June 2019

Mayors to Watch: Frank Scott Jr.


While many Arkansans can recite their elected officials – especially the “household names,” which usually includes the governor, senators and representatives in the U.S. Congress – positions frequently forgotten, but so often responsible for our day-to-day well-being, are our city mayors. 

There are two types of mayoralty systems in the United States, council-manager and mayor-council.

In a council-manager system of local government, a mayor sits on the city council, often holding the chairperson position on that body. As with most city council members, mayors in this scenario usually only serve part-time and usually set the legislative agenda for the city they represent. Most of the full-time, day-to-day administration is left to the city manager.

Mayor-council systems feature separate branches for the mayor and city council, with the mayoralty holding executive privileges while the city council operates with legislative powers.

In an effort to shed some light on the work of several localized elected officials, AMP is profiling seven mayors from around the Natural State to watch.

by Dustin Jayroe and Jon Walker

Frank Scott, Jr. – Little Rock

Little Rock native Frank Scott, Jr., is the first elected black mayor in the city’s history, but his plans for change do not stop at getting elected. His transition team recently released the Scott Script, a road map of his to-do list subtitled “a citizen-led transition for growth and progress in Little Rock.”

The municipal agenda includes creating a city economic development corporation overseen by a chief equity officer. Scott, a former banking executive, touts the initiative as a first step toward becoming a mayor who is also the city’s chief growth officer. He advocates the corporation as a means of moving business development, entrepreneurial recruitment and job creation away from the Little Rock Regional Chamber of Commerce toward City Hall’s direct supervision. While he describes the new relationship with the chamber as a “strategic partnership,” the mayor and his staff will be in control.

“Public safety has to be a top priority, and there’s a nexus between public safety and economic development—and through that, we will grow our city,” Scott says. “But as we grow our city, we want to make certain that not only do we have equal opportunities, but equitable opportunities… As you diversify the marketplace, it will help charge our goal of unifying the city and focusing on potential.”

Despite the restructuring, the Scott Script refers to MetRock2020, which the Little Rock chamber released in April 2019 (in association with some of its community and business partners). MetRock 2020 is a plan identifying six areas of focus that local leaders say are vital to improving metropolitan economic development and job recruitment. Scott notes the plan’s inclusion in the Scott Script as an indicator of his administration’s desire to continue working with the chamber.

“The MetRock 2020 plan is an example of how; our way of showing that when we create the Little Rock economic development corporation, that we still will keep a strategic relationship with existing economic developers like the Little Rock chamber,” Scott says. “The MetRock 2020 plan is a consortium of economic developers, business members who are all focused on what we can do for the Little Rock area to grow it and make certain that it’s sustainable and forward-moving.”

The Scott Script may be just the tip of the iceberg where Scott’s ambitions for the city are concerned.

“I want us to be more tech and innovative-centric, and I want to make certain that no matter who you are in the city of Little Rock that you have an opportunity to find a job if you want a job and work hard for it… It’s our goal to make certain that Little Rock is a catalyst of the new South.”

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