Candidates for a seat on the Van Buren City Council and two vying for a justice of the peace seat on the Crawford County Quorum Court shared their visions for the future at a forum Tuesday night at the Van Buren Public Library.
The 90-minute candidate forum was hosted by the governmental affairs committee of the Van Buren Chamber of Commerce. Laura Randolph of Arkansas Tech University - Ozark Campus was the moderator.
The forum featured Max Blake and Tyler Wood, the candidates for Ward 1 Position 1 seat on the Van Buren City Council and Johnny W. Ragsdale, Democrat, and Raymond Harvey, Republican, candidates for justice of the peace District 5.
Blake said he believes Van Buren aldermen should be on a first-name basis with legislators, the governor “and anyone who will listen” to the needs of the city.
“We have to explore the opportunities that are out there,” Blake said. “We have a major problem with traffic on Highway 59 North and we can’t sit here and let another day go by.”
Wood said he wants to be an advocate for the people who live in his ward.
“I have a passion for Van Buren,” Wood said. “I want to be someone who helps bolster better relationships to bring things to the table with the help of the mayor and others.”
If elected, Harvey said he would “make sure the leaders of our county are good stewards of our money.”
Ragsale said would stop “this spending money like there is no tomorrow.”
Candidates will vie in the Nov. 8 general election. Early voting is underway at the Crawford County Emergency Operations Center at 1820 Chestnut St. in Van Buren.
Either Blake or Wood will replace retiring Alderman Mary Ann Dodd. The winner will be one of three new aldermen on the Van Buren City Council.
The Ward 3 Position 1 seat will be filled by Michael S. Kneeland, who will replace a retiring Donna Parker.
There was no filing for Ward 2 Position 1, currently held by David Moore, leaving it open for appointment in 2017.
Either Harvey or Ragsdale will replace retiring JP Cathy Gifford on the quorum court.
Harvey, owner of Turf Pro, is a political newcomer.
Ragsdale served on the quorum court from 1985 through 2008 and the Van Buren City Council from 2009 through 2014.
Blake previously served on the city council and board of directors of the Van Buren Housing Authority. He worked in the aviation industry for more than 28 years until he retired in 2007 to join Blake Construction. Blake is sales manager for Industrial Precast Inc., which is co-owned by Blake Construction. Blake and wife Angie have two daughters, Sydney and Kirbey, who are both graduates of Van Buren High School.
Wood is director of pharmacy at Sparks Regional Medical Center and has served as vice chairman of the Van Buren Parks and Recreation Commission for the past five years. As a member of the commission, he has worked closely with the mayor and city council on an $11 million parks plan, including the development of the new Veterans Park, which held its groundbreaking ceremony at the end of June.
Wood attended Van Buren High School, the University of Central Arkansas, and the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences. He earned a doctor of pharmacy degree from the University of Arkansas in 2005. He is a member of the Arkansas Pharmacists Association and the Arkansas Association of Health-System Pharmacists. Wood is a member of Heritage Church and has served as a musician on the praise team for 12 years. He has four children, ages 10, 9, 5 and 5.