The North Little Rock run off election for mayor is heating up. Early voting for the runoff between Tracy Steele and Terry Hartwick began on Tuesday, Nov. 23.
Steele led the general election with 45 percent of the vote, while Hartwick gained about 33 percent of the vote on Nov. 3. Candidates must win at least 40 percent of the vote and lead by 20 percent in order to win in the general election, according to Pulaski County Election Commissioner Kristi M. Stahl. North Little Rock’s current mayor, Joe Smith, chose not to run for reelection.
Early voting continued on Wednesday, Nov. 24, and will resume on Mon. Nov. 30 after the Thanksgiving holiday. The early voting centers are the Pulaski County Regional Building, the William F. Laman Library, the Sidney S. McMath Library and the Hillary Clinton Children’s Library.
Election Day is Tuesday, Dec. 1 from 7:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. The Laman Library will be open as a voting center for anyone in Pulaski County. If you need to find your polling place, please go to this link. The Pulaski County Election Commission will meet on Dec. 1 at 9 p.m, and anyone can go to observe as long as they wear a mask and social distance. The meeting will also be live streamed on YouTube.
Although the general election saw record turnout in Pulaski County, Stahl noted that runoff elections historically receive low voter turnout. She expects early voting to be particularly negatively affected by both the holiday break and concerns due to the coronavirus pandemic.
“Turnout for runoff elections is generally 4-6 percent, and I would be surprised if it was even 8 percent,” said Stahl.
Stahl did state that everyone who received an absentee ballot in the general election should have also received a ballot for the runoff election. Absentee ballots should be received by the Pulaski County Clerk by 7:30 p.m. on Dec. 1.
Arkansas Money and Politics talked to Hartwick about the issues concerning North Little Rock.
AMP: As mayor, how will you promote economic growth in North Little Rock, particularly after a challenging year for business owners and workers?
TH: The first priority I have is to combat the coronavirus pandemic to help save lives and the health of our citizens. Beyond, that job and economic growth is my greatest priority. It is my greatest strength. As leader of the Chamber of Commerce, I grew the organization from 200 members to over 1500 members and helped bring thousands of jobs to NLR including Glazers, Ben E. Keith, Caterpillar Dickey Stephens Park and the expansion of the Senior Center. Continuing this effort to bring and create jobs is my top priority.
AMP: What changes, if any, do you plan on making to the North Little Rock Police Department’s operations and structure? For example, many other police departments have announced the introduction of social workers and therapists onto their staff, along with updates to equipment and arrest techniques.
TH: My campaign has already announced that we will do the following things:
- Introduce a major ride along program with community leaders, parents and their older children through the neighborhoods to work on building trust between the police and different communities.
- Introduce additional training in the areas of mental health with social workers and therapists for educating the police and helping the police when necessary.
- Work on the juvenile justice program for nonviolent crimes to intervene with medical treatment when necessary.
AMP: North Little Rock has been marked in the past with historic floods, due to both manmade failures and climate change. What do you plan to do to combat environmental crises, such as floods? What do you plan to do in terms of beautification of North Little Rock?
TH: As far as climate change, I have announced programs to increase both electric city vehicles and a plan to increase solar energy. Much of our power is already supplied by water.
Further, I intend to look at every neighborhood to determine what needs to be done to fix our flooding issues. For example at 38th street the water and sewer lines will be expanded to stop the flooding.
As Parks Director I have made sure our 35 parks are beautiful and if elected I will extend these same procedures that we have instituted in Argenta and the Parks throughout the city.
AMP: How do you plan to continue educational development in the North Little Rock School District? What seems to be doing well, and what could use improvement? Do you plan to increase the success of Pulaski Tech and Shorter College?
TH: It is important to note that the mayor and city council has no authority over the school district. It is solely run by the publicly elected school board. Having said that, I do believe that the city can influence and work with the school system to develop a partnership that will benefit our children. Whatever we do will have to be approved by the citizens of the NLR. In the past I have advocated and used private resources of our community leaders to fund thousands of public school scholarships. I believe we can do similar things to make up short falls that the district has. I received an honorary doctorate from Shorter College in the past. This school has always been near to my heart. Finally, whenever the district has asked the city for special funding for special projects we have always stepped up to the plate and always will. For example the city pays for all school resource police officers.
AMP: The topic of geographically unifying the city has come up several times in the last few weeks. What are your plans to make all areas of North Little Rock feel included, including areas like Rose City and Lakewood?
TH: I was born and raised in Rose City. I have never forgotten where I’m from. Listen. That is the most important thing. To Listen. I will listen and engage the community groups to bring them together. But I will also make sure that all areas of the city are cleaned up and maintained. But real unification will only happen when the community is engaged, all sectors of the community. So I will appoint a special committee of community leaders from all parts of the city to work together. North Little Rock has always worked together. We will do it again.