I am a resident of Little Rock in the University District and have lived in the Central Arkansas area since 1997. I’m a former Pre-Med Biology and Philosophy major from the University of Central Arkansas in Conway with a special interest in political/legal philosophy and bioethics. I previously worked for the Arkansas State Medical Board as a Physician Credentialing Specialist for their CCVS Dept, during which time I filled many roles on various committees for the department (IT/Credentialing Liaison, Quality Assurance, JCAHO & HIPAA Compliance, Facilities Co-manager, Productivity Review Committee, and others). Following that, I worked at Arkansas Children's Hospital as a Medical Staff Coordinator. There I served on numerous executive committees dedicated to topics such as Nosocomial Infections, Long-Term/Acute Care, NICU/PICU QA, Community Outreach, Trauma-response Readiness, Emergency Room Preparedness, Negative Bariatric Pressure Room Readiness, and of course the Bioethics committee where I developed my interest in that field. During my studies at UCA I worked with the professors to establish the first Internship Program for the Philosophy and Religious Studies department. It was through this program that I worked with Family Service Agency to assist them in refining their Policy and Procedure codes, streamline their required reporting metrics, as well as re-wrote their intake and outreach paperwork to be gender-neutral/inclusive. I also co-facilitated court-mandated group therapy sessions for domestic violence offenders where we worked on anger management, de-escalation techniques, and many other inter-social and mental health issues.
My wife, a UCA Graduate with her Master’s of Science in Counseling Psychology, and I own and have operated New Dawn Counseling, a successful and growing small business here in Little Rock that we opened as a single-provider private practice in 2014 that now has multiple clinicians on staff and serves not just the Central Arkansas region, but the entire state via our telehealth services. Though I have completed more than the required hours needed for my program, I am a mere 18 hour shy of obtaining my degree. Unfortunately, during the semester in which I was completing 12 of those hours my mother passed away suddenly from CJD (Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease). Due to this in conjunction with the infrequency with which my required courses are offered and the responsibilities of operating our business, I simply haven't completed the program yet. I say this in the interest of being open and honest with you all about myself.
My family has lived in Arkansas for over 100 years. My great-great-grandfather settled in Lewisville, AR where my grandfather, and namesake, was born and raised. He eventually went on to earn his degree in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville before serving in WWII. My grandmother's family founded Stephens, AR (Stephens was her maiden name). I've lived both in our small towns and our capital city and hope to be able to address the issues that all residents face so we can work together to improve life for everyone.
I have considered seeking public office since at least 2011. The location of our home has resulted in being represented at the local/regional levels by people whom I truly believe in and chose to support rather than risk displacing. I frequently and honestly wondered if "another old white guy" was really what we needed in office and chose instead to support the women and POC who sought public offices.
Then things changed.
In March of 2020, I kept myself informed with the best scientific information available on the spread and development of COVID-19 and made the decision to switch our offices from in-person service to strictly virtual in order to protect our employees, clients, and their families. Like so many others, I watched in earnest waiting for guidance and leadership from our elected officials to see how to protect one another. Their answer? Do nothing. By the time they accepted the scientific reality of the situation later that year, it was already too late. We have since seen the toll their inaction resulted in - over 500,000 Americans dead from the pandemic as of this writing and still counting while we here in Arkansas struggle with the logistics of vaccine distribution.
Then, in the summer of 2020 our state and country erupted in protests surrounding the killing of George Floyd. I saw our citizens peacefully march down I-630 right here in Little Rock in an effort to make their voices heard. I saw them gather at the state capitol and on our city streets in an urgent plea for help. Then I saw our police and military deployed in a phalanx and advance on innocent civilians. I saw medical aid stations doused in chemical irritants and first-aid supplies destroyed. Poor state leadership and the desire for political expediency over protecting 1st amendment rights failed us yet again.
These were the final failures in leadership that left me infuriated and determined to help. We need leaders upon whom we can rely to do two things above all else:
Tell the truth, regardless of how uncomfortable it may be.
Accept responsibility and be accountable for all Arkansans, not just those for whom it benefits you politically.
I’m a Progressive. I’m not afraid to say that Black Lives Matter, the LGBTQIA+ community deserves respect, women should have full autonomy, and everyone should be paid a fair living wage. I believe in personal liberty, freedom, and responsibility. I don’t think these ideals are contentious or divisive issues.
I believe in getting more value from our spending rather than increasing personal taxes. Wealth inequality within our state is out of control and far too many families are trapped in poverty. We don’t need to raise personal taxes, we need to review our budget priorities while addressing our outdated tax codes and budget practices. We need more investment in our education system to ensure that our teachers have the resources they need in order to prepare our youth to be active, engaged, productive members of our society.
I believe in the 2nd Amendment, support responsible gun ownership, and common-sense gun laws. I understand that for many of our residents, the ownership of a gun isn’t simply a political stance, it is a way to provide food for their family through hunting. But I also recognize that the abuse of this freedom by some represents a clear and present danger to many of our most vulnerable and marginalized communities.
I believe that our state and federal lawmakers must work together to create cohesive and just policies regarding marijuana possession. It is inherently unfair that veterans, who served our country with honor and often at great personal cost, frequently return home with a condition like PTSD only then to be offered medicinal marijuana to treat their symptoms. You can legally own a gun and legally be in possession of medicinal marijuana, yet still be committing a federal crime. It is unfair and we can do better.
I believe that our drug and opioid epidemic needs to be treated as the health crisis that it is rather than demonizing people and blaming them for a supposed failure in their personal character. They are our neighbors. They need our help, not our condemnation.
I believe that rather than offering incentives for people willing to relocate into our state, that money could be better spent helping our existing residents build their own businesses and achieve more economic freedom.
I believe we should look for answers from within rather than without. And I know that we are better suited to do this together rather than alone. Please consider working with me to improve the lives of all Arkansans both now and for generations to come.
My name is James R. Russell, III; but anyone who knows me just calls me “Rus”. Please feel free to do the same.
Updated March 7, 2021