Friday, October 15, 2010

TOP STORY > >Aldermen race could lead to big changes for council

Story by Rick Kron • Leader staff writer

After the voting is through Nov. 2, Jacksonville could see a mother and daughter-in-law team on the city council and up to four new faces.

All incumbents have garnered opposition this year except Alderman Kevin McCleary, from Ward 2, and technically this will be the first time he’s elected to the council. McCleary was appointed to the council about three years ago to fill the unexpired term of Robert Lewis after he died shortly after the 2006 election.

In Ward 1, it’s a former mayoral candidate and incumbent against a neighbor. In Ward 3, it’s longtime Alderman Reedie Ray against attorney David Horn.

In Ward 4, the seat is open as Alderman John Feland, who was appointed to fill the seat after Gary Fletcher became mayor, opted not to seek election to the seat. Mary Twitty, the daughter of Alderman Avis Twitty, and former planning commissioner Mike Traylor are battling for the seat.

In Ward 5, incumbent Avis Twitty wants to keep her seat another round but has opposition from relative newcomer Aaron Robinson.

Ward 1, Pos. 1

In this race, it’s neighbor versus neighbor. Incumbent and former mayoral candidate Kenny Elliott takes on planning commissioner Glen Keaton.

Elliott, 57, is a native of Jack-sonville and has been an alderman since 1996. His wife, Beverly, is a business analyst and they have one daughter, twin sons and four grandchildren.

Elliott has worked for the Pulaski County Special School District for more than 28 years.

Keaton has been married to Michelle Lacer for almost 13 years and they have two children. Keaton has been a Jacksonville resident for about 32 years. He works as a project manager for the General Services Administration.

Why do you want to be an alderman?

Elliott: I am running for re-election as alderman because I love Jacksonville and want to see the projects we have started get completed and look at several new projects. We have made progress, but there is still much left to do. I will continue to work hard to make our city a great place to live.

Keaton: I want to be an alderman so I can step up to the leadership role of our great community and continue my involvement with the city in helping shape Jacksonville’s future. I have enjoyed my three terms on the planning commission and would like to expand my participation with the city and its everyday business. I want Jacksonville to be a place others want to call home.

What experiences qualify you to be an alderman?

Elliott: My experience as alderman for 14 years, chairman of Jacksonville Planning Commission, chairman of Pulaski County Planning Board, city council, Arkansas Municipal League Executive Committee, National League of Cities Information, Technology and Communication Committee and experience work ing with Little Rock Air Force Base, state Legislature and Con-gressional leaders in Washington make me the most qualified candidate.

My leadership and dedication to the community has been recognized by serving as Jaycees president, Boys Club president, vice mayor, Arkansas Municipal League vice president and being selected as Jaycees International senator, Boys and Girls Club Hall of Fame and an LRAFB honorary commander.

Keaton: I am a resident and homeowner in our community, which serves as my foundation for my experience.

My personal involvement in projects and activities in Jacksonville has helped prepare me for leadership. The many years of service on the planning commission and board of adjustment has provided me the opportunity to be involved at various levels in our community.

I also sit on the First United Methodist Church board of trustee, which aids the church in how it should grow and make the best use of the money and area possible.

What are the most pressing issues facing Jacksonville and how will you work to solve such problems?

Elliott: Education, annex-ation, economic development and aging housing.

I believe our future depends on the quality of the educational system in Jacksonville. I am committed to doing everything I can to improve the schools in Jacksonville. I will support the Jacksonville Education Foundation in working to have a Jacksonville school district with good schools and a safe environment to educate our children. I will work with Little Rock Air Force Base on completing the LRAFB Education Center which will provide excellent opportunities for our citizens.

I am working with the Citizens Concerns Committee to address some of the concerns of citizens in the area Jacksonville is trying to annex. I feel that we need to look at rural acreage and protect the rights of landowners as much as possible to not affect their way of life.

