Leader Blues

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

TOP STORY >> Cabot mayor to run for Senate

By JOHN HOFHEIMER
AND JOAN MCCOY
Leader staff writers

Cabot Mayor Eddie Joe Williams announced Monday that he is running for the Dist. 28 Senate seat that Sen. Bobby Glover will vacate at the end of 2010.

Williams, a Republican, said running for the Senate next year instead of a second term as mayor was a matter of timing. Glover, a Democrat from Carlisle, is term limited in the office he has held since 2004.

Dist. 28 includes all of Lonoke and Prairie counties and parts of Pulaski and Arkansas counties.

If he is elected, Williams says he will be the same type of approachable public servant that Glover has been.

“I will build on his reputation as a constituent senator,” the mayor said.

Former House Speaker Benny Petrus, D-Stuttgart, said Tuesday that he was “leaning toward getting in the race.”

“I’m going to sit down with my family and make a decision by the first of August,” Petrus said. “If we do it, we’re going to get after it. It will be feet to the pavement.”

“I’ve been encouraged by a lot of people,” Petrus added.

“I’ve got the [legislative] experience,” he said. “So much knowledge of how the process works. But I’ve got to get committed myself.”

Petrus said if he decided against running, he would back his friend, former state Rep. Lenville Evans, D-Lonoke.

Evans, reached on a tractor planting soybeans Tuesday, said he was considering a run for Glover’s seat, but that there were several considerations, including whether or not Petrus seeks the office.

Glover said Monday that he would not endorse a candidate, at least not in the primary. He also said he had decided not to run for secretary of state, in part because he’s not fully recovered from his stroke last summer.

He said he would be open to further service to the people if he were appointed to the state Highway Commission or the state Corrections Board.

In an interview Monday, Williams called Glover one of the best friends Cabot has ever had and credited the senator with help on some of the major projects that have been started since he became mayor in January 2007, especially funding for the armory that will be built in Cabot.

Williams’ prepared statement did not include his affiliation with the Republican Party.

“I’ll work for everyone as an individual, not as a party,” he said. “Being there when your constituents need you is more important.”

To stave off critics who might say he hasn’t given enough to Cabot yet to move on to a state office, Williams says it’s possible to stay in a position too long, that he has gone at “mach speed” ever since he took office and he has accomplished a lot.

“It’s not about how long; it’s what you do while you’re there,” Williams said.

Traffic has been on top of Williams’ list of priorities since he took over as mayor. He has worked with the state and county on road projects that have eased traffic congestion somewhat.

The city was at least $400,000 in debt so the budget was also a major concern. Now, mainly through staff cuts, the city has about $2 million more than is necessary to run the city at the current level.

Additionally, a $775,000 health department clinic is under construction and an $8.2 million armory should be started this year.

The $7.2 million railroad overpass that Williams started working for about 10 years ago while he was on the Cabot City Council is near completion.

If elected, Williams will continue to work for federal funding for a north interchange estimated to cost about $20 million.

Williams, 54, grew up in Sheridan. He has been married for 37 years and has three daughters, six grandsons and one granddaughter.

He worked for the railroad for 30 years, starting as a laborer and working up to regional director of transportation. He retired when he was elected mayor.

Asked how he would deal with being only one of many senators instead of the top official, Williams said he realized that his role would be different from what it is now. But he said he would become a consensus builder.

“People need someone to represent them at the state level,” he said.

Williams, who announced his intentions to run for mayor almost four years before he was elected, said he won’t start campaigning until 2010.

Randy Minton of Ward, a former state representative and a Republican, had been rumored as a candidate for the state Senate, but Minton said this week that he will not run and that he has offered his support to the mayor.

Minton, who once coveted the seat held by Glover, said, “I’m going to support Eddie Joe. Eddie Joe is the best chance the Republican Party has to take that seat.”

His unsuccessful race for an open House seat last year against Davy Carter was the reason for his decision, Minton said.

Minton said that he’s not running because of “the outcome of the last election” for state representative, which he lost to Carter (R-Cabot), 1,388 to 1,066. Also, “I’ve had some changes in my business and it takes a lot of time.”

Petrus, who owns both a Chrysler/Ford dealership and a General Motors/Buick dealership in Stuttgart, said although these are difficult times for car dealers, “We didn’t get any letters” from Chrysler or GM telling Petrus to close down.

Lonoke County prosecutor Will Feland also has been named as a possible candidate.

Feland, who was appointed as prosecutor last year after Lona McCastlain resigned, said his new job is consuming all his time now. He isn’t saying he won’t run, Feland said, but it is too soon to say one way or the other.