Friday, October 19, 2012

TOP STORY >> Q&A: Sherwood candidates in their own words

Leader staff writer

Only one council seat in Sherwood is being contested this election and that’s the Ward 4, Position 2 seat held by Alderman Steve Fender.

Fender, a longtime alderman, decided not to run this time partly because new ward lines put most of his ward in Gravel Ridge, and he felt he just didn’t have enough knowledge of the area to properly represent those residents.

So vying for the seat are Mike Sanders and Bob Ferguson.

Sanders, 44, was born in southwest Little Rock and moved to the Runyan Acres area when he was 8. He’s lived in the Gravel Ridge area for more than two decades. He is a graduate of North Pulaski High School, married and has three sons and a grandson. For the last 14 years, he’s been an IT specialist with Regions Bank.

Bob Ferguson, 59, is a CPA and he and his wife have lived in Sherwood for 30 years. They have two adult children. Born in Ottawa, Kan., Ferguson moved to North Little Rock with his family when he was 13 and graduated from North Little Rock High School. In 1982 he started his own CPA firm, Ferguson, Cobb and Associates.

Here are the questions that The Leader asked the two candidates and their answers.

Why do you want to be an alderman?

Ferguson: I have lived in Sherwood for 30 years and I want to make a difference for the residents of our city. When Dr. Fender announced he would not seek re-election, I knew that my 35-year professional background and business experience would be a big plus in helping with city budgeting and strategic planning for our future as a city. The most pressing problem for the city is budgeting and finding the money to meet the needs of our city. My approach to decision making for our community will reflect my business and professional experience.

Sanders: Because I believe I can make a difference. I can listen, and I can lead. I have always had a heart for people and the community of Sherwood, and if elected I promise to make the best decisions for the people of Sherwood.

What experiences qualifies you to be an alderman?

Ferguson: For 35 years I have worked as a certified public accountant in public accounting. I have the financial, accounting and investment background that can benefit the Sherwood City Council.

For 23 years, I have served on the board of directors for Pathfinder, Inc. Pathfinder is the largest nonprofit provider of services to the developmentally disabled in the state of Arkansas. This is a complex organization where I serve on the Audit, Finance and Executive Committee and have served as vice chairman for the board of directors for 15 years. We use strong budgeting techniques and program activity-based accounting to measure and monitor services and financial progress in each
activity. We have a strong emphasis on good stewardship over all dollars received, accountability and full disclosure.

I served on the board of directors for the Arkansas Development Finance Authority (ADFA). ADFA is a multi-billion dollar state agency for which I served as chairman for two consecutive terms. I learned a lot about municipal issues and municipal finance while serving the state of Arkansas at ADFA.

Sanders: I have served twice as president of the Sylvan Hills Sherwood Optimist Club, Sherwood’s largest youth program, and as six-time director of the 3Cheerleaders Memorial Scholarship Tournament. I have worked on all aspects of running a nonprofit organization of that size. Being involved with the Optimist club program for 20 years, I have enjoyed working with the youth and their families and feel it’s a natural transition for me to help the citizens of the city.

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

Ferguson: The most pressing issue facing the city of Sherwood is budget related. City finances have been strained by the economic downturn and slow recovery. We have flooding and drainage issues in our city that need to be addressed. I would like to find solutions to the flooding problems in Gravel Ridge, and address other concerns of the residents there.

In 2008, Gravel Ridge voted to join Sherwood. Let’s demonstrate to the residents and businesses in Gravel Ridge that we are one community. Finding solutions and resources to meet needs is a challenge. I have 35 years of experience helping businesses meet the same pressing issues.

We must continue to upgrade our community to improve the quality of our lives, help Sherwood and our local businesses prosper and increase our property values. We must develop and build beneficial relationships with our legislators, state agencies and other policy makers to have access to grants and other available funds. I will always work hard on the city budget and stay focused on defining city priorities.

Sanders: As I’m knocking on doors and talking with people, it seems some of the most pressing issues are streets and drainage. I would work with my peers on the city council and with other city officials and employees to help identify and update the areas of most pressing need, especially in light of recent and upcoming annexation efforts. Hopefully then we could prioritize the city’s efforts over time as money becomes available and address these problems citywide.

What are Sherwood’s strengths?

Ferguson: The people of Sherwood are its greatest strength. Sherwood has great police and fire protection, parks, senior citizen center and recreation centers.

Sanders: I believe that Sherwood’s strengths are our fire protection and our police.

When families are looking for a place to buy a home, they look to see if it will be a safe place to live. Sherwood is a safe place to live and I would work to keep it that way. Another of Sherwood’s big strengths is its parks and recreation department. Families also look to see if they and their children will have places to play and activities to participate in. With our many city parks, the Sherwood Sports Complex, the Bill Harmon Recreation Center, the Duran Youth Center, the Greens at North Hills and our neighborhood pools, Sherwood is one of the best cities in Arkansas when it comes to parks and recreation.

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

Ferguson: Establish a permanent funding solution for a road overlay program for the city to keep our streets the best in central Arkansas. Promote our city to state agencies that are involved in economic development for the state. Continue to support and promote the Sherwood Chamber of Commerce and their economic development efforts. Actively support Little Rock Air Force Base. Resolve our flooding and drainage issues. Continue to upgrade our community.

Future development should address quality- of-life issues within our community such as green spaces, parks, bike and walking trails and to meet the expectations of younger families.

Sanders: I would like to see more emphasis on infrastructure improvements in the north part of the city. I would like to see parks developed in the Stone Hill and Gravel Ridge area. I would like to see road and drainage improvements in these areas as well. I think everyone agrees the natural growth area for Sherwood is north, so anything we can do to develop and improve our infrastructure in these areas of the city, I believe will make it more appealing for the future.

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

Ferguson: I am a trustworthy professional with a long history of integrity and honor. I will reach out to the people in Ward 4, listen to their concerns and needs and help solve the problems they are having within our community. If I am elected alderman, I will work hard every day to earn their vote.

Sanders: I would want them to know that I will work very hard to improve the quality of life for all the citizens of Sherwood and to help correct problems that affect peoples’ lives and that together we can continue the progress that has led Sherwood to be considered nationally as one of the best hometowns in America.