Can­di­dates meet pub­lic

The Weekly Vista - - Front Page - KEITH BRYANT kbryant@nwadg.com

The Bella Vista Pub­lic Li­brary hosted a fo­rum for city coun­cil and may­oral can­di­dates Mon­day, Oct. 29.

Li­brary foun­da­tion chair Su­san San­tos ex­plained that, while city coun­cil mem­bers rep­re­sent the ward or portion of the city in which they live, they are elected at large, mean­ing each ci­ti­zen votes for ev­ery coun­cil po­si­tion up for election.

“Thank you for com­ing out and putting up with the crowd­ing,” she said.

Can­di­dates were al­lowed two min­utes to in­tro­duce them­selves and, once all the can­di­dates fin­ished their in­tro­duc­tions, they fielded ques­tions pulled from a hat. Ques­tions in­cluded whether Bella Vista should con­tinue to grow, how it should grow, what chal­lenges the city is facing, what can­di­dates see for the city’s fu­ture, whether can­di­dates would do some­thing about un­cut grass next to an on and off ramp and more.

San­tos es­ti­mated 77 peo­ple at­tended the 4:30 p.m. ses­sion, though the crowd was thin­ner for the 6:30 p.m. dis­cus­sion.

After the first ses­sion, Bella Vista res­i­dent Joe Macek said he was glad to have an op­por­tu­nity to see the can­di­dates live. Choos­ing who to vote for was a lot eas­ier after watch­ing each of them speak and an­swer ques­tions, he said.

Macek said he’s par­tic­u­larly in­ter­ested in de­vel­op­ment.

There were some ex­cel­lent can­di­dates, he said, but oth­ers seemed to be lack­ing in qual­i­fi­ca­tions.

“May be in over their heads,” Macek said.

Mayor Peter Christie was the first can­di­date to ad­dress the crowd.

Christie pointed out he’s served as mayor for the past four years and, in that time, the po­lice, fire and streets de­part­ments have been ex­panded to bet­ter ad­dress Bella Vista’s in­creas­ing pop­u­la­tion.

It’s es­sen­tial, he said, for the city to man­age its growth, which is ex­pected to con­tinue in part be­cause neigh­bor­ing cities have be­come too ex­pen­sive to buy a home in.

The city needs com­mer­cial de­vel­op­ment to grow its tax base to sup­port all of its nec­es­sary ser­vices, he said, and the city’s ef­forts to bring in more peo­ple can help show po­ten­tial busi­nesses that the city has a de­mand for their prod­ucts and ser­vices.

“I’m look­ing for­ward to the chal­lenge,” he said.

May­oral can­di­date Chris Nar­loch spoke next.

Nar­loch said that, while he has heard ru­mors, he has no in­ten­tions of clos­ing all of the city’s trails and running busi­nesses out of town — but he is con­cerned about the city’s growth and would like to see it slowed.

“I do feel the rate of growth in Bella Vista is out of hand,” he said. “My fam­ily moved here to get away from crime-rid­den cities and ghet­tos.”

The city is con­sid­er­ing some ma­jor projects, he said, and he ex­pects this to con­tinue flood­ing the city with more peo­ple that the roads can­not han­dle.

He’s con­cerned, he said, that the city can­not develop as much as it needs to to keep up be­cause of nearby com­pe­ti­tion from Ben­tonville and lower taxes across the state line.

City coun­cil mem­ber John Flynn, running for re-election in Ward 1, Po­si­tion 2, told the au­di­ence he’s served four years on the coun­cil and served as mayor pro-tem in that time — mean­ing he cov­ers for the mayor if he is out of town.

He also teaches part­time at the Univer­sity of Arkansas, he said, and he has three decades’ ex­pe­ri­ence as a cor­po­rate at­tor­ney.

“I be­lieve that you should do what’s in the best in­ter­ests of the cit­i­zens,” Flynn said. “I think there’s a lot more we can ac­com­plish.

Dy­lan Shad­dox, also running for Ward 1, Po­si­tion 2, said he’d like to work to build more eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment, im­prove the city’s roads and in­crease trans­parency in the government.

Shad­dox said he’s in­ter­ested in build­ing vol­un­teer ef­forts in the city as well, al­low­ing the city to do more with­out ex­pend­ing more re­sources.

“I think I can serve my com­mu­nity more than I have,” he said.

Chris­tian Hen­ning, running for Ward 2 Po­si­tion 2, said he ap­pre­ci­ated ev­ery­one com­ing out to be­come a more in­formed voter.

Hen­ning said that he’s an Eagle Scout and he’s served as com­man­der of the Sons of the Amer­i­can Le­gion in Rogers and Ben­tonville, which has given him ex­pe­ri­ence han­dling bud­gets. He also teaches preschool in Ben­tonville and he’s ex­pected to grad­u­ate from col­lege with two de­grees next year.

