Former Fort Smith mayor named interim A&P director; city violates FOIA law with records request

by Tina Alvey Dale ([email protected]) 1,598 views 

The Fort Smith Advertising and Promotion Commission named former Fort Smith Mayor Sandy Sanders interim director of the Fort Smith A&P at a meeting Saturday (Nov. 8), and on Tuesday the commission instructed a search firm to make an offer to the person they hope will become the new executive director.

Fort Smith City Administrator Carl Geffken said the A&P Commission let SearchWide Global know Tuesday who they wanted to be the next executive director and an offer would be made by 11 a.m. Thursday (Nov. 12). The A&P Commission agreed in July to contract with SearchWide Global to advertise and recruit for the executive director. SearchWide Global is an executive recruitment firm primarily for companies in the travel, tourism, hospitality, convention, trade association, venue management and experiential marketing industries, according to its website.

Former executive director Claude Legris retired July 10. Carolyn Joyce, group sales travel manager for the Fort Smith Convention & Visitors Bureau, was named the interim executive director after his retirement. Joyce, who also has portrayed Miss Laura as an ambassador for Fort Smith for many years, retired in late October.

“We had two key people retire. First, Claude Legris as the executive director. Then Carolyn Joyce, head of group sales. … Those are some big shoes to fill,” said Storm Nolan, A&P commissioner and head of the search committee for the new executive director. “Former Mayor Sanders was gracious enough to agree to step in. He’s helped out as an interim director at other (places) and has been very good at keeping things moving there. We think he’ll be able to do the same here.”

The annual salary range for the position is $84,822 to $127,212, Lolley said. At the time of his retirement, Legris was earning $96,646.68 per year, according to Fort Smith City Administrator Geffken said.

Sanders served as the mayor of Fort Smith from 2010 to 2018. He served for five months as interim president of the Fort Smith Chamber of Commerce in 2009. Prior to the chamber, Sanders was director of the Fort Chaffee Redevelopment Authority for six years. He left that post in October 2007. He also served as interim executive director for the Children’s Emergency Shelter in Fort Smith and a brief stint heading up the Arkansas Manufacturers Association in Little Rock.

Sanders retired as the human resources manager at Whirlpool Corp.’s Fort Smith plant in 1998 after a 32-year career with the global appliance maker. In the late 1990s.

“I think the main thing the commission wanted is someone who has been involved in the city to keep things running as it should until they have a full-time executive director,” Sanders said, noting he chaired the commission for eight years as mayor.

Nolan said the job search garnered almost 100 applicants. SearchWide Global narrowed those down to eight or nine candidates. The search committee further reduced that to three candidates they asked to come to  Fort Smith for interviews.

“We are down to our final candidates. … We are very close, hopefully, to having a new executive director,” Nolan said.

He would not give the names of candidates because two are employed elsewhere, but said one lives in Arkansas and the other two are from “fly over states” in the middle of the country.

(Editor’s note: The city of Fort Smith and Fort Smith Advertising and Promotion Commission chose to violate Arkansas’ Freedom of Information Act in not providing Talk Business & Politics a list of candidate finalists and respective applications/resumes. The Arkansas Freedom of Information Act requires that public records be provided more or less immediately upon request, subject to certain exceptions that were not applicable in this instance. More importantly, the Arkansas Attorney General has “opined on numerous occasions that job applications, including resumes, are ‘public records’ subject to inspection and photocopying, provided that all exempt information has first been deleted.”)

All three candidates have extensive experience advertising and promotion for a city or area, Nolan said.

“Listening to what these candidates said about what they plan to do in Fort Smith and how much jelling in the community between tourism and events they plan really opened our eyes,” Nolan said. “We are excited about any one of these because of what we think they can do.”

He said the committee believes that the new executive director will make Fort Smith more visual for tourism and a place people want to live.

“It’s a lot to put on one person. But we think it can happen,” Nolan said.

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