ROGERS -- Three candidates are challenging incumbent Clay Kendall in the race for the Ward 3, Position 1 seat, which represents southwest Rogers on the City Council.
Voters will choose between Kendall, Vonnice Boone, Rachel Crawford and Trey Weaver during the upcoming election. Election Day is Nov. 8. Early voting begins Oct. 24.
Ward 3 generally represents the southwest part of town, including the area west of Dixieland Road and south of New Hope Road and all areas west of Interstate 49. The Pinnacle Hills, Pleasant Crossing and Shadow Valley neighborhoods and Rogers High School are within the ward's boundaries.
All municipal elections are at-large, meaning all city voters can help decide the winner, according to the Benton County Election Commission. Rogers has four council wards with a pair of council members representing each ward. Council candidates are required to live within their respective ward.
The position is nonpartisan and serves a four-year term. Council members are each paid $13,416 per year, regardless of meeting attendance.
Three of the four candidates said they saw the growth of the area's population as the most pressing issue for city leaders.
Two of the candidates emphasized their support of the city's first responders. Kendall said he has supported the funding of a new police dispatch station and communications system. Crawford said the Police Department needs support recruiting and retaining officers, especially school resource officers. Weaver would like to see better officer retention rates, according to his campaign website.
All four candidates said they would want to actively engage with residents on issues concerning the city's decision-making process.
Kendall said the biggest issues faced by the city are ones related to growth.
"We are focused on making infrastructure improvements, investing in our parks and community facilities, and fostering a positive economic environment that will continue to attract high-paying jobs," he said. "We need to do everything we can to have affordable housing for our hospitality and labor force as well as others. We get a lot of complaints about the number of apartments being developed, but that is what the market is demanding and it has been a good solution so far."
Creative solutions may be needed to provide affordable housing in the city, according to Kendall, citing one example where the local government subsidizes developments for locally employed, full-time residents. The city will want to lean on experts and local organizations for help and avoid interfering with property owners' rights or skewing the market throughout the process, he said.
Boone is a member of the NWA MLK Council and the Office of Diversity and Inclusion at the University of Arkansas' Sam Walton College of Business. She was named to Arkansas Money & Politics' Future 50 list of notable Arkansans earlier this year.
Diversity and inclusion are the most pressing issues in the city, Boone said.
"I want to be the change this community needs and represent the parts of the community that aren't being served," she said. "If our government doesn't look like the people it's supposed to represent, that means there are voices and perspectives being left behind."
Relaxing zoning regulations like minimum parking requirements and height and density restrictions and offering incentives like a density bonus could help encourage the development of affordable housing in the city, according to Boone.
Crawford was appointed to the city's Planning Commission in 2018 and currently serves as its chairperson. Growth is "our biggest asset and our most pressing issue," she said.
The city needs to prioritize affordable housing, she said. The approval of new zoning districts during her time on the Planning Commission helped create opportunities for affordable housing, she said.
The city's community development staff has been "extremely proactive compared to neighboring cities" in anticipating future traffic patterns arising from population growth, according to Crawford.
Communicating the status of active road projects to residents and having pedestrian- and bike-friendly spaces are also important, she said.
Weaver said the city's most pressing issue is that it is "a decade behind on infrastructure." Well-planned communities have new roads at the city's edge where it is anticipating new growth and expansion, he said.
"Usually in these areas you will find a city government that is proactive, not retroactive. It's time that Rogers starts to plan for tomorrow and not just cleaning up the issues from yesterday," he said.
The city should offer incentives like lowered impact fees, sewer connect fees and water connect fees to developers to encourage development on the east and north sides of town, he said. It should also explore sharing development costs on infrastructure for new subdivisions that would offer homes at a certain price, Weaver said.
Residency: Rogers for five years
Occupation: Corporate financial reporting manager at America’s Car-Mart Corporate Office
Education: Pursuing a doctorate in education, Capella University; master’s degree in business administration, University of Maryland; bachelor’s degree in accounting, North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University
Political experience: None
Residency: Rogers’ Ward 3 for eight years
Occupation: Senior national account manager for Mars Inc.
Education: Bachelor’s degree in geography - land use planning, Central Michigan University
Political experience: Rogers Planning Commission member since 2018; currently chair of the commission
Residency: Ward 3 for 17 years
Occupation: Managing partner for WealthPath Investment Advisors
Education: Bachelor of science in business administration degree in accounting, University of Arkansas
Political experience: Rogers City Council, 2012 to present
Residency: Ward 3 for 17 years
Occupation: Real estate broker for Metropolitan Real Estate
Education: Bachelor’s degree in elementary education and social sciences, Southwest Baptist University, Bolivar, Mo.
Political experience: Commissioner on the Arkansas Board of Abstractors and the Arkansas Board of Auctioneers, both appointed by Gov. Asa Hutchinson