Former Fort Smith planning director now in same capacity in Van Buren

by Tina Alvey Dale ([email protected]) 1,763 views 

Downtown Van Buren

Former Fort Smith Director of Planning Wally Bailey has taken his talents across the river to take up the reins as the Van Buren’s planning director. Bailey started with Van Buren June 24. He retired from Fort Smith the previous week after serving the city for 41 years.

The move also means Bailey is no longer a candidate for the executive director position with the Fort Chaffee Redevelopment Authority.

Bailey, who worked under six Fort Smith city administrators, said he made the move because he needed a change of pace for the benefit of his body, mind and soul. Bailey, 62, told Talk Business & Politics the expanded duties of the job in Fort Smith were “becoming more bothersome to me.”

“I come home with it. I go to bed with it. I wake up at night with it. I need to go to something that is not all-consuming. I have to find something with a better work-life ratio,” Bailey said.

He said taking things down to a smaller level was something he needed.

Van Buren Mayor Joe Hurst was the planning director in Van Buren when he ran for mayor in 2018. The position was left vacant when he was sworn in as mayor Jan. 1.

“I’m going to work with the mayor, the Van Buren Planning Commission, the Van Buren City Council and the citizens of Van Buren to help Van Buren. I want to use my knowledge to help. They will make me better, and hopefully, I’ll help make them better,” Bailey said, noting he spent his first week acclimating to the new position.

He said he is counting on the citizens, the mayor and the city council to show him the areas of the city they want to improve and where they want to see changes.

Bailey, 62, grew up in Midland, graduated from Hartford High School, attended Westark Community College, and graduated from the University of the Ozarks in Clarksville. Dennis Hunt, then the director of community development for the city, hired a young Bailey to his staff.

Bailey noted some of the highlights of his career in Fort Smith as being the more than $55 million in voter-approved development following the 1996 tornado that hit downtown Fort Smith that led to the expansion of the convention center, expansion of Harry E. Kelley Park and other riverfront improvements, and expansion of the city’s library system.

“We did a lot of great things in Fort Smith. Hopefully, we’ll do a lot of great things in Van Buren too,” Bailey said.