BY MELANIE BUCK –
The new year often brings changes in many things and government positions are no exception. With this coming new year, Polk County will have a new District Judge, the City of Mena will have a new City Prosecutor, and a few more shift in duties will complete the process of the ‘changing of the guard’ in this edge of Arkansas.
Danny Thrailkill ran for the elected position of District Judge and was unopposed in the November 2016 General Election. Thrailkill has been in law for 35 years, serving as City Attorney for Mena for 24 of those. When he decided to run for District Judge, he had to give up his City Attorney duties. That’s when Patrick McDaniel stepped in and was elected as Mena’s City Attorney and Prosecutor and has served in that seat since 2014. McDaniel has 19 years of law experience. Thrailkill will step into his new post on January 1, 2016.
With Thrailkill and McDaniel as law partners, it would be a conflict of interest for Thrailkill to serve as judge where McDaniel was the prosecutor so, although McDaniel will remain the City Attorney, a new City Prosecutor must be appointed. “We had to find someone with ‘independent prosecutorial authority’ to serve as the city prosecutor,” McDaniel explained.
After much consideration, McDaniel has appointed current District Judge, Jake Looney to serve as City Prosecutor. “Jake will take on the city prosecuting duties exclusively and Patrick will only serve as City Attorney,” explained Thrailkill. He added, “It won’t affect the city budget at all. What Patrick currently receives as salary for that position will shift to Jake.” In addition, Looney will also serve as Deputy Prosecutor for the 18th West Judicial District. That position has been left open due to current Deputy Prosecutor John Maddox being elected as State Representative for District 20.
Maddox served in both Polk and Montgomery counties as Deputy Prosecutor. Jim Henderson, Chief Deputy Prosecutor, along with Jake Looney, will serve in both counties as well.
Looney graduated law school 45 years ago and taught at the college level for many of those years. “I taught a little bit and came back here and my first legal job is the one I’m going back to, Deputy Prosecutor, so I made full circle,” he laughed. “I like being active and this gives me a chance to continue to be a service to the community and that’s important for me. I enjoy the law, and as much as I enjoy my cattle and being a rancher-type, this is a good way to stay active.”
McDaniel said of his duties, “It’s been a pleasure to serve the city. We have a good mayor, good council, and great citizens.” Thrailkill said, “It’s been an honor to serve the people of Mena. It’s a great community with great people and I look forward to my next chapter.”