Fort Smith Directors Martin, Settle re-elected; Catsavis defeats Director Dawson

by Tina Alvey Dale ([email protected]) 2,209 views 

Two Fort Smith City Directors – Neal Martin and Kevin Settle – kept their seat while one challenger bested an incumbent Director Robyn Dawson with 60% of the vote in the general election Tuesday (Nov. 8).

Christina Catsavis, 37, garnered 60.14% of the votes (9,475) against her opponent, 59-year-old Dawson, who received 39.86% (6,281) of the votes to become the new Director-at-Large Position 5 director of the Fort Smith Board of Directors, according to the Sebastian County Clerk’s unofficial results from Tuesday night’s election.

“We are just so excited with these vote totals,” Catsavis said. “I’m just so thankful for the voters who put their trust in me, and I plan to get to work and get things done.”

The two had previously faced each other as well as Carl Nevin, a 67-year-old small business owner and factory worker,  in the Aug. 9 primaries. No candidate received more than 50% of the vote in that election, so Catsavis and Dawson moved on to the general election.

“It has been my honor to serve the great citizens of Fort Smith as your City Director. I have enjoyed getting to know so many of our community members and have been delighted to see our city grow while I have served. Thanks so much to my supporters and encouragers; I am proud to have served alongside you,” Dawson said.

Dawson is the Educational Renewal Zone (ERZ) director at the University of Arkansas at Fort Smith and an Arkansas PLC specialist. She is the incumbent, having been voted into the position in November 2018. Catsavis is the owner of The Smith Jewelry & Living and co-founder/Designer of Julep Jewelry Co.

Controversy surrounded the duo’s campaigns following a message endorsing Dawson for reelection. 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.”

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

Settle received 61.79% of the votes (9,667) to challenger A. Drew Smith’s 38.21% (5,979) for the Director-at-large Position 6 seat.

“I’m excited to have the chance to represent the citizens of Fort Smith and City of Fort Smith for another four years,” Settle said. “I think (the vote) shows the citizens are happy with the direction the city is going and the growth and opportunities they are seeing. It seems every month, there are more job opportunities announced. And I think the citizens are excited about the possibilities they see.”

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.

Martin, 46, easily defeated challenger Jackson Goodwin, 25, with 57.7% of the vote (8,824 votes) to Goodwin’s 42.30% (6,470 votes) for the position of Director-at-large Position 7 seat on the Fort Smith Board of Directors in the Nov. 8 general election.

“It was a tough race. Mr. Goodwin was a very formidable opponent and really pushed me, and my campaign, to work harder,” Martin said.

He said he believes the votes show the confidence of the citizens in his commitment to the city.

“I’ve always said I work for the citizens of Fort Smith, not the government of Fort Smith,” Martin said. “I’m excited about the tremendous growth the city has seen in the past four years and continuing the work.”

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

At-large, Position 5
Christina Catsavis: 9,475
Director Robyn Dawson: 6,281

At-large, Position 6
Director Kevin Settle: 9,667
A. Drew Smith: 5,979

At-large, Position 7
Jackson Goodwin: 6,470
Director Neal Martin: 8,824