FORT SMITH -- Voters will soon get the chance to choose people for at-large positions on the city's Board of Directors.
Early voting begins Oct. 24. The general election is Nov. 8.
At-large positions are elected by all city voters to represent the entire city. Fort Smith also has four wards and representatives on the city board who represent just their wards.
The mayor's job is also up for election. Incumbent George McGill is running unopposed for his second term.
Each position is nonpartisan and serves a four-year term. The mayor receives $10,000 a year, and city directors make up to $1,000 a year by attending each of the 24 board meetings, or $41.67 per meeting, according to city code. They aren't compensated for board meetings they don't attend. Both positions also receive $5,400 a year to reimburse vehicle expenses.
Running for at-large Position 6 are current board member Kevin Settle, 48, and newcomer A. Drew Smith, 31.
Settle has served four terms and said he believes his experience will help guide the board and the city over the next four years. He's plant manager at Arkansas Poly and Printing.
Settle said the biggest issues the city faces are working to be selected for the Foreign Military Sales program and the city's sewer consent decree, but that overall, the city has a lot of good things happening.
"We keep trying to chip at it, and I think the public having that vote, allowing those sales tax dollars to be used for consent decree work and freezing sewer rates for three years, allows us now to really go through and start getting those projects knocked out and having a funding source," he said.
Ebbing Air National Guard Base at Fort Smith Regional Airport was selected last year as the Air Force's preferred site for a pilot training center for Singapore and other countries participating in the Foreign Military Sales program.
The city entered into a consent decree in January 2015 with the U.S. Department of Justice, the Environmental Protection Agency and the Arkansas Division of Environmental Quality. Under the decree, Fort Smith agreed to repair and upgrade its sewer system after decades of sewage runoff into local waterways, including the Arkansas River.
The city agreed to spend more than $200 million over the next 12 years to upgrade its sewer collection and treatment.
The original decree deadline was Jan. 2, 2027, but the city said it couldn't afford to do all of the work by that date. The city was granted a five-year extension to 2032.
Smith, a former Southwest Times Record journalist, is the criminal justice coordinator for Washington County. She said she wants to be a uniting force if elected to the board, as she is one of the younger people running.
"I used to cover the city and police, so I think that I have a great understanding of how city politics work, and I think coming from that point of view of having the boots on the ground, with hearing people from Fort Smith and the city directors and the directors of all the departments, having that perspective I think gives me a unique opportunity to bring a new perspective to the board," she said.
The biggest issue in the city is addressing mental health, something she said was exacerbated by the covid-19 pandemic.
"I think that the Guidance Center did a great job of putting resources out there," she said. "The Police Department has done a great job with their crisis intervention team, diverting people that are in mental distress to the help that they need as opposed to jail, which would just exacerbate their mental health crisis even more."
At-large Position 6
Residence: Fort Smith for 46 years
Employment: Plant manager at Arkansas Poly and Printing
Education: Bachelor of science degree in chemical engineering, University of Arkansas
Political experience: At-large Position 6 director since 2006; ran unsuccessfully for the position in 2004
A. Drew Smith
Residence: Fort Smith for three years
Employment: Criminal justice coordinator for Washington County
Education: Master’s degree in literature, American University
Political experience: None