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story.lead_photo.caption Megan Cardwell-Godfrey (left) and Jeff Williams

SPRINGDALE -- Springdale's District 89 state House race is a contest between a challenger who says she can speak with constituents and an incumbent who touts a record of speaking up for them.

Both Rep. Jeff Williams, R-Springdale, and Democratic challenger Megan Godfrey, also of Springdale, described the district as one of the most diverse in the state. The area has long-time Springdale families, a large Spanish-speaking contingent and Marshall Islanders. Williams is seeking his second term.

Arkansas House

District 89

Jeff Williams (R)

Incumbent

Age: 55

Residency: Has lived in the district 25 years

Employment: Owner, Williams and Associates Property Tax Management of Springdale

Education: Bachelor’s degree in microbiology, University of Arkansas

Political Experience: Washington County assessor, 2011-15; Springdale City Council, 2003-04; State representative, 2017 to present

Megan Godfrey (D)

Age: 34

Residency: Has lived in the district since 2009

Employment: English as a second language program director, Fayetteville School District

Education: Master’s in elementary education, Loyola Marymount University, Los Angeles; bachelor’s in Spanish, University of Arkansas

Political Experience: none

District 89 stretches from 40th Street on the west past Butterfield Coach Road on the east. It goes from U.S. 412 on the south to the Benton County line on the north. Early voting begins Oct. 22. Election day is Nov. 6.

Godfrey is a Springdale High School graduate who returned to her home town to raise her family, she said. She worked in the Springdale School District for nine years as a teacher and as a curriculum specialist for the district's English as a Second Language program.

"Springdale has changed a lot and it's changed for the better," she said. "Leadership should reflect that change.

"I'm a working mom who is bilingual, and that's not the kind of candidate the district's heard from before," she said.

She's someone who grew up in Springdale who can relate to long-time residents while also addressing relative newcomers who speak Spanish.

Williams won his 2016 race against bilingual candidate Irvin Camacho with 56 percent of the vote. Godfrey acknowledged turnout would be a challenge her campaign would have to meet to win the race.

The district has very low unemployment, but still has high poverty, Godfrey said. Families need an expanded pre-kindergarten program for their children and other educational opportunities, she said. That will lead to better-paying careers. Public schools in Springdale also need more state support to cover the expense of teaching students whose native language is not English, she said.

"I'm for families, for fairness and for the future," she said.

Williams pointed to his record of achievements, including convincing the governor's administration to extend ArKids state health plan benefits to the Marshallese population, a long-sought goal of child welfare advocates that also required legislation Williams sponsored.

Talking to others whose native language is different is a challenge overcome by having bilingual people that everyone trusts, Williams said. Negotiating the complexities of government can be the more demanding task, he said. His experience at city, county and state government while dealing with the federal government is invaluable, he said.

"I have yet to ever run into an incident where we could not overcome a language barrier," he said.

Williams called the district one of the poorer ones in Northwest Arkansas, saying it needed more state support for after-school programs because both parents work in so many of its households. It also needs greater state support for technical education so constituents can improve their skills and reap higher pay.

"If you don't understand these issues in depth, you won't be able to push them through," he said.

State House members serve two-year terms and have an annual salary of $39,400.

NW News on 10/11/2018

Print Headline: Springdale House rivals contrast experience, results

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