Luis Andrade, a 21-year-old immigrant from Brazil, is such a fan of President Donald Trump that the slogan for his recently announced bid for mayor of Fort Smith is “Make Fort Smith Great Again.”
Mayor Sandy Sanders has said he is not running for re-election. His second four-year term is up in 2018. The filing period for the November 2018 election will likely open in May 2018.
Andrade told Talk Business & Politics that he has lived in Fort Smith most of his life, said he realizes the Fort Smith mayor is largely ceremonial, but believes he can help the city find a new and better direction.
“My goal with the whole being a mayor thing is to put Fort Smith out there. … When a business changes, they put a sign out that says ‘Under new direction.’ And I want to put that sign up that says we’re open for business,” he said.
Andrade, who plans to graduate the University of Arkansas at Fort Smith in August 2018 with a bachelor’s degree in political science, said he has worked since he was 16 in his family’s cotton export business. He served in the U.S. Army as a construction engineer and was deployed to Germany. However, his service ended after 19 months when he was medically discharged.
He said the city needs to do more to attract businesses, especially small businesses, to the city. He said the city’s taxes are too high, and a “more efficient” city might be willing to provide incentives to help launch or recruit businesses. Andrade said his time on the Fort Smith Parking Authority Board – he joined that board in February – has been “enough to show me that we could do so much more and offer more … that we could can do much better.”
“Public servants right now in Fort Smith are slow and inefficient. … We could move papers faster in city hall,” Andrade added.
Part of his announcement noted: “The circumstances we have in Fort Smith today such as simple things like our sewage system that hasn’t been updated in years, utility bills going up, harsh business regulations, and needless local taxes that we have in place and that are keeping companies from coming to our town (and absolutely nothing being done about it), and many others, have inspired me to run for MAYOR during our next election.”
He believes he has a better solution for the city’s requirement to meet the estimated $480 million mandate from the federal government to fix the city’s sewer system. He believes the city will take too much time and too much money, and should instead provide incentives to third party operators to fix it. He declined to offer details, saying he will at some point roll out his plan.
“I don’t want to disclose my plan for that … but I think it’s doable,” he said.
To that point, Andrade said he created a Facebook page – launched Aug. 6 – to gather input from citizens. He said he has several ideas on how to make the city great again, but wants to get ideas through the page before he makes them public. That effort has already run into some problems, with Andrade moving to delete some comments and block access to a few participants. Andrade said such actions aren’t censorship because he made it clear that the page was for “respectful” constructive input and not political attacks. He said any overt political comments that are disrespectful will be deleted.
Andrade also is proud of his Republican affiliation.
“I have supported President Trump and will continue to do so, and will try to get support from the Republican Party,” he said.
Mayor Sanders confirmed Thursday with Talk Business & Politics that he is not running, and is not sure if he will issue an endorsement in whatever race shapes up.
“I don’t know. It depends on who all gets in,” Mayor Sanders said.
Andrade said he and his family will pay for his campaign expenses. The Fort Smith mayoral job pays $10,000 a year, with a $450 monthly auto allowance.