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 second candidate in the series is former state lawmaker Tracy Steele.
Why are you running for mayor?
“I'm from North Little Rock, grew up in North Little Rock, and very humble beginnings in public housing facility of Shorter Garden, and [the] community supported me to the point I was able to excel in academics and athletics to get a scholarship to go to Rice University, graduated there with a degree in political science. And when I thought about my future, my career, I could think of nothing better than coming back home, using my education and my experiences and giving back to this community that has given me so much.”
How do you feel your skills, background and experiences qualify you to serve as the mayor of North Little Rock?
“I have worked with or for the last five governors… I've also been director of a few agencies; one, the Martin Luther King Commission, which is critically important. I've been the director of the Department of Youth Services that's over the judicial programs for the state, and currently I serve over the Health Services Permit agency… I'm also a former state representative, I'm a former state senator. I served 14 years in Arkansas Legislature where I had many different leadership positions including being the Senate Majority Leader. And currently I serve on the North Little Rock school board, and I've been vice president and president of our school board.”
What is the first issue that you would tackle if elected to be mayor of North Little Rock?
“That's an easy one; to make sure government is transparent, to get rid of that kind of good-old system that's been in place for a long time in North Little Rock… want to make sure that people know exactly what's going on with their government, make it transparent, and secondly to make it fair.”
What changes need to happen in North Little Rock?
“North Little Rock needs a mayor that’s more than a mayor, North Little Rock needs a leader… somebody who can come in and bring our city together through transparency, through fairness and move our city forward. We move our city forward but we have to bring everybody together first. If we don't, we move forward and leave too many people behind. And that is what has happened over years in my beloved city of North Little Rock.”
What are the City of North Little Rock’s greatest strengths?
“We have wonderful people, we have people who have a lot of pride in North Little Rock… we’re the perfect size for economic development. I think it's an asset that we're a sister city with Little Rock. I think we should build our opportunities to get small businesses up and going in a successful manner and provide incentives for small businesses like training and support from within our city. I think our asset is certainly our educational system. We have one high school that everybody can get behind, we have a school district that’s moving forward.”
What power does the office of the mayor hold in North Little Rock? How would you use that power?
“We are a [meritorious] form of government and that's very important… the way I would utilize that is to bring forth a vision in this city that is going to bring about many different opinions, input from throughout the city like never before; utilizing our technology to bring people throughout our city to the table… that has not been done in North Little Rock nowhere near to the degree that I think it should be.”
The mayoral race is nonpartisan, so how do you form a voter base without aligning with a political party?
“I think that's an asset for me. I consider myself a bridge builder, I know how to get things done across the aisle. When I was in the legislature, I sponsored over 50 pieces of legislation myself; things like the Clean Indoor Air Act and establishing the state's first trauma system… and so in order to do that in the legislature, you have to be able to work with all people; Democrats, Republicans, independents, in order to get that done, and especially the governors. And I've been able to get that done and provide the right type of leadership that I can use to move North Little Rock forward together.”
What is the value in having the race be nonpartisan?
“I think it's an excellent thing… being in a nonpartisan election, then the focus is more on what's best for the city than on politics.”