NLR Mayor Pat Hays recently announced that he would not be seeking re-election this fall. While I have disagreed with Mayor Hays on some issues such as the use of TIF districts and the proposed Bass Pro Shop development, he has demonstrated a long-term vision for the City that is increasingly rare among today's breed of politicians. The result is that North Little Rock has shaken the "dogtown" image, though we now use the term proudly, and we can now boast many quality-of-life amenities that attract businesses and young, educated residents. We have Dickey-Stephens Park, Verizon Arena, the revitalized Argenta district, a world-class trail and parks system, and the shared icons of the Big Dam Bridge and Clinton Park Bridge. Without the steady hands of Hays and Pulaski County Judge Buddy Villines, these developments simply would not have happened and the current view of our city would have been very different.
Currently, I am aware of two likely candidates for the office of mayor, city commerce director Joe Smith and State Representitive Tracy Steele. Others will probably enter the race and I have been contacted by at least one potential contender. I have opinions about both Smith and Steele, but will reserve them for now.
What I am asking is that my North Little Rock readers pay close attention to this race as it unfolds. As is always the case with progressive ideas, there are segments of the population who view our parks and trail systems as a waste, and candidates will likely see some pressure to separate themselves from the status quo. On the other hand, Pat Hays has proven to be a popular leader and has accomplished much for North Little Rock, so it may not be wise to stray far from the trajectory he has set for the city.
In a city of our size, a few hundred cyclists and trail users can easily make a difference on election day, so let's stay informed and stay involved as the field of candidates firms up and they start making promises. North Little Rock's mayor/council form of government is obviously more nimble than that of our brethren across the river and we can help shape our future by electing the right candidate for the job of mayor.