We must work on economic development to sustain our existing businesses, attract new businesses, restaurants, and jobs as well as to fill the vacant buildings in Jacksonville. I feel the city and chamber of commerce need to work together to support our businesses and maintain a business-friendly environment.

We need to develop a plan to improve housing and address aging housing such as Sunnyside Addition. We need to encourage owner occupied instead of rental units. We need to put a high priority on adequate and affordable housing for all our citizens.

Keaton: Infrastructure: Roads, water, sanitary and storm sewers are the basic elements that keep a community running. We must continue to maintain for today, plan for tomorrow and build for the future growth of our city. We must prepare for tomorrow, today.

Schools: Jacksonville needs to be at the front of every school board meeting to let the school board members know we want our own. Keeping the need for a quality education for all of the children of Jacksonville must be a priority. We must be ready when the day comes to have our own district.

Growth: Jacksonville is in close vicinity to Little Rock and should attract commercial, industrial and residential growth.

What are Jacksonville’s strengths?

Elliott: We are located in the center of the state and home of LRAFB. We are fiscally responsible and not in financial trouble like many cities.

We have good facilities such as city hall, community center, Splash Zone, good parks, library, recycling park, police and fire training facility, as well as good employees and good services such as garbage, trash and recycling.

We have an active elderly activities center with excellent programs.

Keaton: Jacksonville is a diverse, friendly, cozy community that those who live here easily call home. We are centrally located. We are a city that can come together and take care of our own and provide for our residents. An example is the beautiful Jacksonville city library, the Splash Zone, and the LRAFB Joint Adult Education Center that were constructed with a one-cent tax.

Jacksonville has lots to offer for its visitors and residents with the community center, Reed’s Bridge, military museum, senior and community center, and a number of city parks.

What would you like to see done to make Jacksonville more appealing to potential residents and businesses?

Elliott: We must have a clean and safe city with good schools to educate our children and grandchildren. Our citizens must feel safe and secure whether they are at home, school, parks or on the streets of Jacksonville. The police and fire departments must have the resources needed to reduce crime and provide us a safe city. I am committed to doing everything I can to improve the schools in Jacksonville.

I would like to upgrade signage and landscaping at the north and south entrances to Jacksonville and work with the State Highway Department to install lighting along Hwy. 67/167 through Jacksonville, including the Vandenberg and Redmond Road exits.

I would like to see more neighborhood parks in the north, south and west parts of Jacksonville.

Keaton: I would like to see the downtown area of Jacksonville revitalized. Together we must all work to keep each other safe and continue to clean up our community.

How will you work with LRAFB? What relationship do you now have with the base?

Elliott: LRAFB has a 700 million dollar impact on central Arkansas economy and I will continue to work to maintain a good relationship with the base and work with our congressional leaders to secure the future of Little Rock Air Force Base. I am very involved in LRAFB activities as an honorary commander and member of LRAFB Community Council. I have great respect for and a good relationship with our military.

Keaton: Jacksonville and LRAFB have a great working relationship. I would help see that this continues to ensure its future growth.

What one thing do you want voters to know about you and think about when they are marking their ballots?

Elliott: I am running for re-election as alderman because I love Jacksonville and I feel that I have the experience, leadership and dedication to continue to serve Jacksonville. I will commit all my resources to provide a high quality of life for our citizens, military and businesses.

Keaton: I believe Jacksonville is a strong community, built by people working together. We must continue this sense of pride and commitment for Jacksonville to survive. Children are the future of any community and Jacksonville needs to find ways of attracting young families and retaining those already here.

I would like to hear from residents what they would like to see in our town. I want to be the voice of the people and make the best decisions for the city of Jacksonville.

WARD 3, POS. 1

Reedie Ray, 70, has been married for 50 years and has three children. He is a power-plant operator at Remington Arms in Lonoke.

David Horn, 54, his opponent, is an attorney and Air Force veteran. He and his wife, Soncha, have been married 32 years and have three children.

Why do you want to be an alderman?

