The Times (Northeast Benton County)

Council names Neil to Ward 2, seat 2

Bowen is interim fire chief


Beginning the year with a special City Council meeting and an executive session, Pea Ridge City Council members agreed to appoint Jeff Neil to the vacant City Council seat — Ward 2, position 2.

This past year, city officials agreed to split the city into three wards and add two council seats. No one filed for election to one of the seats.

Neil was one of several people who applied for the seat and was interviewe­d in December by the council. The other applicants were Wendie Kelly, who did not attend the interview; Ed Bertola Jr.; Jennifer Kiefer; Watson Neal; and Dustin Serio, who was discovered to not be eligible because he did not live in the ward.

Neil was sworn into office by Mayor Nathan See and immediatel­y took his seat on the council.

A resolution (494) and an ordinance (780) were on the agenda for the special meeting.

The resolution authorized the city to contract for fire consulting services. As a result of the contract, city officials announced that Clint Bowen was hired as a part-time interim fire chief.

Bowen, who said he began his fire service career in the mid1990s at Pea Ridge, said he has a “very deep love for that service.”

He said the contributi­on of volunteers is essential. A battalion chief for the Rogers Fire Department, Bowen said he has three years before retirement with 28 years and wants to “step up and do my part” for the Pea Ridge Fire Department.

“I don’t know that the Pea Ridge Fire Department is appreciate­d to the extent that I see other fire department­s appreciate­d. I don’t think it’s the guys or they wouldn’t be here. It is a community service jog. There’s a disconnect there,” Bowen said. “We are going to work hard to improve our image on the public side.”

Bowen said that nationally, volunteer department­s are very hard

to keep afloat but that “the place that stomps the national census is this area right here — the Bible belt, where people are willing to help other people.”

“Volunteers are essential… There is absolutely no way around not having volunteers,” Bowen said. He said his connection­s with Rogers and other department­s will help in training for Pea Ridge.

“My first commitment is to the people and the second commitment is to the firefighte­rs, their families and to taking good care of them and making sure they’re being as safe as possible and making sure they have what they need,” Bowen said. “As we improve our public image that’s what gets people to want to join your organizati­on.”

“We appreciate you. You are valued,” Mayor See said to the firefighte­rs and medics in the room.

The ordinance authorizes the continuanc­e of the city clerk (an elected position) to continue to serve as a city employee for no more than $7,000 per year. It nullifies Ordinance No. 623.

Sandy Button, who is the elected City Clerk, is also a city employee working as office manager and court clerk.

The ordinance states: “restrictin­g employment of employees to exclude elected officials would handicap the city’s efforts to employ qualified personnel in select positions.” Button has been employed as chief court clerk since 1977 and been office manager for more than 20 years, according to the ordinance.

The ordinance was approved with the emergency clause by a unanimous vote.

Council member Merrill White made a motion to rescind the hiring freeze he requested at the December council meeting. That motion was approved unanimousl­y.

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