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 third candidate in the series is former North Little Rock Mayor Terry Hartwick.
Why are you running for mayor of North Little Rock?
"I still have a passion for our city. I know it sounds political, but more than anything we’re really at a crossroads and I think the nation is too, but really in our city. We’ve got a lot of progress going. The mayor decided not to run and there were several people that were mentioned. A few people kept coming to me and kept coming to me and I still had a vision. I could say what I’ve done with the park, with the One Heart Park…playgrounds. I was at the Chamber [of Commerce] for fifteen years and that’s economic development, bringing Ben E. Keith so I can still say there is a lot of progress to go…. I started counting it down and said I was going to run for mayor and that’s one of the reasons, there’s still a lot more left to do and I believe I’m the person with trusted experience and as I’ve said, I will get the job done.”
How do you feel that your skills, background and experiences qualify you to serve as the mayor of North Little Rock?
“I do have a lot of experience. I don’t have to [have] on the job training. I have been mayor before as you know and then of course economic development as I just mentioned with the chamber for 15 years bringing…Dickey Stephens [Park], Ben E. Keith, Caterpillar, I was involved with almost all of those. Even the dry-to-wet issue in Park Hill. I walked almost every street making that area change. So with that, I’ve got 35 community parks in our city that I take care of and I’ve visited every one of them. So that means I’m familiar with all parts of our city, not just one area. And so with that, being a part of the Chamber, Parks and mayor, I think that experience goes a long way.”
What is the first issue you would tackle if elected to be mayor of North Little Rock?
“I think right now the most pressing issue that we’re going to have to tackle is setting up COVID-19 offices up in all parts of our city. We have so many people, I was just talking to a young man who came in here and everybody’s concerned with how they get their benefits. What benefits can I get? How do I get tested? How do I get it back fast enough? So I can use community centers in all parts of our city to set up offices in all neighborhoods because I have five of them in different parts of the area, to use that area for people to get information, to help them with their benefits. So I don’t think COVID-19 is going away like some of my opponents said. It’s going to be here and the city needs to get involved with helping with benefits, with the packages…what they’re going to get to. And then getting fast test results back. That’s another one. We have a health department in our city, so we’ll work closely with them. Meanwhile, in the east part of the city, we need another grocery store, we need benefits, health benefits out there. So I’ll be working with that. So I guess I have a big agenda, but real fast there’s a lot of things, a lot of areas that we need to concentrate on."
What changes need to happen in North Little Rock?
“I don’t know a lot of changes. I think more or less if the changes are for improvement, yes. But for changes just to be changing, I don’t think so. I think a lot of things we have going on here is very good. Our police are doing a fantastic job, I believe without a doubt. Our fire department is next to none. I [would] like to have… a 511 number you would call for potholes. I know a lot of our streets have potholes and we need to fix them. I’m a little heavier on code enforcement. I see a lot of places in our city that needs the work. I would like to hire somebody that actually cleans up. A lot of times you put your trash on the streets and say, a dog or a raccoon gets into it, well the sanitation department doesn’t pick it up, they’re on a fast schedule, so it just lays there. So I think something like that. If the city gets involved with keeping the streets clean, then other people will too. So I think keeping our streets clean, having more code enforcement is very much needed in our city.”
What are the City of North Little Rock’s greatest strengths?
“Our greatest strength? It’s home. I think it’s beginning to be a big city, we’re probably going to push 70,000 this time with the census, but it’s still home. It’s still a place you can park your car, you can play out in the front yard and if you leave your door unlocked, you don’t have to fret about it. Like I said, our police protection is something that the community is happy with. But it’s home. It’s that hometown feeling. What I think our strength is? It’s people who know their neighbors and they watch out for each other."
What power does the office of the mayor hold in North Little Rock?
"I don’t know if we have any power, we actually work for about 70,000 people, so I don’t know if that’s any power. But it is a mayor-elected government, so you’re the chief executive. The government doesn’t have what you’d call a city manager. So [the] power is trying to be able to get things done. It’s more or less responding to the needs of the people and making things like that happen."
How will you use the abilities you have as mayor?
“Well, I’ve been mayor before and when you have [those] abilities, you have approximately 30 department heads. So more or less your conversations with your department heads are making sure what the people need such as leaf pick up, sanitation, electric and light, we have our own electric department. I want to get more into green power. I did the hydro[electric] power plant when I was mayor the first time. So it’s not using [the power] it’s working with your department heads. They’ve been doing this job for a long time most of them and they know how to do it. So to be rearranging something that’s been working just doesn’t make sense. So I’ll be working with them quite a bit and I’m used to most of them. I’ve been working with the city for over 30 years. So it’s not like I’m going to be walking into [a group of] people who don’t know who I am or what I expect. It’s more or less getting the job done, keeping the progress, making sure people have jobs, they feel safe at home and doing the things that they expect."
How do you align with not quite a base, but people who you feel relate to your positions? And how do you do that without mentioning partisan politics?
“The mayor’s independent and I've got to respond whether you’re a Democrat, Republican, Libertarian or whatever. A lot of people ask me ‘Are you Republican or Democrat?’ And I go well first off I’m independent…but the mayor probably has more of a direct result on how they live than most any national politics. They’re the one who has to look at their streets and their lights. If their electric goes off, who are they going to be calling? That’s why you have a direct relationship with the community and that’s why I think the mayor has as much responsibility to an individual or a family than anyone. That’s why you want your streets clean, that’s why you want your lights [turning on], that’s why you want your sanitation. Even our parks, I ran our parks now for five years. I put One Heart Park in, that was for special needs and is an all-inclusive park. So those are things that people look for to be done in a city. It doesn’t have to be status quo. It can be an improvement, but an improvement with change."
What is the value in having the race be nonpartisan?
"Well, when I ran the first time I ran on the Democratic ticket and the filing fee was approximately $2,800. Well, if you think about it, a lot of people who want to run for an office really don’t have that much money going into it….So it’s better to have an independent process where you represent all of the people and because you don’t have to pay that big filing fee, because all we need now is 30 signatures. We have one candidate in the race where she’s a teacher and it would have been tough for her to raise twenty-eight, twenty-nine, $3,000 it takes to get in. So it lets more people enter a race…It allows more people to get in a race. You don’t have to announce a candidacy or party.”
Is there anything else you would like to add?
“I think this race, like I say, is going to be important because what’s happening now is going to be on the next mayor’s desk come January 1. And you don’t need a learning curve. You need somebody that’s been there, done that and somebody that you can trust. I have the experience. I’m ready to do it. I can’t wait until January 1. This is home and I am ready to keep the vision going and keep the progress going.”