Hen­ning said he’s a strong pro­po­nent of com­mu­nity in­volve­ment.

“You need to lis­ten to ev­ery­one’s opin­ion,” he said.

Brent Stine­spring, also running for Ward 2, Po­si­tion 2, said he’s a teacher at Cooper El­e­men­tary and he’s been a re­al­tor for the past 10 years.

Stine­spring said he worked in the com­mu­nity to help build the out­door learn­ing areas at Cooper El­e­men­tary as well as the Blow­ing Springs trails and con­trib­uted to the mas­ter trail plan that has guided the de­vel­op­ment of the Back 40 trails and the 11 Un­der trails that are cur­rently un­der con­struc­tion.

Bella Vista is a unique com­mu­nity, he said, and he be­lieves the de­vel­op­ment in the city should re­flect that.

“I care deeply about the fu­ture of Bella Vista,” Stine­spring said.

Larry Wilms, also running in Ward 2, Po­si­tion 2, said he has worked with mu­nic­i­pal govern­ments in var­i­ous ca­pac­i­ties for 45 years and han­dled large bud­gets.

He’s a cer­ti­fied pro­fes­sional engi­neer, he said, and he has the equivalent of a mas­ter’s de­gree in en­gi­neer­ing.

The pri­mary fund­ing source for a mu­nic­i­pal government is sales tax, he ex­plained, mean­ing it is es­sen­tial to bring com­mer­cial de­vel­op­ment into the city to con­tinue ex­pand­ing street main­te­nance and other es­sen­tial ser­vices.

“One of my goals is to keep tax rates low,” he said. “I want to work to ex­pand busi­ness.”

Steve Bourke, running in Ward 3, Po­si­tion 2, said he was raised with three broth­ers by a sin­gle mother and started work­ing at 9 years old when the fam­ily ac­quired a lawn­mower, then grad­u­ated to de­liv­er­ing pa­pers, then work­ing in a gas sta­tion and wash­ing dishes through high school.

Bourke said at­tend­ing the Univer­sity of Arkansas, where he ac­quired a de­gree in in­for­ma­tion tech­nol­ogy, is how he learned to love North­west Arkansas.

He ex­plained that in his ca­reer he learned to do more with less each year and be­lieves that skill and his work ethic can ben­e­fit the city.

“I’m a fis­cal con­ser­va­tive,” he said.

Jack Kelly, also running for Ward 3, Po­si­tion 2, said that he brings a broad ar­ray of ex­pe­ri­ence in var­i­ous fields — in­clud­ing mu­nic­i­pal

ex­pe­ri­ence in sev­eral de­part­ments with the city of Tulsa, sales and man­u­fac­tur­ing, among oth­ers.

He’s also vol­un­teered with Habi­tat for Hu­man­ity for 18 years, in­clud­ing seven years on the board of di­rec­tors for the Tulsa branch. He’s been to ev­ery state and 12 coun­tries, he said.

As a coun­cil mem­ber, he said, he in­tends to focus on cus­tomer ser­vice for both cit­i­zens and de­part­ments.

“I of­ten say my re­sume looks a lot like the yel­low pages,” Kelly said. “That broad back­ground comes to play in this line of work.”

J.B. Por­tillo, running for Ward 3, Po­si­tion 2, said she con­sid­ers her­self an agent of change and would like to help the city move for­ward.

She built her house in Bella Vista in 2005, she said, and re­tired in 2013 after work­ing sev­eral years in the cor­po­rate world. She has a bach­e­lor’s de­gree in busi­ness and eco­nomics, she said.

She vol­un­teers with the Bella Vista Mas­ter Gar­den­ers, she said, and she’s a mas­ter nat­u­ral­ist and vol­un­teers with Bella Vista Com­mu­nity Tele­vi­sion, which she said has put her at city and POA meet­ings over the past three years.

She’s used to work­ing with large bud­gets and stress­ful si­t­u­a­tions, she said.

“I’m used to work­ing with a flak jacket,” Por­tillo said. “I’m hop­ing I don’t need one.”

Keith Bryant/The Weekly Vista

City coun­cil Ward 3, Po­si­tion 2, can­di­date J.B. Por­tillo, left, sits with Ward 3, Po­si­tion 2, can­di­dates Jack Kelly and Steve Bourke; Ward 2, Po­si­tion 2, can­di­dates Larry Wilms, Brent Stine­spring and Chris­tian Hen­ning; Ward 1, Po­si­tion 2, can­di­dates Dy­lan Shad­dox and John Flynn; and may­oral can­di­dates Chris Nar­loch and Peter Christie, while li­brary foun­da­tion chair Su­san San­tos wel­comes the au­di­ence.

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