Monday, November 13, 2006

TOP STORY >>With elections over, officials look ahead

IN SHORT: In Jacksonville it’s the library and useable land, while Sherwood will have a new mayor and looks to ease its traffic woes.

Leader staff writer

Even though the political season was very quiet in Jacksonville—all the aldermen ran unopposed—and Sherwood had just a little bit of action, voting in a new mayor and one new alderman, both cities are gearing up for the future.

For both cities, the election meant the start of staggered four-year terms for aldermen.

Aldermen in Position 1 seats were elected to four-year terms, while those in Position 2 seats will serve two-year terms.
In Jacksonville, Kenny Elliott, Reedie Ray, Gary Fletcher and Avis Twitty hold the Position 1 seats. Marshall Smith, Terry Sansing, Linda Rinker, Bob Stroud and Bill Howard occupy Position 2 seats.

In Sherwood, Position 1 aldermen include Becki Vassar, Butch Davis, Sheila Sulcer and Keith Rankin. Position 2 aldermen include Charlie Harmon, David Henry, Marina Brooks and Steve Fender.

In the 2008 presidential election, only aldermen in the Position 2 seats will be running for election, and those winning will serve four-year terms.

Jacksonville’s Howard, finishing up his 10th year on the council, is looking forward to the next term.

“I’m ready to get started on our new library, and then after that our community college. We need both of those,” he said, and added, “In the long term, we still need to get our own school district. When I graduated from high school here in 1959, the buildings were in great shape, but here it is 2006 and we still have some of those same school buildings being used.”

Howard said the city was in great shape and financially sound, but hoped they would be no lingering bad feelings from a recent townhouse rezoning issue which deeply divided the council.

Sansing, reelected for another two years, said Jacksonville has to reevaluate what it is.

“We are not going to be that industrial center that many think. We are a bedroom community for Little Rock and the Air Force base. The quicker we accept that, the better we’ll be. Sherwood and Cabot are growing because they have embraced what they are. We haven’t.”

In that vein, Sansing says he’d like to see the city release some of the industrial land it is sitting on for residential developments. “We are sitting not only on too much land, but prime land, forcing developers to try to come up with plans for undesirable land. We are too inflexible,” he said.

Once the council is sworn in it will have to deal with a vacant seat. Kevin McCleary was appointed earlier this year to fill the Ward 2, Position 1 seat after the death of longtime Alderman Robert Lewis. He or someone else will have to be reappointed to fill that seat for the next four years.

In Sherwood, Alderman Dan Stedman will be replacing retiring Mayor Bill Harmon in January. Stedman defeated Mike Presson for the job of running the city. Even though Harmon is retiring, there will still be a Harmon in Sherwood city politics as Harmon’s youngest son Charlie defeated Greg Chastine for the open Ward 1, Position 2 seat being vacated by Stedman. In the only other contested Sherwood race, veteran alderman Becki Vassar defeated Robert Walla. In January, Vassar will start her 15th term in office.

“I’m looking forward to serving the people of Sherwood. I believe in teamwork and with teamwork, we’ll bring Sherwood to new heights,” Vassar said.

Stedman said his number one concern is traffic flow, especially on Brockington, Maryland and Highway 107. “We need to widen Brockington and plan to work on our infrastructure in advance of our growth.”

Stedman also wants to bring residents, business owners and others together to strategically plan for the city’s future. Vassar, in her 28th year, said after her win, “I guess this makes me the dinosaur. But I’m as excited about this term as I was my first one. I see a bright future for Sherwood.”