Mike Wiederkehr / Courtesy photo
A Fayetteville Planning Commissioner hopes to put his 32 years of municipal government experience to use on the City Council.
Mike Wiederkehr, 65, on Tuesday announced his candidacy for the Ward 2, Position 2 seat which was recently vacated by Matthew Petty.
The council could’ve appointed a replacement for Petty, but instead chose to call a February special election to replace Petty, whose term wasn’t set to expire until the end of 2024.
Wiederkehr said he thinks the council made the right decision.
“There are understandable expenses associated with a special election, but Ward 2 voters deserve a voice in selecting Mr. Petty’s successor given that three full years remain in his term and I’m proud of our council’s unanimous decision to hold this special election,” he said. “As the second-largest city in the state, it is important that we set a positive, inclusive example of listening to the will of the voters in choosing their representatives.”
Wiederkehr has held city government positions in human resources, economic development, building and safety, and public works. He began that career in Fort Worth, Texas before spending 30 years in Glendale, California.
Wiederkehr said Petty, who spent 13 years on the advocating for environmental protection, public transit and affordable housing, has left the council with some “big shoes” to fill, but he believes his three decades of municipal work experience can help him bypass the learning curve typically associated with a new council member.
He said he fully supports Mayor Lioneld Jordan’s stated core principles of equality, diversity, and inclusion through every action taken by the city government, with the goal of enhancing the safety, vitality, and prosperity of the city.
Wiederkehr plans to formally launch his campaign at 11 a.m. Saturday, Nov. 13 at Tim’s Pizza on the downtown square.
Ward 2, which is typically associated with the downtown and Dickson Street areas, includes portions of the University of Arkansas campus and stretches west past Garland Avenue to Asbell Elementary School, and north to the Washington County Fairgrounds. The ward also includes the businesses along College Avenue in midtown, and many historic districts including Wilson Park.
Filing for the election will begin Nov. 12 and last through 12 p.m. on Nov. 29. The special election is scheduled for Feb. 8.
Profile: Mike Wiederkehr
Position sought: Ward 2, Position 2
Residency: 4.5 years, moved back to Fayetteville in 2017. It’s my wife’s 5th time to live in Fayetteville. I was Fort Smith born and raised.
Employment: Retired after 32 years in municipal government – Fort Worth, TX and Glendale, CA. Served in multiple departments: HR, economic development, building & safety, and public works administration.
Education: Bachelor of Arts double major in Psychology & Religious Studies from Loyola University, New Orleans. Master of Arts degree in Organizational Leadership from Woodbury University, Burbank, CA.
Political Experience: First time to run for elected office, but worked with and reported to City Managers and Council members over the course of my 32 year municipal government career.
Questions for Mike
What made you decide to seek election to the council? Is it something you’ve been considering for a while?
I’ve always believed that local municipal government is where the rubber meets the road regarding the services and facilities most of us rely upon every day. And I appreciated the competence of both our Ward 2 council people and was happy to serve our community as a volunteer committee and board member. But with 25% of Mr. Petty’s term already behind us I don’t believe we can afford the typical one-year learning curve a new councilperson experiences. I concluded that now is a wonderful and appropriate opportunity to put my experience to good use for this community I love.
Is there anything in particular that drove you to reside in Ward 2? How would you describe that part of town?
My wife and I spent two full years researching the pros and cons of some of the best places to live in our country. If it was on a top 10 list we looked at the city’s weather, cost-of-living, art and cultural amenities, city management, natural resources & beauty, infrastructure, crime rate, walkability, and overall health & happiness of the residents, and Fayetteville rose to the top of our list. We wanted to be close enough to downtown and the campus to be able to walk to events and purchased our first house sight unseen based upon its location, which happened to be in Ward 2. A year-and-a-half later we moved seven whole blocks to our home in Fayetteville’s historic Washington-Willow district. We love the walkability of the neighborhood, the architecture, and the amazing mature trees. We didn’t so much buy a house as we did a community.
Which recent council decision(s) do you agree or disagree with?
Public health and safety are core responsibilities of any city council, and our leaders demonstrated exemplary wisdom in both the Covid precautions they put in place and the assistance and legislative changes they enacted to simultaneously support our business community. They made me proud to be a resident. Transferring control of College Avenue from the state highway commission to our city is another example of forward thinking in action. For the first time Fayetteville has the opportunity to truly impact the appearance and functionality of this major thoroughfare within our city. And finally, the creation and restoration of the 50 acre outdoor Cultural Arts Corridor, now named The Ramble, is the kind of amenity that sets Fayetteville apart and creates a community “sense of place” that makes our unique DNA visible to the world.