Perhaps the most compelling argument those who want a change in the office of Fayetteville mayor have made is that Lioneld Jordan has had his turn at the helm for a dozen years and it's time for new leadership.
As with term limits, the suggestion appears to be that change for change's sake is a good thing.
Jordan has certainly been on the political scene of Fayetteville for a long time. He's about to wrap up his 12th year as the city's chief executive, but before that he served as an alderman -- back when the state still used that term -- who was first elected in 2000. So doing the math in our heads -- always a questionable proposition -- we'd say he's got about 20 years in municipal government from both legislative and executive branch perspectives.
Jordan has made the most of his three terms as mayor, which so far has ranged from a crippling ice storm in his first month in office all the way to this year's covid-19 challenges. In between those historic events, Jordan's administration has gotten a lot done and has embraced giving anyone who wants provide feedback a chance.
The contention he's served too long seems to be a sort of the generic variety complaint, the kind people lob at members of Congress, but not usually their own. People like Patrick Leahy or Chuck Grassley (45 years); Don Young of Alaska (47 years) or Ed Markey of Massachussetts (43 years). People complain about them being "professional politicians," but their actual constituents like what they're getting enough to keep sending them back term after term after term.
For some, like a couple of the men competing to replace Jordan, his length of service is a detriment. And it certainly could be for a mayor who's doing a bad job. Jordan isn't. We've got a feeling Fayetteville voters are going to recognize that on Nov. 3 and we don't find a credible argument to try to change their minds.
This race boils down in our estimation in much the same way the 2016 race did. Three men running for mayor -- Jordan, Tom Terminella and Ron Baucum -- are the same trio that sought the position four years ago. William Harris, a bit of an oddball candidate with a prison record and a book to sell, is the fourth contender.
Just as in 2016, we'd suggest two serious contenders are Jordan, obviously, and Terminella. Just as in 2016, we'd recommend a vote for Jordan.
Jordan says he's still got more to finish, which isn't always the most compelling case to make because what government does never ends. Officeholders would never step aside if they waited until everything is done. But in Jordan's case, Fayetteville's plate of difference-making municipal projects is quite full because voters last year gave their support to a $226 million investment the city, under Jordan's leadership, sought. Five of the 10 projects got more than 70 percent support, four others got more than 63 percent and all of them passed.
Voters don't usually hand a city administration $226 million in projects if they're not pretty confident in its ability to get them done.
Jordan's administration, it also should be noted, has gone three terms without the kind of internal controversy or corruption witnessed in some communities. Even as we've disagreed with some policy issues, it's hard to argue with the results, Jordan's dedication and his commitment to operating a city government people respect.
We do respect Terminella's drive to serve a town he's been a part of since the early 70s, but he's a real estate developer whose campaign is largely focused the difficulties facing real estate developers wanting to do business in Fayetteville. He's frustrated by rapid growth in towns to the north in recent years. It all sounds a little like "Make Fayetteville Great Again," at a time when it seems many city residents are pretty happy with how things are going (with the exception of covid-19, of course).
It doesn't appear the shine has come off Fayetteville just because towns like Rogers, Springdale and Bentonville have come into their own good fortunes. That's largely a function of a critical mass of residents working for Walmart and other companies who want to live near work and have amenities close to their homes. Once Benton County hit a certain population, it was bound to see retail and other development boom. We don't buy the argument that those towns have prospered because Fayetteville has somehow run off development.
The indications are Fayetteville has gotten exactly the mayor a majority of residents want. Many of the complaints about policy decisions aren't so much about the mayor as it is about the City Council and the tone its members set for the city. Sure, the mayor could wield a heavy veto pen, but Jordan has taken an approach that appreciates that the council of eight, rather than the dictates of one, ought to guide the city's policies and procedures. If people disagree with any of that, they really ought to consider changing some of the City Council members.
Whoever ends up in those City Council seats, we're pretty confident they'll find a valuable partner in Mayor Jordan for another four years.