Ray: I want to continue to serve the residents of Jacksonville.

Horn: I want to be an alderman so I can contribute my time and energy into making Jacksonville a better place to live, and to be more directly involved in local government.

What experiences qualify you to be an alderman?

Ray: I’ve served Jacksonville in a variety of positions, including alderman, for the past 30 years.

Horn: I am retired military. I have served in leadership positions since I was 21 years old, with increasing levels of responsibility ranging from supervising a few people to supervising an entire company. In civilian life I have often been called upon to serve in leadership positions.

Before I was a lawyer, I was a teacher; I taught the entire curriculum for grades seven through 12 to juvenile boys who were assigned to a residential facility for juvenile offenders. I organized the education program and coordinated with other agencies to create an effective education program.

I also started a GED program for those who were eligible and helped numerous boys obtain their GED before they completed the program.

As a lawyer, I have the legal experience and knowledge of the law that I believe will be an asset to the city as we deal with complex legal issues impacting the city.

What are Jacksonville’s strengths?

Ray: Our residents are our most important strength.

Horn: I think that Jacksonville is a great community in which to raise a family. We have nice neighborhoods and people around us all the time. We are ideally located convenient to larger cities but still have that small town atmosphere that many people like.

What are the most pressing issues facing Jacksonville and how will you work to solve such problems?

Ray: The most pressing issues are education, jobs, housing and the budget.

Horn: The most recent issue is the annexation, which is coming up at this election. I understand this is a hot issue for those directly involved. I have heard arguments for and against annexation. As I have been campaigning I have spoken with people who live in other areas of the city and most understand that there can be benefits to the city through the annexation, but at the same time they also understand that those people who live in that area moved there for a reason and may not be happy by the annexation.

If the annexation passes, I would strive to ensure that those residents were well represented by the council and were given equal consideration when deciding issues that affect the city and residents.

We also have the issue of whether Jacksonville can have its own school district. I have not seen the pros and cons of that issue, but I’m sure there are advantages of having some autonomy, but with that autonomy comes the responsibility of taking care of your own without the outside assistance of a larger district.

I think that all the possibilities should be carefully considered and the citizens need to be well informed.

What would you like to see done to make Jacksonville more appealing to potential residents and businesses?

Ray: Better schools, downtown development, and improving housing and streets in low income areas.

Horn: I would like to see more entertainment options for families living in Jacksonville, such as a theater or a bowling alley so families could enjoy those activities without having to go to Little Rock.

I think we have adequate opportunities for people to set up small businesses that cater to the residents. We have numerous new subdivisions and commercial buildings that need to be aggressively marketed to attract residents and new business owners.

How will you work with the LRAFB? What relationship do you now have with the base?

Ray: I’ve worked and will continue to work with elected congressional officials and others to continue the strong community relationship we have with LRAFB.

Horn: I use the air base on a regular basis since I am retired military. I have represented members of the military in various aspects of the law to help them resolve their legal issues.

I would be willing to serve on a joint committee to foster a positive relationship between the base and the community.

What one thing do you want voters to know about you and think about when they are marking their ballots?

Ray: In the past, as well as the present, I’ve been a good steward of the budget, policymaking and planning. These are the key elements that bring a community together as a whole.

Horn: What I would like voters to know about me and to think about when they are casting their vote is that I will be there to represent them. I will consider the interest of my constituents and the community before my own, and I will be available to them to address their concerns.

WARD 4, POS. 1

No matter who wins this seat, it’ll be a new face on the board.

Mary Twitty, 51, is taking on Mike Traylor, 47.

Traylor is married to Mendy Traylor and they have two children. Traylor has lived in Jacksonville his entire life. He has been employed by Lomanco, Inc. for the past 24 years, and is currently plant manager.

Twitty has been married 30 years to Jeff Twitty and they have two sons. Twitty has lived in Jacksonville for 25 years. She and her husband work at Farmers Insurance.

Why do you want to be an alderman?

