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.
Frank Scott, Jr. – Little Rock
Little Rock native Frank Scott, Jr., is the first elected black mayor in the city’s history, but his plans for change do not stop at getting elected. His transition team recently released the Scott Script, a road map of his to-do list subtitled “a citizen-led transition for growth and progress in Little Rock.”
The municipal agenda includes creating a city economic development corporation overseen by a chief equity officer. Scott, a former banking executive, touts the initiative as a first step toward becoming a mayor who is also the city’s chief growth officer. He advocates the corporation as a means of moving business development, entrepreneurial recruitment and job creation away from the Little Rock Regional Chamber of Commerce toward City Hall’s direct supervision. While he describes the new relationship with the chamber as a “strategic partnership,” the mayor and his staff will be in control.
“Public safety has to be a top priority, and there’s a nexus between public safety and economic development—and through that, we will grow our city,” Scott says. “But as we grow our city, we want to make certain that not only do we have equal opportunities, but equitable opportunities… As you diversify the marketplace, it will help charge our goal of unifying the city and focusing on potential.”
Despite the restructuring, the Scott Script refers to MetRock2020, which the Little Rock chamber released in April 2019 (in association with some of its community and business partners). MetRock 2020 is a plan identifying six areas of focus that local leaders say are vital to improving metropolitan economic development and job recruitment. Scott notes the plan’s inclusion in the Scott Script as an indicator of his administration’s desire to continue working with the chamber.
“The MetRock 2020 plan is an example of how; our way of showing that when we create the Little Rock economic development corporation, that we still will keep a strategic relationship with existing economic developers like the Little Rock chamber,” Scott says. “The MetRock 2020 plan is a consortium of economic developers, business members who are all focused on what we can do for the Little Rock area to grow it and make certain that it’s sustainable and forward-moving.”
The Scott Script may be just the tip of the iceberg where Scott’s ambitions for the city are concerned.
“I want us to be more tech and innovative-centric, and I want to make certain that no matter who you are in the city of Little Rock that you have an opportunity to find a job if you want a job and work hard for it… It’s our goal to make certain that Little Rock is a catalyst of the new South.”
Lioneld Jordan – Fayetteville
Mayor Lioneld Jordan is in his third term in office, having first been elected as the mayor of Fayetteville in 2008.
After spending most of his professional career at the University of Arkansas, Jordan ventured into public service in 2000 by running for Fayetteville City Council. He would serve two terms on the council and progressed to run for mayor in 2008. He won that race and the two since then. Jordan’s priority projects include advancing infrastructure, a comprehensive economic development program, an open government that promotes citizen involvement and creating a “walkable” city.
Residents of this city of more than 85,000 and members of his staff know him for his “open door, open mind and open heart.” Jordan carries core principles of equality, diversity and inclusion.
One of the most significant accomplishments that Jordan has amassed is the creation of Kessler Mountain Regional Park, which included the preservation of more than 400 acres of green space adjacent to the park. The hope is that with the continued growth of the city, this area may serve as Fayetteville’s own “Central Park.”
In his 2017 State of the City address to Fayetteville residents, Jordan spoke toward protecting the “soul” of the city, by protecting the environment, guarding civil rights, building bridges and always moving the city forward.
Harold Perrin – Jonesboro
Mayor Harold Perrin is a lifelong public servant and hopes he has made the city of Jonesboro a better place because of it.
Perrin is nearing the tail end of his third four-year term, making this the tenth year that he has led the city. Having first taken office after the financial crisis in 2009, Perrin was able to persevere and lead the city through one of the toughest circumstances it has ever been in; not just to bring things back to the status quo, but rather, make it stronger.
Under Perrin’s leadership, Jonesboro has boasted a 15-percent population growth to more than 75,000 residents. Despite this influx of people and the recession he inherited, Jonesboro holds an unemployment rate that ranks near the lowest in the entire region, year after year.
In 2017, GoBankRates.com ranked Jonesboro as the best place to earn a living in Arkansas, which is a credit to this stability infused growth for virtually all vocations.
Additional noteworthy accomplishments of Jonesboro under Perrin are the city achieving a fire rating of 1 following the creation of new fire stations.
The Miracle League Park was also created under Perrin, which is an American with Disabilities Act accessible complex with a baseball/softball field and a playground with 28 pieces of equipment for people with special needs. The rubberized ball field is the world’s largest for children and adults with physical disabilities.
Prior to being elected mayor, Perrin served as the president of two major banks and principal of his own management consulting firm. He also served 15 years on the Jonesboro City Council and served several organizations, including the Arkansas State Board of Trustees, Delta Dental of Arkansas Board of Directors, Arkansas Industrial Developers, among many others.
