Arkansas when it did. At a time when many industries were closing their doors, the natural gas industry provided new jobs and helped keep many local economies afloat.

While I agree there are probably some environmental issues that deserve a second look, I do not believe we should over regulate any business out of existence. If elected, I will work with the Arkansas Oil and Gas Commission to ensure companies are meeting their requirements and are held responsible for any environmental hazards they may cause.

Q: Why do you want to be our representative? Why do you think public service is important?

A: It has been my honor to serve on the Heber Springs City Council for the past four years, and I have served on the Governor’s Commission for People with Disabilities (first appointed by Gov. Huckabee and reappointed by Gov. Beebe).

I am a conservative who has operated two small businesses. I am a husband and father. I grew up in this area and spent my childhood traveling around with my father, David Miller, as he preached revivals.

I understand the grassroots, common-sense principles of the people in District 66. If elected to serve as your state representative, I will fight for our views and values every day.

As a father, I look at the direction we are currently headed, and I worry what the future might hold for my son. We have created a government that over taxes, forces mandates, continually grows, and tries to remove God from its actions.

This is why I decided to run for state representative. I will fight to get our government under control. We must lower spending, reduce waste, and prioritize spending. Above all else, we must put God first.

If you elect me, I promise to listen to you and together will can get back on the right track.