Leader Blues

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

EDITORIAL >> Mayors: Past, present, future

Area mayors, past, present and future, are in the news:
Gary Fletcher, fresh off his convincing victory last week, becomes mayor of Jacksonville on June 30, succeeding Mayor Tommy Swaim, who is stepping down at the end of the month after more than 22 years on the job.

Fletcher ran an energetic campaign for mayor, defeating fellow Alderman Kenny Elliott in a runoff after the two finished at the top in a crowded field in the first round of the election four weeks ago.

Fletcher’s agenda includes pushing for better schools, encouraging growth through annexation, working with doctors to stay in Jacksonville, improving the hospital, revitalizing rundown parts of town, planning town hall meetings in every part of the city and much more. He hopes to put most of his agenda in place before the next election, which is 16 months away. Even if he implements only a part of his agenda, he has a good chance of winning a full term next year.

The longtime alderman says he’ll run an open administration and has named Jim Durham his top administrative aide. Durham, who managed Fletcher’s successful campaign, also promises to open city records so residents know exactly what’s going on in their town.

Cabot’s freshman mayor, Eddie Joe Williams, announced last week he will not seek re-election next year and will instead run for the state Senate seat in Dist. 28, where Sen. Bobby Glover is term limited.

Williams, who inherited a city that was financially mismanaged and that received flunking grades from state auditors, thinks he’s put Cabot on the road to solvency and it’s time to move on. Although he probably won’t face an opponent in the Republican primary, he could see a formidable Democrat running against him in November 2010. Former House Speaker Benny Petrus of Stuttgart has told us he might run, and so might former Rep. Lenville Evans if Petrus declines. Both are Democrats, who hold an advantage in the district. It includes much of the Arkansas prairie, which usually votes Democratic except in presidential races.

Something tells us Gov. Beebe, who will seek re-election next year, will urge Petrus to run and strengthen the Democrats’ control in the legislature.

The passing of former Sherwood Mayor Bill Harmon over the weekend at the age of 81 saddened all those who knew him as a gentleman from the old school: Always courteous and ready with a quip, Harmon wanted the best for Sherwood, and the voters let him keep his job for 14 years. Even after he retired, he filled in temporarily when Mayor Danny Stedman resigned two years ago.

Supporters asked Harmon to run again in 2008 for another full term, and he did, half-heartedly, but a grassroots movement put former City Clerk-Treasurer Virginia Hillman in the mayor’s seat.

But Harmon never lost the common touch: He was a native of Hughes, in eastern Arkansas, where the pace is less hectic and the past sticks to its soil. He signed up for military service during the Second World War. The greatest generation never bragged about its achievements, never forgot its roots and never sought the limelight. That generation saved western civilization but hoped you wouldn’t keep reminding them.

Thank you, sir, and all those who served. RIP, Bill J. Harmon Sr., 1927-2009.