Political newcomer challenges incumbent for Ward 4 seat on Rogers City Council

Barney Hayes (left) faces Richard Labit in the race for Ward 4, Position 1 on the Rogers City Council.

ROGERS -- A political newcomer is challenging an incumbent in the race for Ward 4, Position 1 on the City Council.

Voters will choose between incumbent Barney Hayes, 70, and Richard Labit, 22, at the general election Nov. 8. Early voting begins Oct. 24.

Ward 4 includes most of the area south of Cypress Street and between Dixieland Road and First Street. Heritage High School is within the ward.

All council seats are elected at-large in Rogers, meaning all city voters vote in all races, according to the Benton County Election Commission. Rogers has four council wards with two council members representing each ward. City Council candidates are required to live within the ward they represent.

Hayes has served on the council since 2017 in addition to terms from 1998 to 2010. Before retiring, he served as the city's parks director and worked for the School District as a director of school services, coach and teacher.

Hayes said his experience as a part of the city's government makes him the better candidate.

Growth and the challenges that accompany it are the most pressing issues for the city, according to Hayes.

"This process necessitates the expansion of public safety, transportation, zoning and quality of life issues," he said.

He said the city needs to encourage the planning and development of affordable apartments and single-family homes and seek federal grants that could help with future developments.

He emphasized the roles of planners and engineers in addressing issues in the city.

"As a city, we need to be mindful of what impact additional infrastructure and developments have on drainage and traffic flow," Hayes said. "Our planning and engineering departments need to be vigilant in successfully completing the overview of future development plans as the various projects evolve."

Labit is a student at the University of Arkansas studying political science. He said he believes young people are needed in politics.

Affordable housing, public transportation, infrastructure, homelessness, food insecurity, illiteracy and addiction all rank among the city's biggest issues, according to Labit.

He has spent years volunteering at St. Vincent de Paul's food pantry and is a member of the Society of St. Vincent, he said.

"It has broken my heart seeing how many people need assistance, especially during the pandemic," Labit said.

The city should set the groundwork for affordable housing by establishing its own housing authority, he said.

"Seventy years ago, our parents were able to get a house, go to university and get a new car whilst working a minimum wage job," he said.

Today, the city has plenty of unused land that could be used for affordable housing, but apartments are difficult to rent on minimum wage, he said.

Roundabouts are the most effective way of reducing traffic problems, Labit said.

The City Council is nonpartisan, and members serve four-year terms. The council meets publicly twice a month, and members are paid $13,416 per year, regardless of meeting attendance.

  photo  Richard Labit
  photo  Barney Hayes

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Rogers City Council, Ward 4, Position 1

Barney Hayes

Age: 70

Residency: Rogers for 63 years

Occupation: Retired; former coach, teacher, city parks director and school administrator

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

Political experience: Rogers City Council, 1998-2010 and 2017 to present

Richard Labit

Age: 22

Residency: Rogers for eight years

Occupation: None

Education: Currently attending University of Arkansas; associate degree in liberal arts, Northwest Arkansas Community College

Political experience: None