Fayetteville mayoral candidates (from left) Tom Terminella, Mayor Lioneld Jordan, and Ron Baucom / Staff photo
Three candidates for Fayetteville mayor took turns answering questions Tuesday night during a public forum hosted by AAUW Fayetteville and the NWA Alumnae Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta.
About 100 people attended the event, held inside First United Presbyterian Church’s fellowship hall.
The evening began with candidates running for county assessor and county judge before transitioning to the city’s mayoral candidates and City Council hopefuls.
Here are our notes from the mayoral candidate portion of the event:
Local developer Tom Terminella began by telling the audience he is a 46-year resident of Fayetteville with four children and a wife of 25 years. He’s 49 years old and owns a real estate company located on Meadow Street.
Mayor Lioneld Jordan, 62, said his family has lived in Northwest Arkansas for six generations. He’s a 44-year resident of Fayetteville and has been married to his wife for 40 years. Jordan said his nearly 16 years of experience as mayor and alderman are what qualifies him for another term, and said Fayetteville’s recent ranking as the 3rd best place to live in the U.S. is proof that the city is in good shape.
Ron Baucom, 59, said he is a graduate of the University of Arkansas who spent many years working as a manager at Walmart before serving as auditor for a local contractor. He currently cares for his 89-year-old mother and works a part-time job. He said he has conservative values, and would like the city to be more fiscally responsible with taxpayer money.
Fayetteville has experienced unprecedented growth in population and diversity. Considering that, what is your vision for Fayetteville?
Baucom spoke first and said the city should continue to welcome diversity. “We’ve got a great city with a diverse group of folks here – very intelligent folks,” Baucom said. “We need to continue to work on that and use everyone’s knowledge and input from the entire city to help us further that cause. I think we just need to keep on going.”
Mayor Lioneld Jordan / Staff photo
Jordan started by saying if elected, he would continue his streak of responsible fiscal management which has included seven balanced annual budgets in a row. “I know how to manage money,” Jordan said, adding that sales tax revenue is up by over 5 percent this year, and that building permits in Fayetteville are also up to 770 on the year.
Jordan said his vision for Fayetteville is to become the “Startup City of the South” by leveraging the city’s growing startup community which led to last year’s ranking of Fayetteville as being one of the top three places outside of Silicon Valley and New York to start a business.
Terminella said his first vision is to put a stop to special elections and tax increases. “The mayor’s supervision over taxpayers’ dollars bothers me on a daily basis,” said Terminella, adding that he believes there are some municipal infrastructure issues that need to be addressed. He called the police department and the administrative offices for the Parks & Recreation and Transportation divisions “inadequate facilities.”
He said he’s heard from people who’ve said Fayetteville is “so hard to do commerce in that we’re just going to steer clear and go to Bentonville.” Terminella said that bothers him.
With growth there are always growing pains. Please identify one major challenge as a result of growth and how you would address it.
Jordan answered first and said the biggest challenge is adding infrastructure to handle the increased population. He said he’s presided over $81 million worth of infrastructure improvements over the last eight years, and plans to continue with road projects and expansion of the city’s trail and sidewalk systems.
Jordan also took a jab at his opponent, saying it was “interesting” to hear Terminella say business owners are skipping over Fayetteville considering the city is currently receiving an average of one new business license application per day.
Terminella said the city is “suffering from inadequate infrastructure” and promised to make improvements to municipal facilities a priority if elected. He said he’d like to see a new water tower built in west Fayetteville, and told the crowd he’d do a better job of managing taxpayer dollars than the current administration.
Baucom said he’d focus on public safety and work to help low-income families increase their household income.
Discuss your strategy for bringing businesses to Fayetteville. What industries would you target?
Tom Terminella / Staff photo
Baucom said he’d like to see more green technology and industrial-type companies locate to Fayetteville. He said any companies that offer higher living-wage jobs would be welcome.
Baucom also said he’d consider changes to the city’s sign ordinance, which he said can be burdensome on some businesses.
Jordan pointed to the city’s new five-year economic development plan, which, he said, features a two-pronged approach focusing on both entrepreneurs and business retention.
Terminella said the city should work to attract new convention, dining, and retail companies. “Fayetteville has completely lost its hospitality and convention business to Benton County,” he said, adding that he was also frustrated with the Walton Arts Center’s decision to build the AMP in Rogers over Fayetteville.
He said he and his wife travel to Bentonville and Rogers multiple times each week to eat and shop, and that he does all his car shopping in Benton County.
Terminella also criticized the city’s permitting process and said there are developers who don’t feel welcome in Fayetteville when presenting plans. He said he recently spoke with a homebuilder friend who said the approval process in Bentonville is easier than it is in Fayetteville. “I’m concerned with that,” he said.
Ron Baucom / Staff photo
Jordan used his closing remarks to respond to Terminella’s comments, and said he’s surprised to hear that anyone feels unwelcome in Fayetteville. He said he instituted an open-door policy when he was first elected and has worked hard to make sure everyone’s voice is heard, including developers, who he has been meeting with for the last four years to help make changes to the city’s permitting process.
Baucom said he is running a very low-budget, self-funded campaign and is looking for votes anywhere he can get them. I’m running my campaign with my heart,” he said, adding that he was taught the value of hard work and has tried to teach the same thing to his three children and six grandchildren.
Terminella said it’s clear all three candidates care deeply about Fayetteville, but said he wants new leadership and is confident he can provide it.
“I think Lioneld is passionate and truly loves this city, but I think it’s time for a change,” Terminella said.