LITTLE ROCK (AP) _ A Mississippi County farmer joined the Arkansas Highway Commission on Wednesday and pledged to support Gov. Mike Huckabee’s plans for a new highway program.
Huckabee named John Ed Regenold of Blytheville to a 10-year term, replacing J.W. "Buddy" Benafield on the powerful five-member commission that determines how billions of dollars in road money is spent.
Regenold’s appointment comes at a time when highway officials and the governor are developing plans for a $1 billion highway construction program to build four-lane links between the interstate system and the state’s larger cities that don’t now have a major highway.
"This is a totally new ballgame for me. I don’t know yet even what I’m doing to be, honest," Regenold said at a Capitol news conference announcing his appointment.
He said, apparently in jest, that Huckabee governor already had given him marching orders and that "we’re going to support this highway program. I will do that."
"I’ll stand for my district and my area, but I’ll also consider folks in the whole state of Arkansas when we do something, too," Regenold added.
Huckabee, who in 1999 spearheaded a $1 billion interstate highway reconstruction program that is scheduled to be completed this year, wants to match that effort with improvements to secondary arteries this year.
Two weeks ago, he informally presented maps showing possible routes. He also offered a range of options for generating $90 million to $100 million a year to finance bonds to pay for road building.
Prissy Hickerson of Texarkana, the Highway Commission chairman, said Wednesday that a more detailed map of possible highway improvements should be available within two weeks, with funding possibilities ranging from combinations of fuel tax, registration fees and driver’s license fee increases, and surcharges on the sales of tires and batteries.
Regenold, 73, is chairman of Armorel Planting Co. and a former Huckabee appointee to the Arkansas Economic Development Commission.