Tuesday, October 30, 2012

TOP STORY >> Generational shift in Ward 5, Pos. 2 race

Roger Sundermeier Jr. is challenging longtime Alderman Bill Howard in the race for Jacksonville City Council in Ward 5, Position 2.

Sundermeier, 37, is the marketing director of First Arkansas Bank and Trust. He has lived in Jacksonville all of his life except while away for college.

In 1998, he graduated with a bachelor’s of fine arts from Delta State University in Cleveland, Miss.

He and his wife, Randi, have two daughters, Emily, 12, and Alyson, 7. His parents are Roger and Jerry Sundermeier, and his grandmother is Joy Price.

The 71-year-old Howard was born in Lonoke but has lived in Jacksonville for 68 years. He graduated from Jacksonville High School in 1959 and attended Little Rock University before going to work at the Jacksonville Post Office, where he retired after 35 years.

He and his wife, Paulette, have been married 47 years. They have two children — son Craig and daughter Monica — and one grandson, Canon.

Why do you want to be an alderman?

Howard: I have always been interested in serving my community. I have been very active on the city council and have served in areas such as planning commission and board of adjustments.

I feel my experience will be very helpful with the new council people being elected. Being retired, I have plenty of time to devote to my duties.

Sundermeier: I love this community. I have loved it all of my life. I want to be a part of our future. I do not want to be someone who simply looks at issues or problems concerning our city and looks the other way and says, “That doesn’t apply to me or my family.” Everything in this community affects everyone, whether directly or indirectly. We have taken some positive steps, but I know that we can do more, and I know that I can bring ideas and solutions to the city council that will allow us to grow, not just from an economic viewpoint, but from an emotional and spiritual viewpoint as well.

We need to reinvigorate our community. We need to restore pride throughout our community, from border to border. I think that once we reinvigorate our community, and couple that with economic growth and our own school district, the sky is absolutely the limit for Jacksonville!

What educational and professional experiences qualify you to be an alderman?

Howard: I have had a lot of people that I could look to for advice. I have completed certification through the Arkansas Municipal League that enabled me to be familiar with all areas of city government. My many years of dealing with the public have been very beneficial to me.

Sundermeier: All of my life, I have been a dreamer. I dream big. I believe in the philosophy that, “you never know unless you try or ask. The worst someone can say is ‘no,’ but at least I can rest easy knowing that I tried.”

I work in Marketing, Advertising and Public Relations by trade, and that has, no doubt, prepared me for the job that I hope to be elected to. I have successfully negotiated partnerships with Sonic, PETCO, Build-A-Bear Workshop and the Disney Corp.

I know how to work with people. It’s all about relationships. And, to me, that’s what serving as a member of the City Council will be about: relationships. It’s about listening to people and taking their concerns to heart and making them my concerns.

It’s not about Roger Sundermeier Jr., it’s about the people who elect me to represent them.

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

Howard: Having our own school district will enable us to attract the younger families we need. I believe we are on the verge of much needed economic growth.

The partnership the city went into with Little Rock Air Force Base,that located the college outside the base gate, is making this a much more accessible area of learning. We need educated workers that will cause companies to look more favorable on locating in Jacksonville.

Sundermeier: No. 1 is that we are a virtually land-locked community. There are few areas for us to expand our borders for both residential and commercial development.

That was a benefit that some of our neighboring communities had in their expansions. So we have to be strategic in our approach. We need more quality homes. People relocating to our area want newer, attractive, quality homes in clean, safe neighborhoods.

We need our own school district. There is not a lot that we as a city can do until we are released from the PCSSD, but we need to continue the positive momentum that has been generated. I have personally been working with various people and groups to help facilitate this new district.

Finally, we need more amenities for our quality of life. We have a fantastic Parks and Recreation Department, and that includes things like Splash Zone. But that is a seasonal attraction. We need more “year-round” amenities for residents. I am a huge proponent for our own movie theater.

I have heard that it can’t happen. Why? Cabot has one, Sherwood and the McCain Mall area have several, but why must we leave our town for entertainment?

I’d love to have a bowling alley, or a Playtime Pizza type place with go-carts and miniature golf. We need to expand the offerings for the seniors in our community to build on the offerings currently available through our Senior Activities and Wellness Center.

We need to attract more stores and restaurants for families to choose from. I remember growing up, that I never had to leave Jacksonville for anything. We had multiple clothing stores, shoe stores, a movie theater, restaurants, and a miniature golf course.

We had all of that along with local parks to enjoy. That’s the Jacksonville I remember, and that’s the Jacksonville that I want to work to give our residents and their future generations.

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

Howard: We must always strive to do everything possible to show that Little Rock Air Force Base is of utmost importance to our community.

I am president of Keep Jacksonville Beautiful, officer in Reed’s Bridge, and active in First Baptist Church. We are losing at least 50 years experience from the council. We need the help of all to make the next 4 years very memorable for Jacksonville!

Sundermeier: Again, this isn’t about me. It’s about representing the people of Jacksonville to the absolute best of my abilities. I serve in multiple groups: President of the Jacksonville Lions Club, member of the Little Rock Air Force Base Community Council, member of the Air Force Association, on the Board of Directors of the Chamber of Commerce and Keep Jacksonville Beautiful among other things.

I have had the privilege of serving on the board of directors of Lighthouse Charter Schools. I have also served the community by offering my creative services to the Jacksonville Military Museum for their Welcome Home Vietnam Veterans Parade and “Rock & Role,” the branding campaign for the Little Rock Air Force Base and the Community Council. And none of this is ever done to say, “Look at me.” It’s all done to serve, to help and give myself to this community. I want to be a part of the future of Jacksonville, and that future starts by electing me to the City Council on November 6th (or before, if you participate in early voting)!