Wally Bailey resigns as Fort Smith’s planning chief after more than 41 years

by Michael Tilley ([email protected]) 2,181 views 

Wally Bailey, who has worked under six Fort Smith city administrators, is retiring as the city’s director of planning to pursue an opportunity that will not be as “all consuming.” Next week is his last week after 41 years and 2 months as a city employee.

Bailey, 62, told Talk Business & Politics the expanded duties of the job in recent years was “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 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.

“That really was the start to my career with the city. … I really owe a lot to him (Hunt) for giving me that start,” Bailey said, adding later that “the city gave me an opportunity over the years. … Overall I was able to develop as a person and in a career that I’m very appreciative of.”

Bailey, who plans to stay in Fort Smith and has another future work opportunity, said a highlight of his time with the city includes the more than $55 million in voter approved development following the 1996 tornado that hit downtown Fort Smith. That work included expansion of the convention center, expansion of Harry E. Kelley Park and other riverfront improvements, and expansion of the city’s library system.

Other work he is proud of being part of includes developing what is now the Fort Smith Police Department headquarters, creating the city’s unified development ordinance, quick resolution of a major structural problem with the city’s downtown parking garage, and developments at Chaffee Crossing.

Tim Mays, board president of the Greater Fort Smith Association of Homebuilders, and owner of Tim Mays Homebuilder Inc., said Bailey will be missed.

“On behalf of the Fort Smith homebuilders, I think all the builders hate to see him leave. Maybe we didn’t always see eye to eye on everything through the years, but he was always fair and professional, and always had the city’s best interests at heart. And I can tell you that I personally never had anything but positive dealings with Wally. I hate to see him go. I really do.”

Long-time Fort Smith area developer and City Director Keith Lau said Bailey’s work with national development and planning organizations benefitted the city because he brought many new ideas back to the city.

“The announcement of Wally Bailey’s retirement as the director of planning and development for the city of Fort Smith is bittersweet. His leadership, institutional knowledge, and make-it-work communication skills will be missed,” Lau said in a note to Talk Business & Politics.

Part of that national work included his time with the 64,000-member International Code Council where he served as president. In 2014 he received the ICC’s prestigious Bobby J. Fowler Award for his work to boost awareness of the council and need for safety in the national development and planning sector.

“As President of the ICC, he introduced the initiative of Raising the Profile of the Code Official, which resonates with all of us. He coined the phrase, ‘When we do our jobs, nothing happens,’” ICC noted of Bailey in the 2014 award presentation.

Bailey’s other professional service includes being a member and past president of the Code Officials of Arkansas, and treasurer of the Board of Directors of the National Institute of Building Sciences.