Van Buren Mayor Bob Freeman was holding a slim but steady lead over challenger Max Blake in Tuesday’s general election.
With seven of 12 boxes reporting at presstime, Freeman had 1,794 votes (52.92 percent) to Blake’s 1,596 (47.08).
Freeman, who was at the Crawford County Courthouse for the count, said the tally was too close to claim a victory for a third term.
The Van Buren City Council apparently will have three new members Jan. 1.
Alan Swaim appeared to be on his way to unseating incumbent Alderman Johnny Ragsdale while Darral Sparkman was leading Scott Curtis to replace a retiring Teena Sagely. Jim Petty was unopposed for the seat left vacant when Blake decided to run for mayor.
With the seven of 12 boxes reporting, Swaim had 1,952 votes to Ragsdale’s 1,257 (60.83 to 39.17 percent). Sparkman had 1,702 votes (55.80) to Curtis’ 1,348 (44.20 percent).
The mayor, a nonpartisan position, serves a four-year term and earns $63,489 annually.
If reelected, Freeman has said this will be his last term.
Freeman is a graduate of Van Buren High School and an Army veteran. He has a bachelor’s degree in business administration from the University of Oklahoma and a master’s of science from Florida Institute of Technology. He is a member of Heritage United Methodist Church. He has served as a vice president of the Arkansas Municipal League, is a former chairman of the Van Buren Planning Commission, United Way volunteer and member of the Van Buren Rotary Club.
Freeman has been married to his wife, Teresa, for 38 years and they have two adult children, Sarah and David.
Blake, 52, currently represents Ward 1, Position 2, and is in his first term on the city council. He previously served on the board of directors of the Van Buren Housing Authority.
Blake worked in the aviation industry for more than 28 years, where he was a partner at Grady Stone Aviation and general manager at TAC AIR of Truman Arnold Companies at the Fort Smith Regional Airport 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 been married for 29 years and have two daughters, Sydney and Kirbey, who are both graduates of Van Buren High School.