Fort Smith Directors Lau, Lorenz face no opposition; Directors Catsavis and Good draw opponents

by Talk Business & Politics staff ([email protected]) 191 views 

Two of four incumbent Fort Smith Directors do not face opposition in November, but Directors George Catsavis and André Good will again have to gain voter approval for another four-year term.

The city’s four ward positions are up for election in 2016. The three at-large positions, also four-year terms, will be on the ballot in 2018. The race for Ward 4, of which Catsavis is the incumbent, drew four candidates, and the Ward 2 race, with Good being the incumbent, drew two candidates. Directors Keith Lau (Ward 1) and Mike Lorenz (Ward 3) did not draw opposition and are automatically re-elected, said City Clerk Sherri Gard.

The filing deadline was Thursday (May 26) at noon. Following are those who filed for each ward.
Ward 1
Director Keith lau

Ward 2
Director André Good
Bruce Wade

Ward 3
Director Mike Lorenz

Ward 4
Director George Catsavis
Robyn Dawson
Neal Martin
Zachary Muncrief

Lau, who will be re-elected to his second term, said he is happy to not be on a ballot during “a cluttered election year that is going to be a challenge to anyone.”

Not having an opponent will allow him to stay focused on what he said was progress made during his first term. Lau said he wants to keep pushing for a “permanent” solution for the police and fire pension fund.

The Board in 2015 voted to return benefits under the pension plan back to the levels in place in 2004. That action saves the city an estimated $477,000 in this fiscal year and up to $516,000 by year 2026. But based on estimates, additional spending reductions and revenue increases totaling approximately $2.1 million annually are needed to keep the LOPFI contribution fund solvent beyond 2030.

“We’re not where we need to be on that, but I think we moved a bit in the right direction,” Lau said.

Lau, who along with Director Tracy Pennartz who have been the most vocal about city spending and efficiencies, said he plans to monitor spending related to the city’s estimated $480 million order by the Environmental Protection Agency to clean up the city’s sewer system.

Lorenz also is pleased to not have to worry about a campaign and instead stay focused on being a director. He said he plans to continue the push “to turn around our customer service culture inside the city.” Recent turnover in key city positions is an opportunity, Lorenz said, to bring people in who are willing to change the culture.

“We made some progress in some little areas, but that’s probably my biggest focus right now … (to get to) where we treat people like a real customer and not just a service provider,” Lorenz said.

Catsavis is running for his second four-year term. Catsavis survived a municipal primary and general election in 2010 to complete the two years of a four-year term vacated by former Director Bill Maddox.

Dawson, 52, is the principal at Spradling Elementary School in Fort Smith. She was hired in that role in 2011. She began teaching in Fort Smith in 2002, and was hired as a principal in the Dover Public School system in 2007. She then became a principal in the Mena Public School system in 2009.

Wade, 63, is a retired business owner from Houston. He moved to Fort Smith in 2002, and is running because “not only does the city need to be informed about the ward, but the ward needs to be better informed about the city.”

Martin, 40, is a manager of application development for Little Rock-based Arkansas Foundation for Medical Care, and the most recent to qualify for the board election. He grew up in Fort Smith, but a job sent him packing to Kansas City. He and his family returned to Fort Smith in 2010.

Muncrief, 33, was the most recent to file for the Ward 4 race. He was born in Oklahoma, grew up in Reno, Nev., and moved to Fort Smith when he was 19. He works at the Choctaw Casino in Pocola, Okla., and is married with four children.

What he sees has a lack of transparency with city government is a big reason Muncrief said he entered the race. He said the Board now “enjoys voting to skip the bidding process for city contracts.”

“So these multi-million dollar construction projects are going without a bidding process so that to me lacks transparency in government,” Muncrief said.