Tuesday, January 03, 2012

TOP STORY >> New year seen as turning point for area officials

Leader staff writer

Most community leaders don’t make New Year’s resolutions, but their hopes for 2012 are bright.

State Sen. Eddie Joe Williams (R-Cabot) said he wants to see growth with jobs and a healthy family. He has 10 grandchildren, four daughters and four sons-in-law.

“For people who want to work, I want to work as hard as I can to give them an opportunity to succeed,” he said, adding that that it all starts with a good education.

He hopes to see improvement in the state’s education system over the next few years.

State Rep. Jane English (R-North Little Rock) echoed his sentiments. She said she wants Arkansas to have an excellent education system and she wants to find ways to bring jobs here.

English said she doesn’t make resolutions because “I just try to make the best of every day.”

Jacksonville Mayor Gary Fletcher said, “I hope to get something strong going on the fair. I hope to get more of a commitment from the state to break up PCSSD so we can get our own district. On a personal level, I feel like I’m doing what I need to be doing.”

The state Education Department took control of the fiscally-distressed Pulaski County Special School District in June, dismissing the superintendent and dissolving the board. Many prominent Jacksonville residents considered the takeover to be an ideal opportunity for the city to get neighborhood schools.

Daniel Gray, a third-generation Jacksonville realtor and active member of the Jacksonville World Class Education Organization, said he’s still trying to get through 2011 and hasn’t thought of 2012 yet.

On Dec. 15, Jacksonville gave the state fair board 45 days to accept its revised two-year-old offer of 450 acres at South Hwy. 161 and I-440, plus a 200,000-square-foot events center.

Cabot Mayor Bill Cypert said, “My hope for Cabot is a prosperous and financially healthy 2012.”

Sherwood Mayor Virginia Hillman said she is looking forward to a fresh start.

Art Brooke, Ward’s mayor, said, “My resolution is to provide more quality services for our residents here in Ward.”

Jacksonville Police Chief Gary Sipes wrote in an e-mail, “As the police chief, I hope for the continued decline in our crime and improved safety for our citizens. In code enforcement, I am looking forward to cleaning the city up with the removal of all of the inoperable vehicles, trash, and other debris. We are also about to start a big push to have a lot of dilapidated houses/trailers torn down by the owners or condemned by the council.

“This is to improve the appearance and increase property values of our property.”

Code enforcement transitioned from the engineering department to Jacksonville police in November. The new proactive approach is aimed at cleaning up the city and to rid Jacksonville of eyesores.

Jacksonville transferred two code enforcement officers to police headquarters and will hire three more with funds set aside in its proposed 2012 budget.

A code enforcement officer will remain in the city engineer’s department to perform routine and permit inspections.

Instead of only responding to complaints, code enforcement officers will patrol a district, a section of the city, in the same way that policemen are assigned to a certain area.

Sherwood Police Chief Jim Bedwell said he will, “just try to keep everything peaceful,” and he hopes for a reduced crime rate.

Jacksonville Fire Chief John Vanderhoof wants a “fire-safe year.”

Sherwood Fire Chief David Teague said the coming would be a busy one for his department. There will be several new officers promoted and it will transition from part time to full time.

Larry Wilson, First Arkansas Bank and Trust president, said, “I typically try to look at how we might grow and prosper in the coming year. The last few years have been a challenge, but we’ve done it.”

Arkansas Federal Credit Union CEO Larry Bernacki said he doesn’t think about resolutions.

“This was a very good year. The organization grew and I want that to continue. By all measurements, this was a very successful year,” he said.