City Director Kevin Settle will face challenger A. Drew Smith for the Director-at-large Position 6 seat on the Fort Smith Board of Directors in the Nov. 8 general election.
Settle, 48, is plant manager at Arkansas Poly & Printing. He was first elected to the board in November 2006 and has served as a city director since January 2007. Smith, 31, is the criminal justice coordinator for Washington County.
The election is Nov. 8. Early voting began Oct. 24 and will continue through Nov. 7. Link here for more election info.
Talk Business & Politics sent questions – with answers to each question limited to 150 words – to both candidates in the Position 6 race. Following are their responses:
Why do you want to be a Fort Smith city director?
Settle: I am proud of my service to the citizens of Fort Smith. I want to continue helping our city grow and prosper and to make a difference in the lives of all citizens. Helping guide our city into the next decade and lay the groundwork for families and businesses to succeed in Fort Smith is one of my main priorities. Fort Smith is my hometown, and my family has a long history here. We’re so proud to be part of this wonderful community.
Smith: I love Fort Smith. This is the first place in my life that I’ve felt at home. I want the opportunity to be a part of a team that helps lead the city in a positive direction. As part of the next generation, I want to unify the board so that we can serve as an example to unify Fort Smith. We are at a crossroads as a city where we can take a step in a new direction by electing the next generation. I want to see Fort Smith excel.
What do you think are the top challenges facing the city?
Settle: As we have seen it do throughout the country, inflation is also hurting the citizens of Fort Smith. It’s also affecting the services of the City of Fort Smith with increased cost of goods and services. It’s important that I, as an elected official, continue to guide our budget in a way that makes best use of taxpayer funds. Another challenge is the consent decree. I want to continue navigating our consent decree and help ensure that the citizens of Fort Smith stay informed as we tackle this ongoing issue. It’s also extremely important that we continue construction of the new 48-inch water supply line from Lake Fort Smith. The challenge of homelessness in our city, especially around downtown, is impacting many citizens. We need to come together and come up with meaningful solutions to tackle this problem.
Smith: The obvious answer is the Consent Decree, but I think the underlying issues are more important. We have failing infrastructure on the north side of the city. Roads are a mess, and there are water leaks everywhere. I think the challenge is to find the resources to build up our city and bring what we have up to date. Another challenge is finding small businesses willing to make Fort Smith their home. We need to provide incentives to bring more into our city.
What do you think are the top opportunities facing the city?
Settle: The Foreign Military Sales mission at the 188th has the potential to be a transformative project. The economic impact of this could be as much as $1 billion per year. The completion of I-49 from Alma to Chaffee Crossing will expand our intermodal transportation capabilities and enhance the ports along the Arkansas River. Expansion of Parrot Island, along with other parks is a must over the next few years. Updating the Creekmore Park pool and bathhouse and creating a real amphitheater along the Arkansas River is something I am determined to make happen. Continued growth of the Arkansas Colleges of Health and Education and UAFS is also a great opportunity. From providing a stream of quality graduates into our workforce, to establishing Fort Smith as one of the premier medical schools in the country, these two institutions are changing our city and region for the better.
Smith: I think there’s a big opportunity to make Fort Smith a leading community in Arkansas. Right now, many young people are moving to NWA, and there is an opportunity to keep them here. That’s where growth will take place. By bringing small businesses into Fort Smith, this allows a community to grow. Challenges are just opportunities to improve.
Where would you like to see the city in 5 years?
Settle: I would like to see Fort Smith thriving with new businesses and families. In five years, I want to continue seeing and hearing F-35’s and F-16’s at the 188th. I want to see expanded parks and trails all over the city. I want to see more events and festivals along the Arkansas River in a new venue. I want to see us have the consent decree solved. I want to see Fort Smith to succeed.
Smith: I would love to see Fort Smith become a place for young people to flourish as well as generations come together to build a stronger community. I believe this is attainable through a mindset shift to think that Fort Smith wants to become a place where families put down roots and people are not judged by who they know, but rather, who they are.
What could you do as a board member to get it there?
Settle: As your elected board member, I can do many things to help guide the city over the next five years. I want to continue to be a strong voice and assist in managing a balanced budget that allows for continued growth of our city. I can make sure that our sales tax dollars will continue to be used for streets, drainage, fire, police, parks, and the consent decree. As I have done, I will continue to work with our federal congressional team to see what opportunities there are for an agreeable solution to our consent decree.I will use my experience and background to help lead us through the next 5 years.
Smith: I believe that you need to be the change you want to see in the world. In order to bring about a unified Fort Smith, I want to be as understanding as I can to those who do and do not agree with me. In order to bring a community together, we must learn to see past our differences and focus on our similarities while reaching for a common goal.