ACTIVE AGE | Getting things done is Linda Crawford’s specialty

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Linda Crawford, a well-respected name in area economic development and Miller County election monitoring, says getting it right is always her top priority.

Crawford is originally from North Dakota, and it was there that she met the man who would become her husband, Buddy Crawford.

Linda and Buddy Crawford married in 1959.

“On one of our first dates, Buddy said, ‘If this materializes, I won’t stay here. “It was in the middle of winter.

“His version was that Buddy’s dragging southern tone sounded hot, I was always cold and happy to be moving south. Buddy had lived in Texarkana his entire life and after joining the Air Force he had discovered that his first posting was at a radar site in North Dakota, ”Crawford recalled.

In her spare time, Linda Crawford enjoys quilting. Garden Twist is the name of the pattern she used to create this bedspread. Photo by Linda Crawford

Crawford was born and raised in Mayville, North Dakota.

She and Buddy married in 1959 and established a home in the Texarkana area. She worked for a florist and schools in Genoa for several years.

Her leadership in improving Texarkana began when she started working at the Chamber of Commerce in 1976.

At that time LE Gilliland was the Executive Director of the House. He retired in 1979 and had been there for years. I was working for Dale Hubbard at that time. He (Hubbard) served as Executive Director and eventually Robert E. The ‘Swedish’ Lee became the executive director, ”she said.

In 1985, Lee asked Crawford to lead the chamber’s economic development efforts.

“When the Swede told me he wanted me to take charge of economic development, I was very surprised, very unsure of myself. He told me to hire an assistant. I prayed a lot. and developed a good relationship with the Arkansas Economic Development Commission, ”she said. noted. “The aid levels compared to the State of Arkansas and the State of Texas were a big difference.”

As Director of Economic Development, she cultivated contacts that have borne fruit over the years.

“The first thing I did after setting up my own office was to make those contacts and keep in touch. Every time someone called me about something, I called the state. call to say what they need, ”she said.

“At that time Arkansas put money into a facility in Texas (Alumax). I’m told that probably won’t happen now, but it has worked extremely well,” she said.

The State has contributed to the financing of the training of the initial workforce of Alumax. They knew some of the employees would be Arkansas residents.

She met Fay J. Durrant in 1985. He had lost the lease on his packaging business in Memphis and was looking to move.

“He came to Texarkana on a Saturday. We met at John Deere who was still pretty much in the country at that time,” she said. “It was one of the most wonderful relationships.”

Partnerships and major projects followed one another, including:

n The relocation of Southern Refrigerated Transport from Ashdown, Arkansas, to Miller County along Interstate 30. Then-Senator Barbara Horn and Miller County Quorum Court helped make the deal a reality .

n A regional aviation school at the Texarkana regional airport, which came after developing a program worth over $ 2 million. Greg Arnold, owner of The Arnold Companies; the late Steve Leubbert, former airport manager; and Larry Sullivan, former city manager of Texarkana, Texas and superintendent of the Texarkana Independent School District, all played a role in the school’s landing from the airport. The late Hayes McClerkin, a state representative from Arkansas, also helped secure funding.

Withdraw from the room

and the operation of a pantry

After 30 years of room service, Crawford retired in July 2006.

“I knew I retired at the right time. When you retire, it must be here as well as it is here,” she said, showing her heart and her head. “On the way home, I prayed for two things. ‘My God, I have to sell this car.’ When I got home, I got a call and the car left. “

His second prayer on the day of his retirement took a little longer to be answered.

“Dear God, help me find something to do to make a difference in people’s lives, but something that no one else wants to do.”

Shortly after retiring, Fay J. called to ask if Crawford’s church, Christ United Methodist Church, would be interested in running a pantry.

After getting approval from the church board, Crawford and her husband operated the pantry from the trunk of their cars.

“It continued to expand. Ledwell gave us a trailer and we put freezers on it. Then we found out through Camille Wrinkle that you could join the Arkansas Hunger Alliance and every year you could apply for a grant. “she said.

Crawford asked for and received money for the effort.

The pantry company found a permanent home when a building was added to the church gymnasium by a church member.

