A group of community-minded citizens has started a new action group in Fort Smith – Fort Smith Forward. The group was formed as a “dynamic and diverse group united in its desire to be a catalyst for permanent and positive change in Fort Smith,” noted the group’s media statement.
The group of 29 will meet monthly to discuss the big picture items facing Fort Smith to “help unlock next level opportunities,” said Jared Rego, founder and chairman of the board. The group will have their first meeting in October.
Rego is the senior development officer for the Mercy Health Foundation. He serves on the Board of Directors for the Community Services Clearinghouse, Arkansas Family Alliance and CASA of Sebastian County.
The group, a think tank according to Rego, will work toward new and innovative approaches to big issues while working to increase public dialogue and participation. Rego noted that a group working for the betterment of Fort Smith would need to be representative of the city as a whole including the different cultures, ages, ethnicities, geography and vocations.
“We feel we are among the most diverse permanent groups in the community,” Rego said.
The group wants to focus on what it will take to make Fort Smith a first-choice destination for jobs, opportunities, health, recreation, tourism and to raise a family, the release said.
“It’s time for Fort Smith to build on our recent momentum and positive developments,” the release said. “Our community deserves a dedicated and well-rounded group of people joining forces and working together to earn the future that we deserve.”
To start, the group’s focus areas will include quality of place, economic development, water use, urban renewal, infrastructure, quality of public education, health and wellness, community expansion, population and self-governance.
“We will meet once a month to brainstorm and make the commitment to understand and advocate plans that showcase the path forward,” Rego said. “We want to develop realistic and attainable action plans.”
Along with Rego, members are: Mayor George McGill, ex-officio member, City Director Lavon Morton, State Representative Jay Richardson, Dr. Gary Udouj, Dr. Patrick Pendleton, Dr. Hon Chung, Dr. Justin Voris, Bennie Westphal, Jenny Wilkinson, Jordan Hale, Pastor Kevin Thompson, Pastor Paul Davis, Keley Simpson, Chris Stec, Matt Marshall, Dalton Person, Nick Kyrouac, Allison Kyrouac, Andrew Pearcy, Becca Whitson, Matt Whitson, Alejandro Zamora, Sam Price, Allison Montiel, Ivy Owen, David Barret, Judge Amy Grimes and Alex Sanchez.
“Fort Smith Forward is designed to enhance the positive progress of our city. As we work together in the months and years ahead, I’m confident that we will make many lasting and meaningful contributions to the future of our region. It’s a real privilege to work alongside such an outstanding group of people, and I’m grateful for their generous willingness to step forward and serve the community. We are all eager to make a beneficial impact, and we can’t wait to get started,” Rego said.
The city established a Comprehensive Plan Implementation Committee (CPIC) in mid 2015 following passage of the Future Fort Smith Comprehensive Plan. The comprehensive plan was adopted by the Fort Smith Board in late 2014 and cost the city more than $340,000 to develop. It’s broad intent was to guide future city development – from simple landscape rules to larger zoning preferences. The city-sanctioned committee does not meet on a regular basis. Mayor McGill said during his campaign for the city’s top political post that if elected he would focus on implementation of the comprehensive plan.