Following a relatively short executive session Thursday (March 28), the Fort Smith Board of Directors agreed to put the appointment of former ArcBest officer Lavon Morton as the Ward 3 director on the agenda for the April 2 regular board meeting.
The board did not appoint Morton at the special meeting, but all directors agreed to have the matter put on the agenda for consideration. If the board votes for the appointment April 2, Morton will be sworn in at that time and participate in that meeting, City Clerk Sherri Gard said.
“I am honored to be selected. There were a lot of good candidates, and I will do the best I can for the citizens of Ward 3,” Morton said after Director Kevin Settle, at-large position 6, moved for Morton’s appointment to be placed on the agenda and the other board members voted in favor.
The Ward 3 director seat was left open when Mike Lorenz stepped down effective March 12 when he and his family moved to Oklahoma City because a job promotion that required relocation.
City ordinances allow the vacancy to be filled by Board appointment or special election open only to Ward 3 residents. Directors have to act on whether to appoint or hold a special election at the April 2 meeting by law. An election would cost the city about $15,000 and cannot be held until July. If this is the course of action used, a director would not be sworn in for Ward 3 until August.
Six Ward 3 residents requested to be considered for appointment to the position — Jack Swink, Jeff Burks, Robert Brown, Lavon Morton, Matthew Holloway and Taneka Tate. The board interviewed those interested in the position prior to going into executive session Tuesday night. Matthew Holloway was not present at the meeting and was not interviewed by the board.
During his interview, Morton said he had the relevant experience to be an effective director including several years’ experience on the city’s Audit Advisory Committee. On that committee, he studies the city’s comprehensive financial report each year.
“So I see the actual revenue and expenditures of every department and read all the notes that explain a lot about what is involved in those financials,” Morton said.
Morton retired as senior vice president – risk and chief audit executive at ArcBest in December 2016, following a 20-year career with the company. He continues to work with the company as a consultant on a project basis, though he does not work full time. His association with ArcBest began as an Ernst & Young staff accountant in 1972 and continued in various roles throughout his career at E&Y, where he served as audit engagement partner and tax partner. Morton joined ArcBest in 1996 as assistant treasurer and became vice president – financial reporting in 1997. He later served as vice president – tax and chief internal auditor before he was promoted to senior vice president – risk and chief audit executive in 2010.
He served on the city’s Audit Advisory Committee for about 15 years, though he was off it for a time. Though he said he will have a learning curve when joining the board, Morton said his experience on the committee will help him assimilate to the board quickly.
“I’m the kind of person who likes to come up with solutions and ideas,” Morton told the board. “I believe most people you encounter want to do a good job. I believe that what you should focus on is what they are doing to try to do a good job and not look for the problems.
“I want to make Fort Smith and even better place to live,” he added. “I am willing to work incredibly hard to work towards the good of the whole city.”
Fort Smith citizen David Harris addressed the board after its executive session to say he thought the board was coming up with a lot of excuses as to why appointment would be better than a special election but that an election is what is needed to make certain the citizens of Ward 3 had a representative who actually represents them.
“If you appoint, they will never be a representative of Ward 3. They will also be your director,” Harris said.