Fort Smith Director-at-Large, Position 7: Q&A with Jackson Goodwin and Director Neal Martin

by Tina Alvey Dale ([email protected]) 2,169 views 

Fort Smith City Director Neal Martin will face challenger Jackson Goodwin for the position of Director-at-large Position 7 seat on the Fort Smith Board of Directors in the Nov. 8 general election.

Goodwin, 25, is a civil engineer at Mickle Wagner Coleman in Fort Smith. Martin, 46, is director of information technology with Shared Services Center. He was elected to the Position 7 seat in November 2018.

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 7 race. Following are their responses.

Why do you want to be a Fort Smith city director?
Goodwin: I want to be a Fort Smith City Director because now is the time for the next generation of leadership to step up and help a city in need. No one currently on the board has a background in infrastructure. I grew up working construction and now work fulltime as a civil engineer.I think Fort Smith is doing great as a whole, but most of the negatives you see in the city are infrastructure related. I see an opportunity to help this city rebuild its infrastructure in a cost effective way. As a fifth-generation resident of Fort Smith, no one wants to see the city succeed more than me. Now is the time to step up and make a positive difference in this community before it is too late.

Martin: I want to give back to the city I love. I grew up here, went to elementary and junior high, graduated from high school here, and then moved to Kansas City after graduating from the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville. There was an unmistakable draw back to Fort Smith to live and raise my family. My wife and I love raising our five children in Fort Smith, and I saw an opportunity to help the city grow, prosper, and thrive. Being the current At-Large Position 7 Director has given me that opportunity as we have experienced more growth in the last four years than we’ve had in a long time. More jobs are coming to our city, more development is happening, and metrics show we are setting growth records. I am the best candidate to continue this growth.

Jackson Goodwin

What do you think are the top challenges facing the city?
Goodwin: The top challenge facing the city currently is the Consent Decree. A lot of work needs to be done to get Fort Smith back in compliance with its sewer issues. There are quite a few ways I have looked into potentially saving cost on the work that is to be done. I would like to use my position on the board to help ease the financial burden of the Consent Decree on the residents of Fort Smith. Fort Smith currently loses a lot of talent to Northwest Arkansas and Dallas. I am one of the few people I grew up with who has come back to Fort Smith after finishing their education. I want Fort Smith to be a more attractive city for young professionals, so we can retain future generations in the River Valley.

Martin: The Consent Decree continues to be the biggest challenge facing the city. The citizens passing the 5/8 cent sales tax was important in meeting the requirements of the decree. We need to be creative and collaborative with the EPA and DOJ to alleviate the burden now that legal options have been exhausted. We are already working on alternative methods to assist in funding the Consent Decree as we diligently perform the work to fulfill all requirements. We are also creating a Consent Decree communication plan that will better inform citizens of planning and progress of Consent Decree work. Homeless is also a challenge in our city. Transitioning people out of homeless into quality jobs, home ownership/rentals, and transportation must be a focus 1. A long term stray animal solution will be required as well.

City Director Neal Martin

What do you think are the top opportunities facing the city?
Goodwin: The Foreign Military Sales is an enormous opportunity for the city. If this mission comes to Fort Smith, there will be an influx of new businesses, cultures, and opportunities for everyone. Fort Smith has an undeveloped riverfront that has the potential to develop like the riverfronts of Chattanooga, Tenn., and Greenville, S.C., two cities I know from personal experience are great models for Fort Smith’s riverfront. Another top opportunity is the supreme potential that Fort Smith as a whole has. Fort Smith is a great place to raise a family, has a low cost of living, is in the heart of the United States, and is the perfect place to build and establish new businesses. With the future completion of I-49 and access to the Arkansas River, Fort Smith is set up to play a major role in the transportation industry in this country for years to come.

Martin: The Foreign Sales Mission offers an opportunity like we’ve never experienced before. It is the biggest economic development project in the state over the last 20 years in this city.  Coupling this mission with the I-49 expansion in our area will position Fort Smith as the distribution hub of the entire United States. The many people moving here and the business/industry that follow are a game changer for our city. We must be able to effectively manage this growth while still meeting the needs of our citizens. Continuing to provide timely services while meeting the growing infrastructure needs is key to these projects being successful.

Where would you like to see the city in 5 years?
Goodwin: In five years, I would like to see Fort Smith a lot further down the road with the Consent Decree work. I would like to see water and sewer rates finally hold steady and hope that the citizens will trust their elected officials again. I would like to see the Foreign Military Sales mission in Fort Smith and thriving. I would like to see more small businesses open.
I see a city that has allocated money to fix all of its major flooding issues while also maintaining a long term fiscally responsible budget. I see a city that is focused on helping others and promoting good health. I see a city that uses more forethought in its decision making and listens to the expert’s when the time is right. I see a city that focuses on the correct things and does not micromanage the daily lives of its citizens.

Martin: I see our city not only growing, but thriving. With nearly 3,500 to 5,000 new residents to our city from countries all over the world due to the F35 mission, we will continue to solidify our city as a true international city. With the growth, new jobs will be brought here, providing better options for our citizens while helping raise the median household income. I see additional restaurants, shopping, and entertainment options to keep up with this growth. I envision the riverfront being developed with entertainment, dining, and cultural amenities. I see Chaffee Crossing continuing its growth into a unique destination in the city. And I see all areas in between growing and prospering due to all the new opportunities available for us. The next 5-10 years will be like nothing we have ever seen before and I am excited to help lead us toward that growth.

What could you do as a board member to get it there?
Goodwin: As a member of the board. I will fight everyday to ensure that taxpayer dollars are appropriately budgeted and spent. I will make decisions that are in the long term best interest of the community as a whole. Every decision I make will be based on what is best for the tax paying citizens of Fort Smith and what will help promote them and their lives. I will use my background in engineering/construction to ensure that we are taking the correct steps with infrastructure. I will work with the other members of the board to make sure that we act on behalf of the citizens’ best interest. I will remain transparent and accountable in all the decisions that I make. Most importantly, I will make sure that common sense prevails and becomes something that is expected when working with the city.

Martin: What I have done over the last four years and will continue to do to keep taxes and fees as low as possible. Citizens deserve a director that will fight against unnecessary taxes, like I fought against with the supplemental alcohol tax in 2020. They deserve a director who is transparent with them as I have done with my weekly “Give Me 5” videos on Facebook communicating items affecting our city. They deserve a director who will fight for their property rights as I have done numerous times over my four years. They deserve a director they can count on to do these things while also having an eye for the future. Putting policies in place and passing legislation that makes Fort Smith more attractive and poised for growth is key to protecting what we have while setting us up for the significant growth coming our way.