A local heating and air company added ductwork at no additional cost, and shelves were acquired from the Walmart in New Boston Road, which was under renovation. Walmart decided to help with the pantry as a service project.

“They had 18 wheels and crews putting the shelves together. We gave them a fish dinner, and a few days later he called to say, ‘Come and see our warehouse and see what else you want.’

“It was an answer to our prayers and a total blessing. We were paid and ready to go. My husband and I coordinated it for 14 years. I resigned about a year ago, the church was interested. by maintaining the food bank, and it is still going strong today, “she said.

Miller County Election Department

In 2007, Miller County obtained its first electronic voting machines with federal funding. Robby Selph, who was the Election Coordinator at the time, asked Crawford if she would be interested in working at a polling station.

Crawford worked at the Union polling station at Cornerstone Baptist Church. Selph resigned from his post as election coordinator the following year.

“We knew we had an upcoming election, and three of my friends and I got together and divided the main tasks,” she said.

One by one, his friends quit the business for various reasons, leaving Crawford in the role.

“When I started to take on the role of full coordinator, David Orr (of Orr Chevrolet) was a patient and very kind mentor as he taught me the different sides of the electoral process. I now work closely with the county clerk’s office. Tonya Bohn is the voter registration assistant, ”she said.

“They never looked for an electoral coordinator. I don’t work for the county. I chose to work for the Election Commission. They set me a salary. a lot of volunteer work, ”Crawford said.

“This included contacting the school board and showing them how they can save money by moving their election to a different schedule, talking to lawmakers about more electoral equipment so that every county in the state has the same equipment.

“We got our new material in 2017, and my deputy election coordinator, we went to Fayetteville and the election commission there is the best in the state. She spent a whole day with us figuring out how to unpack the gear, get rid of the cardboard and the foam. , how to use the equipment and the instructions, ”Crawford said.

“We are doing whatever it takes to make sure we follow the law and have the necessary training. I love every minute of it. Luckily we had a good, solid election.”

Last fall’s election drew 9,500 early voters to the Cabe Center. In the last days of early voting last year, around three additional polling stations for the early elections were opened. Running the early voting sites meant 12-hour days for Crawford and his team.

Screens were built and disinfectant was used so that there was no face-to-face contact in the midst of the pandemic.

Orchestrating the movement of the voting machines turned out to be a logistical challenge.

The first move was at the Cabe Center took a utility trailer. The material then had to be moved from the early voting sites.

“I received a call on the Friday before the November 4, 2020 election from the company saying it was not leasing to any government company, but the law said the equipment had to be moved on Monday.”

The company agreed to do it this time around with a few hours to spare.

But Crawford’s connection to Ledwell led the company to make the election team a good deal on a box truck with a tail lift. The company wrapped it up with county logos for a low price.

“It has been amazing what can happen. It never ceases as I am amazed at the generosity. There has never been a need that the county has not responded to,” she said.

Another challenge arose in February this year when electoral machines had to be relocated due to flooding at the courthouse.

“Each department was calling their wives, mothers, daughters, anyone who could help. We took out the equipment and then the next thing was to find a place to rent,” she said.

Election materials first went to a storage building before being stored in a large office.

“Safety is a big responsibility,” she said.

Electronic voting machines also need to be recharged every six months.

The county has 56 voting machines and 15 tabulators. There are also two recording tablets for each polling station and three in the county clerk’s office.

She said she was very happy with the accuracy of the election service and the software.

“The new equipment has made things a lot easier,” she said. “We hope that one day there will be a stand-alone facility where we keep our equipment.”

Crawford and her husband have two daughters, a son-in-law, five grandchildren and 10 great-grandchildren.

Her husband is retired from the Union Pacific Railroad.

In his spare time, Crawford makes quilts. She has made over 100 quilts.

“The other thing I did when I retired, I wanted to learn how to quilt. I wanted to be able to leave something to my kids and grandchildren that they know I have. made with love and something that can’t be bought, ”she said.

“I made a lot of quilts and donated them to the church to raise money for the backpack program. I make smaller pieces like little wall hangings.”

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