An area elected official and civic leader with a strong business background and long-time experience working with children has been hired to head the Boys and Girls Club of Alma.

Elaina Damante, a Crawford County justice of the peace, is the new chief professional officer of the club. Damante has budgeting and grant writing experience, and has worked with area 4-H clubs for several years.

Damante is replacing Marcus Battles, who was fired from his position with the club several weeks ago.

Damante’s experience in business, helping to grow small companies and eliminate budgetary wastes, is one of the key aspects as to why she was chosen by the Boys and Girls Club of Alma Board, said Sean Brister, vice president and president-elect.

"I think the club is on the right track growing and with good financial footing, and we want her to help keep us on that track," Brister said.

As CPO, Damante is in charge of every aspect of the club from programming to finances, a position Damante is used to, she said. She has held the position as operations director in several of the companies she has worked for, she said.

"What you do in operations is you do whatever needs to be done," Damante said.

Damante has a strong purchasing background, and has the ability to "clean up" any purchasing or financial problems, she said. As a JP, she is used to looking at the county budget "very closely," she said.

"We go over the budget at the quorum court line by line by line; we scrutinize it," Damante said. "That’s what I do for every company I work for."

Damante also has spent many years working with kids in 4-H, as a member of the Arkansas 4-H Foundation and a superintendent at the Crawford County Fair. She also was one of the first graduates of the Court Appointed Special Advocates class in Crawford County in 2001.

"My emphasis in the quorum court is children and the elderly," Damante said. "I think we need to take care of those who can not take care of themselves. That’s why I joined the quorum court."

Damante also feels that with the upheaval of director changes and financial issues at the Alma club, a focus needs to be placed back on the children it helps, she said.

"With all the noise that has gone on, sometimes the voices of the children get lost," Damante said.

Damante is a reserve police officer for Mulberry and is certified in search and rescue, and has recently started a mounted patrol unit for the city specifically for search and rescue she said.

"The reason I do the things I do is, I feel if you want something done you have to do it," Damante said.

Grant writing and getting "every penny in there for the children" will be Damante’s first focus as CPO, she said. She is working on two fundraisers - a concert and golf tournament - to be held in the upcoming weeks.

She is also working with the United Way to "revamp" programming at the club, and keep the current food program put into place by Battles, she said.

Damante and her husband, Chief Deputy Jimmy Damante with the Crawford County Sheriff’s Department, are originally from New York. After living in several states, the couple moved to Alma 16 years ago to raise their children, Elaina Damante said.

Both Damante kids graduated from Alma High School. James, 22, is in the Army and is stationed in Germany; Julianne, 21, is attending University of Arkansas - Fort Smith and lives at home.