AMP News People Politics

Little Rock Mayor Candidates Face a Runoff in December

Little Rock mayor

Two Little Rock mayor candidates will have a run-off after failing to get a required percentage of the mayoral race vote. Frank Scott Jr. and Baker Kurrus will face each other in a run-off on Tuesday, Dec. 4. Both candidates failed to garner 40 percent of the vote necessary to avoid a run-off. Scott had the highest percentage of votes among the five candidates with 37 percent of the vote compared to Kurrus’ 29 percent. Meanwhile, Warwick Sabin received 28 percent of the vote, while candidates Vincent Tolliver and Glen Schwarz finished with roughly 3 percent of the vote each.

Learn more about the two candidates, Frank Scott Jr. and Baker Kurrus, who will be facing off in December.

Little Rock mayor

Frank Scott Jr.

Frank Scott Jr.
Bank Executive, Former Highway Commissioner, Former Director of Intergovernmental Affairs

How do you view the role of mayor in a city like Little Rock, which also has a city manager?

The mayor is responsible for setting a comprehensive agenda that is responsive to the needs and will of the people. Additionally, the mayor should marshal the human and financial resources for effectively implementing the agenda. I envision the city manager’s role as purely operational, focused solely on executing the agenda the mayor sets forth. This relationship between the mayor and city manager is similar to that of a chief executive officer and chief operating officer – a partnership where I set the vision for Little Rock and take sole responsibility for seeing the vision through with the city manager’s role limited to executing the people’s agenda.

What do you consider to be the biggest issue facing Little Rock? What about five years from now?

The biggest issue facing Little Rock is our lack of economic competitiveness. This stems from three interrelated issues: a stagnant local job market, a public-school system that needs our support and too many families feeling unsafe in their neighborhoods. Altogether, these issues make it harder for Little Rock to compete against Austin, Houston, Nashville and even cities like Huntsville.

It took over several years for Little Rock to get into this position, and it will take at least the next mayor’s full term to get these issues resolved. I believe the next mayor must put forth and execute a comprehensive opportunity agenda to grow our local economy, a real plan to support LRSD and prepare our children for college or the workforce, and a public safety program that will secure our neighborhoods. Lastly, we need a quality of life agenda that will make Little Rock a desirable destination for prospective companies and families looking to relocate.

How will you meet those challenges?

On jobs, for example, I do not think that the mayor’s office has played the kind “chief growth officer” role that is necessary. That is why I would advocate for reshaping the city’s strategic economic efforts by creating the Little Rock Economic Development Corporation (“EDC”), which I would chair. We have had the Little Rock Chamber lead our job creation efforts for close to a decade. Ultimately, creating jobs should be left to someone that is directly accountable to Little Rock voters, and an EDC led by the mayor that would spearhead economic development strategy, with the Chamber as a strategic partner, for the city does just that.

I will also assert more leadership on Little Rock’s Workforce Development Board, as we’ll need to be far more creative about how we create the world-class workforce necessary to grow our economy. We need to be more intentional as a community about how we support LRSD – particularly Cloverdale Middle, Henderson Middle, and Hall High that are considered under “academic distress” – so that we get our schools back as soon as possible. Finally, we need to act and think more comprehensively on public safety. That means 700 sworn officers before the end of my first term and working with LRSD to reduce truancy. We must also wrap our arms around our at-risk youth by targeting some of our summer employment resources to them and rethinking job training and apprenticeships for our reentry residents. We have to engage in real community policing and community prosecution programs. We have to strengthen the relationships between the mayor’s office, LRPD and our U.S. Attorney’s Office to ensure that our most violent criminals are taken off of our streets. And finally, I believe it’s time for Little Rock to have an independent citizen voice solely focused on complaints about police misconduct.

Click here to learn more about Frank Scott Jr.

Little Rock mayor

Baker Kurrus

Baker Kurrus
Lawyer, Farmer, Former Executive Vice President and General Counsel for the Winrock Group, Inc., Former School Superintendent

How do you view the role of mayor in a city like Little Rock, which also has a city manager?

The city ordinance, which establishes Little Rock’s current form of government, states the mayor is the chief executive officer of the city. This ordinance says the mayor and city manager jointly prepare the city budget, and the city manager administers it. All other duties of the city manager are performed at the direction of the mayor. I have been a chief executive officer of several large organizations, including the Little Rock School District. A prudent CEO in a large organization like the city, with a $265 million budget, must delegate some responsibilities. I will, however, embrace the full authority, responsibility and accountability the ordinance confers on the mayor.

What do you consider to be the biggest issue facingLittle Rock today? What about five years from now?

The biggest issues facing Little Rock are public safety, economic development and education. These matters are intertwined making them inseparable. In different forms, these challenges have been the issues in Little Rock, and other cities, for generations.

In five years we will be dealing with these topics, but I hope we will be working in a more positive way. I hope we are directing more of our resources toward early childhood education, community support and enrichment, and quality of life. We are now spending our resources on incarceration, educational remediation and economic development incentives. These problems are largely rooted in denial and neglect. Our current expenditures are failure-based costs which are expended after problems have arisen, worsened and become very severe. We must move away from dealing with community issues at the end of the failure cycle and start spending our time and money reducing the causes of the problems.

How will you meet those challenges?

In the past, we have not attempted to solve these multifaceted problems in a comprehensive way. When neighborhoods decline, housing deteriorates, crime increases, while population and tax revenues fall. Declining resources stress city services, which makes economic development very difficult because employers and employees do not want to locate in a community with these issues. Student performance declines in troubled areas, and the attendant negative publicity makes all of the issues more difficult to rectify. This spiral effect has to be remedied in a comprehensive way. Economic development, education, crime reduction and quality of life are products of a comprehensive effort to improve neighborhoods. When service providers focus only on their limited responsibilities, the overall mission is often overlooked. When every city employee, whether a code inspector, police officer, waste hauler, firefighter, or neighborhood planner, understands the main mission, results will improve.

Click here to read more about Baker Kurrus

Leave a Comment