Fort Smith residents will get to choose one of three candidates to serve as their new mayor starting next week.
Luis Andrade, Wayne Haver and George McGill will face off against each other for the position, which is currently occupied by Sandy Sanders, during the Aug. 14 Fort Smith Municipal Primary Election. The Fort Smith mayor position has a yearly salary of $10,000, according to Fort Smith City Clerk Sherri Gard. All elected positions in the city of Fort Smith have four-year terms. Early voting for the election begins Tuesday.
Each candidate provided his own biographical information.
Andrade, 22, was born in Londrina in southern Brazil. He has lived in Fort Smith since 2013. Andrade is a full-time student at the University of Arkansas at Fort Smith majoring in political science, and is president of Andrade Holdings LLC. He is a co-founder and director of Essential Liberty USA, a nonprofit organization focused in promoting conservative values on college campuses, and a member of the national level GOP and the Arkansas GOP (Sebastian County). Andrade also serves at local nonprofit organizations as much as possible, with him providing Next Step as an example of where he served.
Andrade served in the U.S. Army as a horizontal construction engineer. He served a total of 19 months, with about a year of that in active duty. Andrade graduated from Cedarville High School and graduated from UAFS with an associate degree in general studies in 2016. President Donald Trump included Andrade in the Republican Presidential Honor Roll on April 25.
A retired high school principal, Haver, 75, was born in Little Rock. He has been a Fort Smith resident for 58 years. He earned a bachelor's degree in business administration from Ouachita Baptist University in 1964, a master's degree in educational administration from the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville in 1971 and an educational specialist in educational administration in 1977. Haver has been married to Jan Anne Haver for 54 years; they have one daughter and one granddaughter.
Haver is a part of the Rotary Club, the American Legion and the Quiet Birdmen, which is a national organization of former and current pilots, and has been a member of the Fort Smith Airport Commission for 14 years. He is also a co-founder and president of the Fort Smith Air Museum, vice president of the Fort Smith Teachers Federal Credit Union and a lifetime member of the Fort Smith Parent Teacher Association. During his service in the U.S. Army, Haver was sent to Quang Tri Combat Base in Vietnam during the Vietnam War and achieved the rank of captain. The Bronze Star was one of many awards Haver earned during his life.
McGill, 71, is currently serving as state representative for district 78. He was born in Fort Smith and has lived here his entire life. He earned a bachelor's degree in education from the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville and a Master of Business Administration from there as well. McGill is a multi-time recipient of the Arkansas Municipal League's Legislator of the Year Award. He is also recipient of the Arkansas National Guard Joe T. Robinson Award for support of the military. He served in the U.S. Army for one year during the Vietnam era as a field artillery fire direction officer.
McGill is a co-founder and member of the Fort Smith Roundtable, as well as a member of the UAFS Board of Visitors, the Fort Smith Historical Society Board of Directors, the Boy Scouts Council and the Fort Smith Heritage Foundation. He also helped to establish a million dollar scholarship fund and is active in the Golden Knights and Golden Jewels school mentorship program. He is also a 2016 inductee in the Boys and Girls Club Hall of Fame. McGill is a widower and has two daughters and two grandsons.
All three candidates participated in an election Q & A. They were all sent the same three questions via email and responded with their answers, which could be no longer than 150 words each. Edits have been made for spelling, typos and to conform to AP style.
1. Why do you believe you are the most qualified candidate for the Fort Smith mayor position?
Andrade: We all know Fort Smith is a conservative town, we love the concept of God and Country, we are American patriots and we have no more time to waste on "all talk, no action" politics. I am a conservative American, I believe in traditional American values, I am a Christian, I support President Trump 100 percent and I am a Republican. I am not a professional politician and have no intentions of ever becoming one; what you see now is what you will get if I am elected.
Haver: My 36 years as the principal of Southside High School, where I hired, supervised 162 staff members and 1,500 students each year, attest to my leadership and organizational ability. I also managed close to a $300,000 budget each year supervising the travel, professional development and purchasing the necessary equipment, technology and supplies for running the school. I also served as president of several state level major organizations and presided over the board meetings, helping to establish policies, rules, regulations, and activities. My first responsibility as a principal is to organize, structure and manage my school so that education can take place with as few distractions as possible on a daily basis ... then I get to purchase the necessary equipment and supplies for use by teachers and students. If my school is out of control, then teachers can’t do their job no matter how skilled they are.
McGill: Because I possess the leadership ability, the knowledge and the relationship-building experience, combined with the positive vision for our future, that this city needs in order to prosper and thrive.
2. If elected, how do you plan to promote economic development in Fort Smith, both for the businesses already in place here, as well as potential new businesses that may be looking to set up shop here?
Andrade: I want to side with business owners and the hard-working people of our community and let the whole country know that we are once again open for business. For far too long we have distanced ourselves from the concept of a free-market, raising taxes, utility rates and just not doing enough to satisfy our people and potential investors. The result is a community filled with a poorly explored potential and with our youth fleeing to other areas where they can find better opportunities for them and their families. I chose the slogan "Make Fort Smith Great Again" because I believe Fort Smith is in a similar situation America was in before President Trump took office where the hard-working people had been forgotten and frustrated. Our city government is paralyzed by an accumulation of obsolete programs, ordinances and mindless bureaucracy.
Haver: I will work with the city administrator, board of directors and the Chamber of Commerce to attract new businesses, expand existing businesses and promote the positive things about Fort Smith that make it a great place to do business and raise a family ... such things as the great public and private educational system and our great college; the transportation system with our waterway, interstate, railroad and air systems; but most of all the quality of life available in Fort Smith and the friendliness of our citizens.
McGill: I will be a powerful and vocal advocate for the talent and potential of this city. Additionally, my strong relationships in the federal government and in Little Rock will allow Fort Smith to have the best, most experienced ambassador for the city that we have ever had.
3. What do you think are the top issues facing the city of Fort Smith, and how would you help the city deal with them?
Andrade: I believe the top issues facing Fort Smith right now are: lack of trust between citizens and local government, slow economic growth and the consent decree. I will be a voice for the people of Fort Smith inside City Hall, representing and listening to the people and the people only. From day one my main focus has been to work with local businesses. We need to listen to what they have to say and get it done. Get government out of the way, remove useless and outdated ordinances, reduce fees and taxes and implement a new business mindset and business friendly era in Fort Smith. The consent decree will have to be renegotiated as soon as possible. We should have never agreed to the current terms in the first place, but it will have to be renegotiated.
Haver: The top issues are the getting relief from the consent decree and out-of-control sewer and water bills; improving the economy for everyone by bringing more jobs to Fort Smith to keep our young people here; placing a priority on public safety and public health needs; maintaining our great relationship with the military to ensure a continuing and supportive presence in Fort Smith; encouraging the opening of more local agency branch offices from state agencies; and providing more activities and events that will provide educational and leisure activities for our citizens. All of these issues will require the cooperation of the city leadership, chamber of commerce, business leaders and citizens, working together to address each one. Each issue itself will require a major endeavor and cooperation to accomplish. No one person can do it alone.
McGill: From high water bills to fake recycling scandals, our challenges seem to come from a lack of communication and confidence. I will use my advanced leadership skills to function as a CEO that will inspire the city to new heights of excellent customer service. I will set an expectation for improved accessibility, accountability and transparency. We must also place a strong focus on job retention, economic development and infrastructure needs. I will remain engaged full-time with the people of our city, local businesses, the Arkansas Economic Development Commission and workforce development efforts at UAFS and elsewhere to ensure that we remain at the forefront of local, regional, national and international discussions regarding economic opportunities for Fort Smith.