Voters in North Little Rock will have four candidates to choose from to serve as their next mayor. Incumbent Joe Smith said last year he would not seek a third term in office.
KUAR spoke with each of the four people running in the nonpartisan race. The final candidate in the series is former North Little Rock City Council member Debi Ross.
Why are you running for mayor of North Little Rock?
“I have been on the [city] council, well, into December it'll be 14 years, and so over the years I've seen the great things that we've done in North Little Rock and then I’ve seen some other things that we can add to that and things that we can do better, and I want to take that experience and be the mayor of North Little Rock with that experience.”
How do you feel your skills, background and experiences qualify you to serve as the mayor of North Little Rock?
“I started out in banking and then a small business owner… for 35 years, so with a business background I also have that. And then with the experience of being on the city council and being out in the city, that definitely gives me a lot of qualifications. I'm also a certified elected official which is additional training that you can do that’s voluntary, so I have numerous hours of that and been certified for quite a few years now.”
What is the first issue that you would tackle if elected to be mayor of North Little Rock?
“The first thing… is to set up mini town hall meetings in every neighborhood. We have neighborhoods that feel that they've been overlooked or they have not been included, and so I want to get out to these neighborhoods and sit down with the businesses and the residents… the city could come in and do something, but it may not necessarily be what you want in your neighborhood or how you see your neighborhood. So let's sit down, let's set some goals, let’s make some plans and let's start getting things done in these neighborhoods.”
What changes need to happen in North Little Rock?
“I want us to bring back the Green Committee, we have not had that. And it's just an advisory board… it's not a bunch of tree huggers, it's just more or less sustainability; what can the city do better, how can we improve sustainability for the city and how can we leave the city a better place than when we got here?”
What are the City of North Little Rock’s greatest strengths?
“Our neighborhoods are our strength, our residents are our strength in our city. We’ve got so many projects going right now coming down the pipeline, and people are calling North Little Rock right now. They're wanting to come to North Little Rock, they're wanting to set up businesses in North Little Rock, so we’re on the move. We’ve certainly got a lot of exciting things going on right now.”
What power does the office of the mayor hold in North Little Rock? How would you use that power?
“The mayor is day-to-day operations. The city council is legislative… so you can't really make a lot of promises unless you know for sure that the city council is voting on that, and you never know how that's going to go. The city council gives the mayor the power.”
“I think that gives me a leg up there because we work really well on the city council, we're independent, it’s nonpartisan… I’ve got a great relationship with everybody on the council, and I kind of have a feel of the direction that the council wants to go… and what they would agree to and what they wouldn’t agree to.”
The mayoral race is nonpartisan, so how do you form a voter base without aligning with a political party?
“This has been the most difficult race that I've ever seen as far as partisan alliance… in a municipality, we’re not with a party. We’re with the residents and the businesses, and I know that some people, I have a hard time explaining to them that you really can have independents out there that can work for everyone and not necessarily voting a party line.”
What is the value in having the race be nonpartisan?
“We're all for the residents, we don’t vote a party line. Getting across that we are independent… that’s been my hardest thing to get across is that we are truly all independent when we’re up there on that council.”