Doug Sprouse – Springdale
Mayor Doug Sprouse is another city leader in his third term in office, having first been elected mayor in 2008.
Sprouse has been a native of Springdale for most of his life, ever since his move to the city from Fort Smith at the age of eight. Sprouse graduated from Springdale High School and attended college at the University of Arkansas. Northwest Arkansas is in his blood, and Springdale is his life.
Sprouse and his father, Gene, were homegrown entrepreneurs prior to his time as a politician. The pair started Sprouse Upholstery, Inc. in 1983, and the business has operated in Springdale ever since.
In 1999, Sprouse experienced one of his first tastes of serving on the Springdale School Board and would serve as the president of the board from 2005 to 2007.
Sprouse has also previously served on the Regional Mobility Authority board, and he currently represents the city of Springdale on the Arkansas Municipal League’s Past Presidents Advisory Council. He was the president of the league from 2017-2018.
Under Sprouse’s leadership, Springdale has gained national recognition. In 2016, Wallethub ranked Springdale as the eighth fastest growing small city in the United States and 35th most diverse city in the country. In 2017, Money magazine listed Springdale as the 58th best place to live in America.
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.
Greg Hines – Rogers
Mayor Greg Hines has served as the mayor of Rogers since 2010. It’s a job that many feel he was always destined to have. When he was a senior at Rogers High School, he was selected to be “mayor for a day.” Ever since that moment, Hines says that he knew he wanted to be the real mayor someday.
Along the way, Hines built up a track record of public service to prepare him for this dream role. He previously served as a Bentonville police officer and deputy investigator for the Benton County Sheriff’s Office. Soon after, he became the youngest person to ever be elected as city alderman for Rogers.
Hines would then spend 12 years on the city council, before finally reaching the pinnacle of success in his mind – mayor of Rogers.
One of the biggest focuses of his mayoral career has been supporting the growth of the downtown area.
“Rogers is my home, and downtown is the heart of the city. I wanted that heart to beat stronger,” Hines says.
As a part of this focus, Hines has directed the downtown master plan, Rogers Bike Park and Lake Atalanta redevelopment program.
Perhaps two of the most notable of accomplishments under Hines was in convincing two huge names with national prestige to buy into the city.
Earlier this year, Duluth Trading Company opened its doors on 27th Street, making it the first of its kind location in the state of Arkansas.
In 2020, Top Golf will open its first ever location in Arkansas in Rogers, right next to the Walmart AMP.
George McGill – Fort Smith
Fort Smith’s Mayor George McGill has many memories of growing up in his hometown.
“Life was good for me in Fort Smith,” McGill reflects. “I had a great family. My dad was a minister, a very prominent minister and one of the key figures in our community and the city; very instrumental in guiding peaceful integration throughout our city.”
McGill was recently inaugurated his city’s first black mayor, but for him, innovation is nothing new. Having lived through the 1960s as a teenager, he vividly recalls the ugly days of segregation. Nevertheless, he has chosen to move forward rather than remain stuck in the past. A U.S. Army veteran, he owned and operated the McGill Insurance Agency for 30 years. That entrepreneurial experience, he says, continues to define his public service today.
“We listen to what our business community has to say. We’re in touch with them, and we make sure that they understand that we are available to assist you,” McGill says. “We want to have the kind of relationship to the extent that we are positioned to help when help is needed but also remind them that this is a great place. Our city is bursting at the seams with good people.”
He refers to Little Rock’s Mayor Frank Scott, Jr. as “a good friend.” Scott is the first elected black mayor of Arkansas’ capital city.
“My advice for Frank is, continue to be Frank. Don’t step out of yourself; continue to trust your faith,” he says. “And trust those that have put him in office. The people of Little Rock have spoken.”
The people of Fort Smith are never far from McGill’s mind. A former Arkansas state representative, he is as proud of his hometown as he is outspokenly excited for its future.
“I am anxious to see the development of the Arkansas Riverfront that wraps around Fort Smith,” McGill says, “That’s starting to blossom as we speak. It’s going to house the U.S. Marshals Museum, which is going to be one of a kind.”
A day is coming, McGill predicts, when the Arkansas River will be “a major thoroughfare for freight and movement of goods.”
With advances in shipping technology and a growing number of carriers passing through the region, riverfront residential and commercial development should become major industries. Once Interstate 49 is complete, McGill believes that his city will be an even hotter commodity sought by businesses and families alike.
“Fort Smith is right at the tip of major growth and expansion,” McGill says. “Keep in mind Fort Smith is in the 3rd Congressional District here in Arkansas, which is one of the fastest-growing regions in the United States—and we’re proud of that. I tell everybody all the time, ‘You need a good pair of sunglasses because things are getting very bright around Fort Smith and the Arkansas River Valley.’”