The start of 2019 for me is filled with changes both personally and professionally. Personally, I’m still figuring out what life looks like without my dad in it. Professionally, Little Rock elected our first popularly elected African American Mayor who was sworn in on January 1st. I’m going to focus this post on the professional changes. While Little Rock is a City Manager form of government, we also changed our Mayor’s position to a full time one in 2007. We have seven Ward Directors and three At-Large Directors. We are the only city that has this structure in our state.
There is talk in the community of wanting a change in the form of government which might mean getting rid of the City Manager position. As an MPA and a former intern in the Mayor and City Manager’s Office in the late 1990s, I have seen this City Hall work well with a “strong” Mayor and a City Manager. While under State law, our Mayor was not a full time Mayor back then, the person who held the job spent five days a week in the office and most weeks, seven days a week working.
The conversation in our community is around violent crime, economic development opportunities and a public school district which is currently under control from the State for Academic Distress. The schools in Little Rock are not a function of the City, but everyone knows that a strong education foundation helps bring talent and keep talent in our town. We are a city with a history of racism, remember we are home to Little Rock Central High School and the Little Rock Nine who integrated it in 1957 with the help of President Eisenhower and the 101st Airborne.
With the election of our new Mayor a lot of our community see a chance for change and by changing the form of government, therefore, you have a Mayor who reports directly to the people. I personally think that most people do not understand the City Manager form of government in Arkansas given that there are only a handful of cities here that operate under this structure. I do however hope that our new Mayor can provide the sense of unity that our City needs and desperately wants right now. I am wishing him the best of luck and will continue to serve the City I love and where I am raising my family. We will see what changes come over the next few weeks and months and what our Little Rock looks like moving forward.
Happiest of New Year’s to all our local government family out there fighting the good fight every day!