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story.lead_photo.caption Keith Bryant/The Weekly Vista City council Ward 3, Position 2, candidate J.B. Portillo, left, sits with Ward 3, Position 2, candidates Jack Kelly and Steve Bourke; Ward 2, Position 2, candidates Larry Wilms, Brent Stinespring and Christian Henning; Ward 1, Position 2, candidates Dylan Shaddox and John Flynn; and mayoral candidates Chris Narloch and Peter Christie, while library foundation chair Susan Santos welcomes the audience.

The Bella Vista Public Library hosted a forum for city council and mayoral candidates Monday, Oct. 29.

Library foundation chair Susan Santos explained that, while city council members represent the ward or portion of the city in which they live, they are elected at large, meaning each citizen votes for every council position up for election.

"Thank you for coming out and putting up with the crowding," she said.

Candidates were allowed two minutes to introduce themselves and, once all the candidates finished their introductions, they fielded questions pulled from a hat. Questions included whether Bella Vista should continue to grow, how it should grow, what challenges the city is facing, what candidates see for the city's future, whether candidates would do something about uncut grass next to an on and off ramp and more.

Santos estimated 77 people attended the 4:30 p.m. session, though the crowd was thinner for the 6:30 p.m. discussion.

After the first session, Bella Vista resident Joe Macek said he was glad to have an opportunity to see the candidates live. Choosing who to vote for was a lot easier after watching each of them speak and answer questions, he said.

Macek said he's particularly interested in development.

There were some excellent candidates, he said, but others didn't seem to be lacking in qualifications.

"May be in over their heads," Macek said.

Mayor Peter Christie was the first candidate to address the crowd.

Christie pointed out he's served as mayor for the past four years and, in that time, the police, fire and streets departments have been expanded to better address Bella Vista's increasing population.

It's essential, he said, for the city to manage its growth, which is expected to continue in part because neighboring cities have become too expensive to buy a home in.

The city needs commercial development to grow its tax base to support all of its necessary services, he said, and the city's efforts to bring in more people can help show potential businesses that the city has a demand for their products and services.

"I'm looking forward to the challenge," he said.

Mayoral candidate Chris Narloch spoke next.

Narloch said that, while he has heard rumors, he has no intentions of closing all of the city's trails and running businesses out of town -- but he is concerned about the city's growth and would like to see it slowed.

"I do feel the rate of growth in Bella Vista is out of hand," he said. "My family moved here to get away from crime-ridden cities and ghettos."

The city is considering some major projects, he said, and he expects this to continue flooding the city with more people that the roads cannot handle.

He's concerned, he said, that the city cannot develop as much as it needs to to keep up because of nearby competition from Bentonville and lower taxes across the state line.

City council member John Flynn, running for re-election in Ward 1, Position 2, told the audience he's served four years on the council and served as mayor pro-tem in that time -- meaning he covers for the mayor if he is out of town.

He also teaches part-time at the University of Arkansas, he said, and he has three decades' experience as a corporate attorney.

"I believe that you should do what's in the best interests of the citizens," Flynn said. "I think there's a lot more we can accomplish.

Dylan Shaddox, also running for Ward 1, Position 2, said he'd like to work to build more economic development, improve the city's roads and increase transparency in the government.

Shaddox said he's interested in building volunteer efforts in the city as well, allowing the city to do more without expending more resources.

"I think I can serve my community more than I have," he said.

Christian Henning, running for Ward 2 Position 2, said he appreciated everyone coming out to become a more informed voter.

Henning said that he's an Eagle Scout and he's served as commander of the Sons of the American Legion in Rogers and Bentonville, which has given him experience handling budgets. He also teaches preschool in Bentonville and he's expected to graduate from college with two degrees next year.

Henning said he's a strong proponent of community involvement.

"You need to listen to everyone's opinion," he said.

Brent Stinespring, also running for Ward 2, Position 2, said he's a teacher at Cooper Elementary and he's been a realtor for the past 10 years.

Stinespring said he worked in the community to help build the outdoor learning areas at Cooper Elementary as well as the Blowing Springs trails and contributed to the master trail plan that has guided the development of the Back 40 trails and the 11 Under trails that are currently under construction.

Bella Vista is a unique community, he said, and he believes the development in the city should reflect that.

"I care deeply about the future of Bella Vista," Stinespring said.

Larry Wilms, also running in Ward 2, Position 2, said he has worked with municipal governments in various capacities for 45 years and handled large budgets.

He's a certified professional engineer, he said, and he has the equivalent of a master's degree in engineering.

The primary funding source for a municipal government is sales tax, he explained, meaning it is essential to bring commercial development into the city to continue expanding street maintenance and other essential services.

"One of my goals is to keep tax rates low," he said. "I want to work to expand business."

Steve Bourke, running in Ward 3, Position 2, said he was raised with three brothers by a single mother and started working at 9 years old when the family acquired a lawnmower, then graduated to delivering papers, then working in a gas station and washing dishes through high school.

Bourke said attending the University of Arkansas, where he acquired a degree in information technology, is how he learned to love Northwest Arkansas.

He explained that in his career he learned to do more with less each year and believes that skill and his work ethic can benefit the city.

"I'm a fiscal conservative," he said.

Jack Kelly, also running for Ward 3, Position 2, said that he brings a broad array of experience in various fields -- including municipal experience in several departments with the city of Tulsa, sales and manufacturing, among others.

He's also volunteered with Habitat for Humanity for 18 years, including seven years on the board of directors for the Tulsa branch. He's been to every state and 12 countries, he said.

As a council member, he said, he intends to focus on customer service for both citizens and departments.

"I often say my resume looks a lot like the yellow pages," Kelly said. "That broad background comes to play in this line of work."

J.B. Portillo, running for Ward 3, Position 2, said she considers herself an agent of change and would like to help the city move forward.

She built her house in Bella Vista in 2005, she said, and retired in 2013 after working several years in the corporate world. She has a bachelor's degree in business and economics, she said.

She volunteers with the Bella Vista Master Gardeners, she said, and she's a master naturalist and volunteers with Bella Vista Community Television, which she said has put her at city and POA meetings over the past three years.

She's used to working with large budgets and stressful situations, she said.

"I'm used to working with a flak jacket," Portillo said. "I'm hoping I don't need one."

General News on 10/31/2018

Print Headline: Candidates meet public

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