Twitty: I have always been involved in the community, and I want to step up my commitment to serve the people of Jacksonville.

Traylor: As a lifetime resident of the city of Jacksonville, I would like to become more involved in the growth process for Jacksonville. Through the years, I have been involved with various youth sport programs in the city as well as having served on the Jacksonville Planning Commission and the Board of Adjustments.

I am currently serving on the Parks and Recreation Commission, and while I have enjoyed serving the city in appointed positions, I feel that as an alderman I can bring a level-headed approach to help lead our city into the future.

What experiences qualify you to be alderman?

Twitty: I was the director of the Wing Ding Festival in 2002. I was named Sertoman of the Year in 2005. I received the Jacksonville Service Award in 2005, 2006 and 2007.

I’m a life member of the Junior Auxiliary.

I have been a parks and recreation commissioner since 2006.

My experiences in different areas are a definite plus.

Traylor: My educational background in accounting is a plus for understanding the financial aspects of continuing to see that Jacksonville remains a financially sound city. Along with this, my experiences on the planning commission and the board of adjustments have helped me understand the expectations that all Jacksonville citizens expect from their city officials.

I feel the knowledge I have gained from my work experience in manufacturing would be a plus in helping the city recruit new industry to Jacksonville.

What are the most pressing issues facing Jacksonville and how will you work to solve such problems?

Twitty: Jacksonville having its own school district. I will work with the Educational Foundation, along with our mayor, council members, and our community to tell the PCSSD that having our own school district is best for Jacksonville.

Traylor: One of the most pressing issues facing Jacksonville is the desire to separate from Pulaski County Special School District. I feel that this is very important for Jacksonville to resurrect itself into a growing city. It appears there are several different groups trying to achieve this goal, and as a city alderman, I would like to get these groups together and set agendas aside so we can all work as one to achieve what is best for the children of Jacksonville.

Another issue is the job market in Jacksonville. We must continue our efforts to bring new industry to Jacksonville by working through our local chamber of commerce as well as the Arkansas Economic Development Commission.

What are Jacksonville’s strengths?

Twitty: The diversity of the Little Rock Air Force Base with the city of Jacksonville, our parks and recreation department, also we have strong police and fire departments. We also have a large base of volunteers.

Traylor: Jacksonville has many strengths to build our future. The city is in excellent financial shape compared to some of our neighboring cities. The relationship that our community has with LRAFB is very good.

Most importantly, one of our biggest strengths is the concerned citizens of Jacksonville who want to see our city grow and prosper.

What would you like to see done to make Jacksonville more appealing to potential residents and businesses?

Twitty: Having our own school district, more upscale restaurants, expanding our youth center and revitalize our down- town area.

Traylor: Other than the obvious, which is separating from PCSSD, I feel we need to promote our current park system. Show families that we have neighborhood parks throughout the city for their children to enjoy outside activities.

How will you work with LRAFB? What relationship do you now have with the base?

Twitty: I am planning on being very involved in the LRAFB Community Council, so that I will be better available to serve the base and its needs, and I am very aware of what the base means to Jacksonville and to the state of Arkansas.

Traylor: Being a life-long resident of the city of Jacksonville, I fully realize the importance that the LRAFB plays in the success of Jacksonville. I feel the current administration as well as administrations in the past have done a good job in working with the LRAFB. It would be my duty as an alderman of the city to make sure that this good relationship stays in place.

What one thing do you want voters to know about you and think about when they are making their ballots?

Twitty: I am very committed to the city of Jacksonville and its residents to help make our city the best place to live and raise a family.

Traylor: I would like for the citizens in Jacksonville to know that I would have the best interests of all of Jacksonville in mind as I help lead our city into the future. I would like for the voters in Jacksonville to review my history and trust that I will be an excellent choice to represent them as an alderman in Jacksonville.

WARD 5, POS. 1

Incumbent Avis Twitty takes on a newcomer in an effort to keep her seat. “Both my daughter-in-law and I could end up on the council, just one of us or neither of us,” she said.

