June 2019 Magazine

Mayors to Watch: Joe Smith


While many Arkansans can recite their elected officials – especially the “household names,” which usually includes the governor, senators and representatives in the U.S. Congress – positions frequently forgotten, but so often responsible for our day-to-day well-being, are our city mayors. 

There are two types of mayoralty systems in the United States, council-manager and mayor-council.

In a council-manager system of local government, a mayor sits on the city council, often holding the chairperson position on that body. As with most city council members, mayors in this scenario usually only serve part-time and usually set the legislative agenda for the city they represent. Most of the full-time, day-to-day administration is left to the city manager.

Mayor-council systems feature separate branches for the mayor and city council, with the mayoralty holding executive privileges while the city council operates with legislative powers.

In an effort to shed some light on the work of several localized elected officials, AMP is profiling seven mayors from around the Natural State to watch.

by Dustin Jayroe and Jon Walker

Joe Smith – North Little Rock

Mayor Joe Smith is a fourth generation North Little Rock resident and is serving his second term as mayor of the central Arkansas city. 

Smith graduated from North Little Rock High School and the University of Arkansas. After that brief stint away from his city, Smith came back home and has served it ever since – having worked almost 30 years for North Little Rock in some capacity. Prior to his election as mayor in 2012, Smith served as the city’s director of governmental affairs, director of community relations and director of administration. 

One of Smith’s proudest accomplishments is providing fiscal security for the city. He has increased the city’s reserve funds during his tenure by budgeting conservatively, paying down debt and building a greater tax base. 

He has also boasted a record of substantial economic development for North Little Rock. Under his watch, thousands of new jobs have either entered, or stayed within the city, including those from Caterpillar, Timex, Southern Glazer’s, Ben E. Keith and many more. It was also under Mayor Smith’s supervision that Dickey-Stephens Park was created. 

As for the future of North Little Rock, Smith is optimistic and determined to keep the positive momentum forward. Pursuance of further economic development programs continue, like Jump Start Grants in Levy and Park Hill, street improvements on Pike Avenue, a revitalized Merchant’s Association in Rose City and new development in Amboy. 

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