A hospital’s future and funding for the new civic center may dominate political talk in Batesville, but in the towns of Pope and Courtland the topics are much more fundamental.
In Pope, Mayor Ricky Briscoe wants to help the town "get into the mainstream," meaning catch up on the basics of a functioning municipality.
"We don’t even have our own street department," noted Briscoe.
The town of Pope has 240 citizens, 2000 census figures show.
In Courtland, long-serving mayor Debbie Aven wants to find grant monies to pave more streets.
"We get help from the county on paving, and we appreciate that, but they do a cheap job," said Aven. "Over time (the paving) doesn’t hold up."
The town of Courtland has a population of 460, according to the 2000 census.
To help cut election costs, Pope and Courtland’s candidates qualify as independents and run in the general election. This year the general election falls on June 7.
Neither Aven nor the aldermen are opposed in this year’s election.
The mayor of Courtland receives $10 a month as mayor, Aven said, and the aldermen receive $8 monthly for their service to the town.
According to Briscoe, while he is unopposed in the mayor’s race, the town has seven alderman candidates seeking five seats.
In Pope, the aldermen are Edith Pratt, W.T. Rikard, Farris Green Jr. and Mike Cassert. One seat remains open after Briscoe moved to the vacated mayor’s office last month.
The Pope non-incumbent candidates are Kenneth Powell, Ricky Roebuck and John Mark Pickett.
The mayor of Pope is paid $200 a month. The aldermen receive $50 a month.
In a general election, the votes are counted in a winner-take-all tally.
"If there are six candidates for alderman, the top five who receive the most votes win," explained Cecil Pitcock, who stepped down as mayor last month due to health problems. He tapped Briscoe as his replacement.
Although the Town of Pope somehow missed the March 4 qualifying deadline, the election will still take place on June 7.
Election commissioner Mae Belle Pitcock, the former mayor’s wife, said she and the new city clerk were abiding by a deadline the town has followed for many years. That deadline was likely wrong, she said.
"We’ll be aware of that (correct date) next time," Pitcock said.
Cecil Pitcock, 85, and Mae Bell have lived at 402 Memosa Street in Pope since May 10, 1950. He served as mayor during the ?60s, and before that he served as town marshall and tax collector.
"Pope is my home, and there’s no other home like it," Pitcock said.
Like other tiny towns, state tax revenues trickle into Pope and Courtland. Pope received $20,246 from sales tax in 2004, state figures show. Courtland received $13,909 last year.
The City of Batesville, by comparison, received about $3.3 million. Como received $119,409 in 2004.
Still, the monies are enough for Courtland to employ a part-time police chief and a part-time officer.
Pope employs a part-time officer as well.
In Courtland, drug dealing plagued the area in recent years, Aven said, but the county sheriff’s department helped the city clean up the problem.
"I want to give credit where it’s due. The county (sheriff’s department) took care of that," Aven said. "I’m not saying there aren’t still drugs here, but it’s a lot better than it was."
Aven, 45, has served six terms as Courtland mayor, famously the state’s youngest female mayor when she first won office in 1981. She was 21.
In addition to Aven, the Town of Courtland is served by aldermen Topper Olson, Chris Olson, Gerald Aven Jr., Mary Catherine Baglan and Michael Roberts Sr.
Courtland is so small – and so hurting for willing officials to serve, Aven said – that most of the town officials are related. Gerald Aven is the mayor’s husband. Topper and Chris are father and son respectively, and Aven’s sister-in-law, Carolyn Roberts, is the town clerk.
"Mary Catherine is the only one not related to somebody else," the mayor said.