Eight are running for the post of Fort Smith city manager; primary voting in a race

FORT SMITH — Voters will have an opportunity on August 8 to elect candidates for general position 5 in the only primary of the three general positions being voted on for the city’s board of directors this year.

Seven people apply for the three vacancies. The primary is August 8 for position 5, which has three candidates. Voters decide which two candidates advance to general election. The other two positions – 6 and 7 – have only drawn two candidates in each race, so there will be no primaries, only general elections.

Early voting is from Tuesday to Friday. Each runoff is based on majority, and the election will take place on November 8th.

The office of mayor is also up for election. Incumbent George McGill is running unopposed for his second term.

Each position is non-partisan and has a four-year term. The mayor receives $10,000 per year, and city managers earn $1,000 per year by attending each of the 24 board meetings, or $41.67 per meeting, according to city code. They will not be compensated for board meetings they do not attend. Both positions also receive $5,400 per year to reimburse vehicle costs.

At-large positions are elected by all city voters to represent the entire city. Fort Smith also has four counties and representatives on the city council representing only their counties.

At large position 5

Current board member Robyn Dawson, 58, is running against political newcomers Christina Catsavis, 37, and Carl Nevin, 67, for the 5th spot at large.

Dawson, a director since 2019, serves as the director of the University of Arkansas-Fort Smith Educational Renewal Zone for the state.

Dawson said she’s running for re-election because she wants to serve the community and because she wants the board to remain stable while several big projects take place in the city. She said she has experience working as a director and handling government funds, current projects, and networking resources across the state.

Dawson said two of the city’s biggest projects are the Interstate 49 expansion and the Foreign Military Sales program, adding it’s important that the city provide infrastructure to accommodate expected population growth.

The new section of I-49, being built in phases from Alma south to the Chaffee Crossing in Barling, will be four lanes and nearly 14 miles long, according to the Arkansas Department of Transportation, and will cost an estimated $800 million.

Ebbing Air National Guard Base at Fort Smith Regional Airport was selected last year as the Air Force’s preferred location for a pilot training center for Singapore and other countries participating in the Foreign Military Sales program.

Catsavis owns Smith Jewelry and Living. She said she wants to be a part of the excitement that the city is experiencing and thinks she can bring a unique perspective to the board.

“I grew up here, so I have a real passion for Fort Smith,” said Catsavis. “I think Fort Smith gets a bad rap sometimes. I live in Northwest Arkansas and have a little idea of ​​what people on the outside think, but a lot of it isn’t true. A lot of it was just some sort of PR issue. I think the city has really worked hard to change that and show people what we have to offer here so that we can attract and retain businesses and really start becoming an economic hub for the region.”

Catsavis said the city’s biggest problem is having well-paying jobs and keeping businesses. She believes Fort Smith has many amenities, but jobs are what will ultimately draw young people to move and live there.

Nevin is a retired sheet metal worker. He said he has always been passionate about politics and is running for the board to help the residents.

“I honestly think my strengths are that I’m retired. I have time during the day to look at problems and fix them during the day. The various departments close at 5 p.m. as far as I know, so business in the city is done before 5 p.m.,” he said, noting that the other candidates have full-time jobs.

Nevin said he would particularly like to look at homelessness and affordable housing, but the biggest issue is the sewerage permit regulation.

The city entered into a consent statement in January 2015 with the US Department of Justice, the Environmental Protection Agency, and the Arkansas Division of Environmental Quality. Under the decree, Fort Smith agreed to repair and upgrade its sewage system after decades of sewage leaking into local waterways, including the Arkansas River.

The city agreed to spend more than $200 million over the next 12 years to improve its sewerage system and treatment.

The original deadline for the decree was Jan. 2, 2027, but the city said it cannot afford to complete all of the work by that date. The city was granted a five-year extension through 2032.

“All I know is we need to support our water and sanitation department, Lance McAvoy, and give him whatever he needs in terms of funding,” Nevin said.

In November, current board member Kevin Settle (48) and newcomer A. Drew Smith (31) will run for the 6th position.

Political newcomer Jackson Goodwin, 25, is running in November’s election against current board member Neal Martin, 46, for the seventh seat in the campaign.

Karl Newin
photo Robyn Dawson
photo Robyn Dawson
photo Robyn Dawson

At large position 5

Robyn Dawson

Age: 58

Residence: Fort Smith for 45 years

Occupation: Director of the Educational Renewal Zone for Arkansas

Education: Master’s degree in administration from the University of Arkansas

Political experience: At-large Position 5 Director since 2019

Christina Catsavis

Age: 37

Residence: Fort Smith for 20 years

Occupation: Owner of Smith Jewelry and Living

Education: Attended the University of Arkansas

Political experience: none

Karl Newin

Age: 67

Residence: Fort Smith for 34 years

Occupation: Retired, formerly a sheet metal worker at Train Manufacturing Co.

Education: Attended Bethany Bible College

Political experience: none

At large position 6

Kevin Settle

Age: 48

Residence: Fort Smith for 46 years

Occupation: Operations manager at Arkansas Poly and Printing

Education: Bachelor of Science in Chemical Engineering from the University of Arkansas

Political experience: At-large Position 6 Director since 2006; In 2004 he ran unsuccessfully for the position

A. Drew Smith

Age: 31

Residence: Fort Smith for three years

Occupation: Criminal Justice Coordinator for Washington County

Education: Master’s degree in literature from American University

Political experience: none

At large position 7

Nele Martin

Age: 46

Residence: Fort Smith for 34 years

Occupation: IT manager of the Shared Services Center

Education: Bachelor’s degree in Business Administration from the University of Arkansas

Political experience: At-large Position 7 Director since 2019; Member of the Overland Park, Kan. District Committee in 2003 and 2005

Jackson Goodwin

Age: 25

Residence: Fort Smith for 25 years

Occupation: Civil Engineer at Mickle Wagner Coleman

Education: Bachelor’s degree in Civil Engineering from Clemson University

Political experience: none

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