Fort Smith Board approves city seal and logo; hears protest from LGBTQ+ citizens

by Tina Alvey Dale ([email protected]) 2,345 views 

Approval of a new official seal and logo for the city of Fort Smith, and a town hall protest against City Director Robyn Dawson were part of the Fort Smith Board of Director’s regular meeting held Tuesday (Nov. 1).

The board got their first look at the seal and logo in a presentation from Fort Smith-based RightMind Advertising, which helped produce the images, at an Oct. 11 board study session. A large part of a brand relies upon its logo, a report presented to the city said. The logo includes two specific fonts placed around a graphic representation of a western pioneer fort watchtower that flies the American flag on its rooftop. The logo will not lose the iconic look of the city’s current logo, just cleans up the flag so it reproduces better, makes the tower bolder and modernizes the logo, said Chad Jones, president and creative director for RightMind Advertising.

The seal incorporates and mirrors many elements of the Arkansas state seal, Jones said. The state’s motto, “Regnat Populus,” (Latin for “The People Rule”) appears on the banner that embellishes the American eagle and the Goddess of Liberty. An angel on the left wears a sash that displays the word mercy, while a sword on the right indicates justice.

“The Goddess of Liberty and bald eagle represent common American symbols of freedom and virtue. A steamboat, bee hive, plow and a bushel of wheat represent the city’s industry ties to agriculture and its character as a river town,” the report said.

The official “city seal” will reflect the official business of the city, specifically its legislative body, the mayor of Fort Smith and the city board of directors. Each city department will also have a logo that uses the city’s logo and adds the department names, Jones said. Until this point, the city has not had an official seal.

Caleb Cash, with the support of a group of about 20 representing the LGBTQ+ community in Fort Smith, addressed the board during the Town Hall that followed Tuesday’s meeting and asked that City Director Robyn Dawson be required to attend diversity training following a controversy about a message for Dawson’s reelection campaign that was disparaging to the LGBTQ+ community.

“Ms. Dawson is an educator and she should know that words like that have an impact on an individual and that she should have a better understanding of language,” Cash said.

He also asked that Dawson hold a town hall meeting after the training to tell the citizens what she has learned and to issue a written apology.

The controversy arose following a message endorsing Dawson for reelection to the Director-at-Large Position 5 seat in the upcoming Nov. 8 election. The message, which began circulating Oct. 18, touted Dawson’s qualities of focusing on fiscal responsibility, transparency, and economic growth, but added a photo of opponent Christina Catsavis at a birthday party held earlier in the summer with the caption, “Christina is right there in the front on the left with her husband at the gay birthday party at Storm Nolan’s house.” The message ended with, “At a party for GAY PEOPLE!?! Fort Smith government is in trouble whatever happens in the next election. I guess we all need to bail out and move to Greenwood to raise our family and to live.”

Cash and his husband were the guests of honor, which was both a birthday party and a celebration of life for Cash’s husband, who recently beat cancer.

Dawson has said repeatedly that she did not author or support the message.

“I actually contacted the person who supposedly sent it, and told him that I did not ask for that to be written or sent and I did not appreciate it. I even told him I was sorry he was a supporter,” Dawson said, adding that the person who supposedly sent the message was not a member of her campaign committee and does not work for her campaign.

She said she would never make disparaging remarks about any minority group – whether they be in the minority because of race, sex or any other factor.

“I support the rights for every human. Every human has been afforded rights. They are the same rights for everyone, whether they are a member of any minority group or not. And every person deserves to have those rights honored and to be respected,” Dawson said.

Dawson, who is in her first term on the board having been elected to the position in 2018, and Catsavis faced each other and Carl Nevin in a primary election Aug. 9, in which no candidate received more than 50% of the vote. Catsavis received 960 of the 2,131 votes cast. Dawson garnered 680 and Carl Nevin, a 67-year-old small business owner and factory worker who also ran for the position, received 562 votes, according to the Sebastian County Clerk’s unofficial results.

Catsavis and some of her supporters have said they believe the message did originate from Dawson and her campaign. Bill Vines, the Dawson supporter who was said to have created the anti-gay message, has said he is not responsible and received the controversial message direct from Dawson.

Dawson attended Tuesday’s meeting via telephone connection and did not stay on the line for the Town Hall. After being apprised of the discussion, Dawson reiterated that she was not responsible for the message

“This was done by a supporter who wasn’t authorized by me or anyone to do so, and I’ve severed ties with the person. I am sorry that it happened,” Dawson said.