A Fayetteville planning commissioner and local high school teacher announced Wednesday he’ll join the race for Fayetteville City Council in Ward 4.
William Chesser, 37, said his work in many fields help qualify him to serve as one of two Ward 4 representatives on the council.
Chesser, who teaches biology at Har-Ber High School in Springdale, has worked as a communications director for a federal transportation research agency at the University of Arkansas, as a construction coordinator who helped with the renovation of the old Fayetteville Public Library building, and as a professional land planner.
“Having a background in land planning is pretty good experience for working as a city councilman,” said Chesser. “I also feel that I can use my background in studying culture and community effectively to govern.”
Chesser began his record of public service in 2006 as a member of the Fayetteville Board of Adjustments, where he served until joining the Fayetteville Planning Commission in 2010, a position he still holds.
While he has enjoyed serving as an appointed member of Fayetteville’s government, Chesser said he’s ready to start actively altering policies.
“Planning Commissioners are charged with interpreting the law only,” he said. “While this is a very necessary part of city government, I want to use the experience I have garnered over the years to do more than that.”
He listed a number of ideas to improve both Ward 4 and the city at large including increased communication between the city and the University of Arkansas, better traffic calming solutions and more trail connections in west Fayetteville.
Chesser is the fifth person to formally announce plans to replace departing City Council member Sarah Lewis, entering the race for Ward 4 in the Nov. 6 election. Alan Long, Mike Emery and Terry Coberly have also said they intend to run for the Position 2 seat.
The filing period for City Council and other municipal candidates begins Friday, July 27.
Name: William Chesser
Residency: 7 years in Fayetteville as a child – returned in 1993 – 26 years in total
Employment: Biology teacher at Har-Ber High School in Springdale
Education: University of Arkansas BA philosophy (cum laude, emphasis: ethics) – 1999, BA anthropology, 1999, minor, geology, 1999, MA anthropology, 2005
Political Experience: 3 years Fayetteville Board of Adjustments, 2 years Fayetteville Planning Commission (still in first term)
What made you decide to seek election to the council? Is it something you’ve been considering for a while?
I have been considering public office for some time and have greatly enjoyed serving the city as an appointee. I felt this was the logical next step. I just want to keep Fayetteville great. It has changed a lot in my life here, but has always stayed great. That requires direction by people who really care about the city and know how to plan for it.
Is there anything in particular that drove you to reside in Ward 4?
From his press release: “Chesser has lived in Fayetteville for most of his life (26 of his 37 years). He grew up on campus where his father, Rev. Lewis Chesser, was the Wesley Foundation director from 1965-1982. He returned for college in 1993 and hasn’t left since.”
Are there any recent citywide or Ward 4 council decisions you agree or disagree with?
One thing I see people worry a lot about is traffic and pedestrian safety, especially as the city becomes more walkable. Some solutions we have used for traffic control have, I think, turned out to be sub-optimal. For example, there are better traffic calming solutions than just speed tables. While they can be used effectively in some circumstances or in combination with other solutions, many times other approaches can be better at achieving the same results. Also, when something like a speed table is the only solution, I would like to see the city use a basic rule of thumb: the speed table should not be rated at a speed lower than the speed limit on the street in which it’s built (for example, a 15 mph speed table on a 25 mph street). If 25 mph is the accepted safe speed limit for the street, why would we force traffic to reduce speed by 10 mph every few hundred feet?
There has been a lot of conversation lately about how we approach vendors who don’t have brick and mortar businesses. Mobile vending is a growing part of Fayetteville business. I feel that the code needs to be updated to reflect these changes while not disenfranchising existing businesses and while making those carts work within the framework of City Plan 2030.