With a new year comes many new changes to leadership in the tri-county area. From new sheriffs to new judges, justices and more.

In Sharp County, new equipment, new faces and more deputies are in the works.

One new face to the area is Kevin “Bart” Simpson, who serves as the new chief deputy for the Sharp County Sheriff’s Department.

According to Sheriff Shane Russell he has known Simpson for several years and believes he will be a good asset to the department.

Simpson grew up in Mississippi County in Manila, later in life he moved to Little Rock and became a police officer in 1990, spending 28 years at the Little Rock Police Department.

“I spent 22 of my 28 years as a detective, 17 as a homicide detective in Little Rock and after retiring I managed five businesses in North Little Rock. I am a certified law enforcement instructor. I became a firearms instructor and taught all the commission firearm security classes for the state of Arkansas. I also managed Arkansas live scan digital fingerprinting,” Simpson said.

In addition to operating a private investigation company, Simpson also serves as the president of the Arkansas Fraternal Order of Police and has been an instructor for the Criminal Justice Institute for the U of A.

“Teaching is my passion and one of my favorite things to do. I grew up wanting to be a police officer and my dream job was to be a homicide detective,” Simpson said.

Simpson said he is looking forward to serving the people of Sharp County and looks forward to putting his education and experience to work.

“People ask how it is going to be and what I’m going to do. I’m excited about being part of a great team, but for the first time, I can truly make a difference in the place I call home. That is exciting to me,” Simpson said.

Russell said positive change is coming to the department and he believes with an in-house instructor, both the deputies and community will benefit.

“We’ve been granted the opportunity to hire another deputy and I’m working constantly with chief Simpson on possibly implementing more training that I don’t feel the deputies have had the opportunity to do for lack of funding and staff…,” Russell said. “I am hoping through this, instead of continuously taking calls, our deputies will have the ability to get out in the smaller rural communities and out in the county in general to do more patrol and be seen more. Just be out there more.”

Russell noted funding generated through housing state inmates and other sources will enable the department to spend up to $200,000 for new equipment such as vehicles.

Russell said he believes a large portion of crimes committed in the county stem from drug use or the effects of drugs, something he says he hopes to tackle.

“I’d say 90 percent of stealing and domestics stem from drugs. If we can get a handle on drugs and get them out of the county, I think we can kill three birds with one stone,” Russell said. “We’re definitely going to strive to put our people first. Their safety and concerns at the top of the list.”

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Lauren is a an award-winning journalist who decided after 10 years of newspaper experience to venture out. Hallmark Times was born.