Both candidates running for the upcoming City Council election in Ward 3 spoke at a public forum held last week inside the Fayetteville Public Library’s Walker Community Room.
Councilmember Sloan Scroggin is seeking a second term. Challenging Scroggin is Scott Berna, owner of Nelson-Berna Funeral Home. Both candidates participated in the hour-long forum moderated by Steve Clark, president and CEO of the Fayetteville Chamber of Commerce.
Berna, 59, said he decided to run for office after the council effectively rejected a federal grant that would’ve helped the Fayetteville School District hire two school resource officers. The council voted 7-1 to indefinitely table the proposal after a nine-hour meeting with public comments from over 50 people.
Berna recently said he stayed up all night after the meeting because he was so angry about the decision.
“It’s the most disgusting display I believe I’ve ever witnessed towards our great men and women of the Fayetteville Police Department,” said Berna during the Aug. 16 meeting when the council voted unanimously to approve a new plan for school resource officers.
Berna said for 20 years he’s stood back and watched the decisions the council has made while voicing his frustration from a distance.
“I’ve decided that I need to stop talking about it, and do something about it,” Berna said during Thursday’s forum.
Scroggin, 38, said he’s running again for the same reason he did in 2018 – to focus on making sure residents have stable housing.
“There are a lot of people struggling to find places to rent and buy here,” said Scroggin, who owns a quad-plex rental in West Fork. He said he receives rental inquires about that property from university students who say they can’t afford to live in Fayetteville.
“I say, ‘but that’s so far away,’ and they say, ‘but there’s nothing else,'” Scroggin said.
Scroggin said he supports renter’s rights because people deserve to live in places that have adequate heating and ventilation, and that are structurally sound and without leaks.
“People shouldn’t be scared to live in the place they’re living, but I’ve seen a lot of people who are,” said Scroggin. “And they won’t move because they’re terrified they might not find another place.”
Clark asked each candidate to describe their leadership style.
Berna said as a longtime business owner, he’s learned to surround himself with people who will tell him when he’s wrong so he can make adjustments when necessary. He said one of the most frustrating things is when leadership dictates policies that employees know are not good ideas.
“I don’t do that. I get all parties involved, I listen to each side and then determine what I think is best,” said Berna. “And I would do the same thing with the city.”
Scroggin said being present is important when displaying leadership, and pointed to his 97% attendance rate at City Council meetings.
“I show up to council meetings, I show up to committee meetings, and I’m not going to choose to not show up during a tough vote,” said Scroggin.
Growth in the business sector
Both candidates agreed that the medical industry will likely see the most growth in Fayetteville over the next four years.
Berna discussed the new regional health system that’s coming as part of a larger plan to improve specialty healthcare services in the region. He mentioned a 2019 report which showed that many Northwest Arkansas residents currently travel elsewhere for specialty care, which contributes to an estimated $950 million annual loss for the region.
“If we can get into a situation where people do not have to go to the Mayo Clinic, the Cleveland Clinic or MD Anderson, and the healthcare they get is just as good, isn’t that a win-win situation for everybody?” Berna asked.
Scroggin said as a board member of the Community Clinic, he sees firsthand some of the struggles in the medical industry, and while growth is evident, the region must come up with ways to adequately staff new and existing facilities.
“It’s only going to be the biggest (growing sector) if they can find enough nurses,” said Scroggin.
Scroggin said nursing is just one of several fields where workforce training is needed for the region to have sustainable growth in its business sectors.
Election Day is Nov. 8. Early voting begins Oct. 24.
About Ward 3
Ward 3 includes several neighborhoods in northeast Fayetteville, including the Huntingdon and Candlewood subdivisions, as well as the newer multi-family complexes in the uptown area. Gulley Park, Fiesta Square, Lake Fayetteville, and the Northwest Arkansas Mall are also in Ward 3.