The Benton City Council has appointed Baxter Drennon as the new city attorney to replace outgoing attorney Brent Houston during a special meeting of the council Wednesday night.
Drennon currently serves as a trial attorney with Wright, Lindsey & Jennings LLP. He has represented multiple municipal entities, including assisting them in preparing ordinances, resolutions, FOIA responses, Arkansas code compliance, procurement and condemnation actions.
“I’m here because I’ve seen the impact a good city attorney can have on a city,” Drennon said during his interview with the council. “In the same way, I’ve seen the impact the other side can have as well. I want nothing more than for this city to have a good city attorney who helps you all to continue to move the city forward.”
Drennon said he believed he was the best candidate for the position due to his experience dealing with the same types of complex issues the city faces.
“There are a lot of questions that are unique to this position that you have to deal with,” Drennon said. “I have not dealt with all of them, but I have dealt with a lot of them and I know where to go look for the answers beyond that. I think that experience and knowing where to find the answers gives me the qualifications to do the job and do it well.”
Drennon told the council that he believes the primary role of the city attorney is to truly serve the leaders and the citizens by providing sound legal advice.
Houston is leaving the position after being elected to the the Division 3 post of the Saline County Circuit Court in March.
The council had two options to replace Houston and opted to appoint someone to the position rather than calling a special election. In addition to Drennon, four others put forth their resumes for consideration including Brian Butler, Degen Clow, Bobby Digby and Chance Nalley.
The council asked each candidate the same questions ranging from past municipal experience to how they handle conflict and how much time they were able to devote to the part-time position.
Drennon stated that he understood the time commitment the role entails and that he has the resources available to him to balance his current position with that of the city attorney position.The council also asked Drennon whose interest would be the most important if he was appointed, the mayor, the council or the residents of Benton.
“I would say I hope they all align,” Drennon said. “They should all align…ultimately, we all serve the citizens of the city and so I think the citizens come first and that would only be second behind making sure that we are doing things legally.”
When asked what he would do if their was a strong difference of opinion between him and the mayor or a city council member on legal matter involving the city, Drennon said he knew that the city leaders have strong opinions. He added that he sees the city attorney position as a service role and that it’s his job to advise.
While a student at the University of Arkansas, Drennon was elected as treasurer of the Associated Student Government. He received his Juris Doctor from the University of Arkansas School of Law where he graduated Magna Cum Laude and served as an articles editor for the Arkansas Law Review.
Drennon has been published in publications such as the Arkansas Law Review and is licensed to practice in both state and federal courts. He is a member of the American Bar Association, the Arkansas Bar Association and the Pulaski County Bar Association. He also serves on the national board of directors of the Defense Research Institute.
When asked about his long-term goals, Drennon said that he currently has no plans to run for political office that would take him away from the job, which will be a two year term, but he would consider running for election for the city attorney position at the end of the term if he believed he had served the city and its residents well.
“I don’t have an answer for that,” Drennon said. “I just can tell you I’m going to try hard if I get the spot to do right and do well by you all and the citizens. If at the end of two years or when the time comes, I’ll do my soul searching and if I’ve been successful, then I will.”
Drennon and his family relocated to Benton in 2017 and he said that moving into the city from another area has given him a special sense of the importance of community and making sure the city continues to grow.
“It’s certainly been, for our family, one of the best things we’ve ever done,” Drennon said. “Being involved in the community, seeing the community, we’re usually standing in front of First Baptist when there’s a parade, things you don’t have the opportunity to do, or I didn’t do in Little Rock, we do here.”
In the months leading up to his official start as the new city attorney, Houston and Drennon will work together to ensure a smooth transition.