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.
How will you attract both new businesses and new residents?
As mayor, I will be responsible for cultivating an economic environment where our small businesses can thrive and businesses seeking to relocate have the assurances that what matters – a world-class workforce, low-cost operating environment and a City Hall that serves as a partner in their businesses’ growth – are part of the package when they relocate to Little Rock. That means creating a Red Tape Commission that conducts a full review of every touch point our homegrown small businesses have with City Hall from licensing and zoning matters to how we issue building permits that ensures that City Hall does not get in the way of our small businesses. As head of the EDC, a part of my job will be promoting industrial sites in Little Rock to global manufacturers and working with our partners at the Arkansas Economic Development Commission and our Governor to assemble incentive packages for corporate relocations. We also need a mayor that will lead an Opportunity Fund that invests in startups so that our homegrown innovators can have their capital needs met right here in Little Rock.
In terms of new residents, we need to look at the kinds of things that attract millennials and empty nesters to our cities, and that means encouraging higher-density development downtown and in our downtown-adjacent neighborhoods, encouraging walkability, supporting our downtown small businesses, and assessing the effectiveness of the city’s first-time homebuyer programs so that we are doing everything we can to encourage young families establish roots in Little Rock.
What are some ways in which you will improve city infrastructure?
I have long expressed support for the 30 Crossing project. This effort will help make roads safer, rush hour commutes less hectic, and better connect residents and businesses with the rest of the region. I define our infrastructure much more broadly to include improving the walkability of many of our streets, and that means expanding resources available to our sidewalks program and prioritizing neighborhoods like John Barrow, Pettaway and other communities that have historically been ignored. I would also encourage more bike and scooter share firms to locate in downtown Little Rock and continue to implement the City’s Complete Streets Ordinance so that we are promoting more bike lanes and alternative forms of transportation. Our infrastructure also includes the Port of Little Rock and Clinton National Airport, and the mayor must be responsible for working with our delegation in Washington to identify every federal resource available to expand the capacity of both.
What is your vision for Little Rock?
I was born and raised in Little Rock, and believe wholeheartedly that the fundamentals are there for Little Rock to thrive – we just need the right leadership in City Hall. Little Rock needs fresh perspective and new strategies that are a clean break from business and politics as usual. We need leadership that is focused on uniting Little Rock and maximizing the ingenuity of our residents to reach its full potential.
My vision is to create one Little Rock that is intentional about inclusivity, economic opportunity and empowerment, and viewing tough issues like public safety as everyone’s responsibility to resolve — not just for the LRPD and communities most directly impacted by crime. Similarly, regaining control of our schools is everyone’s responsibility, not just our teachers and families with students in LRSD schools.
We can make Little Rock a true economic driver in the South, but doing so requires an all-hands-on-deck approach that is driven by the mayor, but includes the Chamber, minority-owned business community, UAMS, UALR and our other major employers. And it requires a mayor that is willing to listen and work with people who do not always agree. Taking Little Rock from good to great requires a leadership that respects differing views and finds common ground, and my vision for the city – which will be unveiled in the coming weeks – will accomplish these objectives.