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Yanez resigns from Quorum Court



FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. — Judith Yanez has resigned from the Washington County Quorum Court’s District 4 seat just two months after deciding to serve another two years.

Yanez, a Democrat, was elected to serve as justice of the peace for District 4 from 2019 through 2020. District 4 covers east central Springdale.

Yanez decided not to run for reelection in 2020, saying she needed to devote more time to her job.

Voters chose Kenny Arredondo Loyola, another Democrat, over Republican Bill Ussery to replace Yanez at the November general election, but Loyola decided in January not to serve.

State law provides for Yanez to continue to serve until a replacement is found, and she said in early January she would serve out the term that ends in December 2022. Justices of the peace serve two-year terms and are paid $200 per diem on days they attend Quorum Court or committee meetings.

Yanez said she has reconsidered after struggling with a full-time job and the demands of serving as a justice of the peace. She sent a letter March 1 to Washington County Judge Joseph Wood and Brian Lester, county attorney, notifying them of her resignation.

“My concern was my capacity to serve more than anything at this moment,” Yanez said. “The way the court is set up, it’s almost a full-time job.”

Yanez’ district has a diverse population including significant Hispanic, Marshallese and other minority populations. She said those voices are often missing from local government discussions, citing the recent debates over how the county should use about $4.5 million in federal CARES Act funding meant to assist the county in dealing with the covid-19 pandemic.

Yanez is founder and executive director of RootED, a nonprofit organization that aims to help parents in underserved communities understand and gain access to the educational system. She said she will continue to lobby for the people of District 4 and Northwest Arkansas in that capacity on education and issues like housing, food insecurity and health care.

“It really boils down to, with my limited capacity, where would I be able to be most effective in the community,” she said. “At the moment, I’m focused on education.”

Lester said a resolution declaring a vacancy will be drafted for consideration before the Quorum Court’s March 18 meeting. The governor fills Quorum Court vacancies by appointment.

Lou Reed Sharp, chairman of the Democratic Party of Washington County, said she understands Gov. Asa Hutchinson is not bound to appoint a Democrat to serve the term, but she hopes he will consider qualified Democrats. There are now five Democrats and 10 Republicans on the Quorum Court.

“I think JP Yanez was elected in District 4, which has a very diverse population,” Sharp said. “They voted Democratic. It would be wise if he considered an appointee who represents those people.”

Lester, who serves as chairman of the Republican Party of Washington County, said the party won’t express a preference in replacing Yanez. He said the governor’s office website has a form for anyone wishing to be considered for appointments.