Dennis Gilstrap of Van Buren has announced his candidacy for re-election to the office of Crawford County judge in the Republican primary in May.
Gilstrap, who has served the public for more than 42 years, said he is honored to be serving in his first two-year term as Crawford County judge.
“The experience and knowledge I have gained throughout this time of service is the primary reason I wish to continue to serve as county judge,” Gilstrap said. “I also plan to continue to strengthen working relationships with local, regional, state and federal partners. I am pleased to preside over and work with the quorum court. It is evident the court has the well-being of our citizens in mind as they represent them.”
Gilstrap said his list of accomplishments during his first year as county judge has been to continue to upgrade the county road and drainage system. He said he believes the condition of the county road system is a top priority of county citizens.
“The condition of the roads also provides a major role in the safety of our citizens by allowing emergency services responders to come to their aid in times of need,” he said.
Gilstrap said he will continue to seek mitigation grants to construct new bridges to replace those known to frequently flood during heavy rainfall events as he did in the past when he served as the county emergency management director.
Gilstrap said he also has worked with other elected officials to fulfill a promise made to the voters when they were asked to support the sales tax to construct a new justice center to house the sheriff’s department and detention center. The old detention center has been repurposed as the Crawford County Circuit Clerk and Vital Record Complex.
The old circuit clerk’s office on the second floor of the courthouse is presently being remodeled to house the public defender’s office.
“My goal is to relocate the public defender and the vital records as soon as possible to save rent being paid since there are no county owned buildings to house them,” Gilstrap said.
He said coordination with other elected officials has allowed emergency generators to be installed to provide emergency electrical power during power failures at the main courthouse and the emergency communication tower used by county emergency responders and highway department.
Gilstrap said he has strengthened the partnership to work with the Western Arkansas Intermodal Authority. WAIA is comprised of the cities of Fort Smith and Van Buren, Chaffee Crossing and Sebastian and Crawford counties.
“This partnership is working to answer the long-awaited question of the viability of an intermodal facility in Crawford County,” he said.
Gilstrap said he continues to believe the intermodal facility and connecting Interstate 49 from Alma to Barling are major factors for strong economic development in the region. He said he will be committed to continue to work for community/economic development throughout the county.
Gilstrap also has rejuvenated the Crawford County Inter-Governmental Council. The council allows the mayors and their staff of the county’s nine incorporated cities, local, state and federal officials the opportunity to come together to discuss issues that allows them all to work together on projects to enhance the safety and quality of life for all Crawford County citizens.
Gilstrap has worked with the county election commission to hire an election coordinator to assure voters a continued transparent and convenient election process. He said he believes that voting is a right and duty and encourages all citizens to educate themselves with the issues and candidates and get out and vote.
Gilstrap, 65, is a lifelong resident of Crawford County and married to his wife of 46 years, Peggy. Their daughter Carla is a registered nurse and their son Shawn is a firefighter for the Van Buren Fire Department. They have six grandchildren.
Dennis and Peggy are members of the Van Buren First Baptist Church where Dennis serves as an usher and has been a member of the church security team for more than two years. He graduated from Van Buren High School in 1970. He served six years in the Arkansas National Guard, worked 25 years on the Van Buren Fire Department and 16 years as the Crawford County emergency manager. He has continued his education and has received many awards and certifications throughout the years.
Gilstrap said, if the citizens of Crawford County allow him to continue as their county judge, he pledges to continue to serve with a strong work ethic.
“I will continue with a commitment to maintain an ongoing cooperation between all citizens and elected officials,” Gilstrap said. “I will provide factual and up-to-date information regarding issues concerning Crawford County to the best of my ability. I will continue to improve county roads. I will be a hardworking, visible and approachable county judge with an open door policy. I ask for your vote and support during this campaign and throughout the following years as we address the issues that come before the county. Thank you for your support.”