Debra Akers Lang wants to experience life on the other side of White County government, being a legislative official instead of an executive one.
Lang is running for District 8 justice of the peace race as a Republican candidate in Tuesday’s general election against incumbent Layne “Boss” Vaughn, running as an independent and Democratic challenger Sunny Cypert Boehm. (Repeated efforts to reach Boehm for an interview were unsuccessful.)
Early voting continues today from 10 a.m.-4 p.m. and Monday from 8 a.m.-5 p.m. at the Carmichael Community Center, 801 S. Elm St., and White County Cooperative Extension Service Office, 2400 Old Landing Road.
Lang said she was born in Searcy and raised in Georgetown, where she said she has been pretty much all of her life although she lived in Beebe for a little while. She graduated from Searcy High School in 1978.
“My husband was stationed at the Little Rock Air Force Base in Jacksonville and I worked at the Walmart Distribution Center when I got out of school,” she said.
Lang attended what was then-Foothills Vo Tech (now Arkansas State University-Beebe’s Searcy campus) and studied office occupations at Arkansas Sate. She got a job at the Walmart Distribution Center that she said had just been built and worked in the receiving office there for several years.
She said she got into government work while working at the White County Courthouse.
“Originally, I worked at the courthouse with the abstract company Citizen’s Charter for four years,” Lang said. “A position came open in the assessor’s office and the assessor caught me in the hallway and she said I had a good reputation and I had a map and could read legal descriptions. And she needed someone in the real estate department and asked me if I would go to work for her, and I did.
“After about four years of working for her, she was going to retire and she suggested that I run for assessor, which I did and ran unopposed when I got that office. I served as the county assessor for 18 years. I started in ’98 and retired in 2016.”
Working with all the county’s elected officials is something Lang said she did when she was the assessor. She also served for a few years as the flood plain manager before it moved to the White County Office of Emergency Management.
“I finally decided to retire,” she said. “When I retired, I wanted to run for JP [justice of the peace]. It would be another steppingstone to be on the other end of it. The elected officials are in an executive position and a justice of the peace is legislative. They are the ones that oversee the budgets and everything like that, the building and the grounds, the ordinances and stuff like that.”
Lang said she knows the positions, including justice of the peace, since she worked under them for so many years.
Concerning issues close to her heart, Lang said, “My district would be mostly concerned about their roads because I’m the southeast part of the county ,which is Georgetown, West Point, Kensett, Griffithville, Higginson and everything in between, which is a lot of farm country and a lot of gravel roads. So that’s a main concern for constituents in that area.
“I strongly believe that our law enforcement needs to be well-funded and taken care of. Those people put their life on the line for us and we need to make sure they have the equipment and everything that they need to be safe in their job. Working in the county buildings, I know the issues with leaking roofs, the issues some of the elected officials have with the buildings themselves and the inconvenience where some of them are located. I am all for having better buildings and nice facilities for the public and the people who work there when they have to come and use those buildings. That’s important to me.”
Lang has been married to her husband, Chuck, a pipeliner, for 40 years. The Langs have two grown daughters and six grandchildren.
For hobbies, Lang said she has been a master gardener and has the lifetime membership and will start serving as the group’s treasurer beginning next year. For 13 years, Lang also has been on the White County Fair Board and she said it keeps her pretty busy.
“I’m currently serving as secretary to the fair board,” she said. “I am in the beekeepers association. We have bees. We had these growing up at home and several years ago, ASU put on a class about beekeeping and we went, so then we started a club for that and I was the first treasurer for the beekeepers club too. I have been a beekeeper for several years.
“We [also] enjoy fishing, hunting and camping. We [she and her husband] just love hanging out together.”
Lang said justice of the peace is just a position she has wanted to serve in and she said she knows she will bring a proactive attitude to the office.
“I’m looking forward to serving and I hope everyone will give me the opportunity to serve them in that capacity,” she said.