Twitty, 71, has two sons and has lived in Jacksonville since 1971, when her husband was stationed at the base. Twitty works as a secretary for Biff’s Coffee.

Aaron Robinson, 37 is married and has two children. He has lived in Jacksonville for more than eight years. Robinson is civil engineer/project manager for Bond Consulting Engineers and works closely with the planning commission on many projects.

Why do you want to be an alderman?

Twitty: I’m excited about the city and the direction it’s going and I believe there’s great opportunities that will come about in the future because of seeds I have helped sow while on the council. I would like to see them through. I believe the next couple of years, the city will reap the benefits of all the work we as a city have done. I consider it a privilege and a joy to have served on the city council.

Robinson: I have always en-joyed community service and want to assist in the development of a 21st century vision for the City of Jacksonville. I have volunteered my time to coach soccer and work with organizations within the community. I hope to bring new ideas to the council, such as the creation of a scenic park which includes a pond, natural and paved trails for walkers, educators, runners, and bikers that connect to intercity sidewalks.

What experiences qualify you to be alderman?

Twitty: I am currently serving as an alderman in Ward 5, Position 1.

Robinson: I served on the Jacksonville Rotary board as secretary, vice president, president, and on other committees in Rotary. I served as secretary-treasurer, vice president, president (two terms), and various other committees for American Society of Civil Engineers, Arkansas section.

I’m currently serving as a Region 4 governor for the American Society of Civil Engineers.

What are the most pressing issues facing Jacksonville and how will you work to solve such problems?

Twitty: Schools and economic development.

I support the ground work for the Jacksonville Education Foundation, and doing preliminary work to better prepare us for the break away from Pulaski County Special School District; update and upgrade our infrastructure, and also upgrade commercial and residential facilities.

Robinson: Traffic, revitalizing Main Street, and schools. We need to develop more accessible routes for smoother traffic flow along with the creation of additional commercial businesses along these corridors. Main street buildings need to be modernized to improve their aesthetics and curb appeal.

We need new schools and our own school district. I hope to assist the mayor and council in developing a master street plan along with the Highway Department and Metroplan’s input. New ordinances need to be adopted to help revitalize the Main Street area. I will keep fighting along with everyone else who wishes for Jacksonville to have its own school district and the absolute best education for our children.

What are Jacksonville’s strengths?

Twitty: I think our greatest strengths lie within our people. The leadership of our community with a vision for progress and growth, and also the contribution that Little Rock Air Force Base brings to our community as well as central Arkansas.

Robinson: Little Rock Air Force Base, the location of the city and the community leaders and citizens of Jacksonville.

What would you like to see done to make Jacksonville more appealing to potential residents and businesses?

Twitty: I support the hiring of the economic developer who works with the corporations and making them more aware of the economic opportunity that awaits them by locating their business to Jacksonville.

Robinson: Additional lands need to be developed to provide more opportunities for residents and businesses. New residential subdivisions with creative views need to be planned. Old unoccupied buildings need to be demolished and inventive zoning planned for commercial space. This would open up space that is currently unattainable to potential businesses.

How will you work with LRAFB? What relationship do you now have with the base?

Twitty: I have served on the Little Rock AFB Community Council for several years. I spent more than 20 years with my husband in the Air Force, and I also worked as a secretary on the base for many years.

Robinson: I am a member of the LRAFB Community Council. I work on the LRAFB on several civil engineering projects including the family housing. I will continue to be a member of the community council and work to keep the relationship between the LRAFB and the city a high priority.

What one thing do you want voters to know about you and think about when they are making their ballots?

Twitty: While being on the city council, I have worked in harmony with the other council members sharing the same goals and dreams with expectations of great results. My agenda has always been what is best for Jacksonville, not for personal reasons and gain.

Robinson: I am a family man and dad who is a tireless worker and enthusiastic and passionate about everything I do.