Even though the primary election is more than five months away a race has developed as a Maumelle attorney challenges a popular retired policeman for one of two justice of the peace positions in Maumelle.
Paul Elliott is the Republican incumbent JP and has just over a year left on his second two-year term.
Belinda Harris-Ritter is a Maumelle attorney who is challenging Elliott in the Republican primary. She has been energetic and secured an endorsement that most people expected Elliott to receive — the Maumelle Fraternal Order of Police chapter.
Elliott hosted a fund raiser recently at American Pie Pizza on Maumelle Boulevard that several hundred folks attended. Harris-Ritter said she hosted a fundraiser at the same restaurant earlier this fall.
Bilenda Harris-Ritter announced her candidacy saying,
"Local government is the heart of our republic and we need representatives who are willing to put in the time to be aware of the issues and stand up for the taxpayers to protect their constitutional rights and financial interests. Government needs to be transparent and accountable to the citizens regarding the way it is operated and tax dollars are spent. I am committed to make this happen in Pulaski County," Harris-Ritter said in making her announcement.
Harris-Ritter and her husband, George Ritter, are partners in Ritter Law, a law firm located in Maumelle. She said she is also on the adjunct faculty at the University of Arkansas Little Rock in the undergraduate Criminal Justice Department. Harris-Ritter also serves as Assistant General Counsel of the Republican Party of Arkansas. Her practice includes the areas of Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests and Election Law in addition to general civil work.
She is admitted to practice law in Arkansas, California, the United States District Court Eastern District of California, and is accredited to represent veterans before the Department of Veterans Affairs. She is a member of the state bar of Arkansas and California and is the Continuing Legal Education (CLE) chair of the Lawyers Assisting Military Personnel (LAMP) Committee of the Arkansas Bar Association.
Harris-Ritter served as Chairman of the Maumelle Tree Board from 2011-2012. She is a sustaining member of the Little Rock Junior League. She serves on the Board of Directors of the National Organization for Victim Assistance (NOVA) which is headquartered in Alexandria, VA. She is the Corresponding Secretary of the Pulaski County Republican Women and District 2 Director of the Arkansas Federated Republican Women. Harris-Ritter is an Associate member of the North Pulaski County Republican Women and the Arkansas Chair of the Republican National Lawyers Association. She is a member of the National Rifle Association (NRA) and of the Maumelle Chamber of Commerce
Her undergraduate college degree is in Journalism from the University of Southern California. She graduated from Southwestern University School of Law with a Doctorate of Jurisprudence.
Harris said while living in California she was appointed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger as legal advisor to the Chairman of the Public Employee Relations Board. She said he later appointed her as a Commissioner on the California Parole Board.
She was Executive Director of California Voice for Crime Victims and ran a legal clinic representing crime victims in criminal court cases.
Most recently she testified before this state’s legislative Joint Performance Review Committee as part of its investigation of the serious problems in the Arkansas Parole System. She has presented workshops at national conferences on how crime victims can effectively oppose parole and clemency requests of murderers and other violent criminals.
She said her work on behalf of crime victim rights began after her father and step-mother were murdered at the family home in Stone County, Arkansas in 1981.
"My work for crime victim rights made me realize how important it is for our elected officials to be informed about issues and accountable for what they do. Public safety is the most important obligation our government has to the people. It does not matter how good schools are or how nice parks are- if it is too dangerous to leave your house you won’t get those benefits," Harris-Ritter said.
Elliott, a two-term Pulaski County Justice of the Peace has announced he’ll be seeking a third two-year term on the Quorum Court.
District 14 includes most of Maumelle and a small portion of North Little Rock, he said.
Maumelle’s other JP, Phil Stowers, represents a smaller portion of Maumelle and a wide stretch of rural Pulaski County all the way to Sherwood.
Elliott said he "sponsored and helped bring three major businesses to the Maumelle Industrial Area including Dillards, Leisure Arts and Intercore."
He said he also campaigned for and wrote letters encouraging the re-certification of Academics Plus Charter School earlier this year.
Elliott said he’d worked hard to help keep the "budget for Pulaski County in line and the Pulaski County Regional Detention Facility jail under control."
The Arkansas Quorum Court Association composed of JP’s from around the state elected Elliott to the organization’s twelve-member executive board.
Elliott said he regularly attends Maumelle City Council meetings and reports to them about Quorum Court activities and has worked closely with the City Council on matters that impact Maumelle.
A retired police chief and police officer with 30 years experience, Elliott said he was a patrolman with the North Little Rock Police Department, police chief and founder of Pulaski Technical College’s Department of Public Safety and a Union Pacific Railroad Senior Special Agent.
He and his wife Barbara have two grown sons and one grand daughter. Barbara, a retired North Little Rock Public School teacher, now serves as a member of the Maumelle Tree Board. Oddly enough, Harris-Ritter once served briefly as chair of the Tree Board but resigned in a dispute with Mayor Mike Watson and others over their request to designate the Red Rocket Crape Myrtle as the official tree of Maumelle.
Watson said the crape myrtle is a bush not a tree and would create more expenses for the city cleaning up after an ice event.
Elliott said he was proud of his JP service. "I am a conservative and common sense person with an outstanding voting record with the court and I have a very good approachable relationship with all members of Maumelle and North Little Rock governments and with both cities residents.