SPRINGDALE, Ark. (KNWA/KFTA) — Springdale’s four city council races are all contested, and with at least two new council members guaranteed to start in the new term, the city’s local government is poised to look much different. Candidates said they didn’t expect the races to draw so much intrigue.
“I’m excited for however it turns out, and we’ll move on and continue to do great things,” said Mayor Doug Sprouse.
Sprouse said he’s never seen this level of community interest in city council races.
Incumbent Kathy Jaycox is still on the ballot for Ward 4, Position 2, but she announced she’s dropping her campaign and moving out of the district. This means the race has been effectively cut to two: Mark Fougerousse and Derek Van Voast. Should she still receive more votes than either, the city would either appoint someone to fill the seat or host a special election.
“When she was announcing that she was not going to run, there were two newspaper articles,” Fougerousse said, noting that local-government incumbents nearly always receive the most votes in reelection campaigns. “As far as I know, that was it.”
Fougerousse, a small-business advocate who received Sprouse’s endorsement Wednesday, said he’s been surprised by the attention each race has gotten by the public. He said he’s committed to running a “clean campaign” but added that the races have gotten chippy at times.
“You have to be tough-skinned,” Fougerousse said. “You have to hold your temper.”
Springdale’s minority population continues to grow, but some groups say they lack representation on city council. Van Voast, the only African-American candidate and well-traveled football coach, said he’s been personally affected by racism during the campaign.
“I’ve heard people say if I win, they’re moving out of the city,” Van Voast said. “I’ve heard some people say that if I win, people on city council are not going to serve with me.”
Van Voast said he’s been incorrectly painted as an anti-police, radical activist. He said he thinks he’s being categorized this way because of his skin color, adding that personal attacks on his family could discourage future people of color from running in future city elections.
“Even if I don’t get the seat, I’ve already won because I exposed all this,” Van Voast said. “I want other people of color to see my campaign and know they can do this, too. This is a movement, and it doesn’t end with me.”
Sprouse said a race that stands out is the battle for Ward 2, Position 2. Kevin Flores, a former marine and longtime Springdale resident, is challenging Rick Evans, who’s been on the council for more than two decades. Evans did not respond to questions by the time of this story’s publication.
“The campaign seems to be going well for both of them,” Sprouse said. “I think it’ll be a very interesting race to see how that turns out.”
Flores, who’s now a lawyer in Rogers, said his background is only one part of his makeup.
“I’m Hispanic, I’m an immigrant to this great country, but that’s not why I’m running,” Flores said. “I’m qualified for this position. I have great ideas.”
Flores said he’s garnered a slew of support from many people in all branches of society, leading him to believe the city’s progressing while also recognizing logistical realities.
“I’ve gained a lot of support, starting from your blue collar worker at the Tyson factory line to our law enforcement officers in the city, city leaders and most recently our very own congressman speaking highly of me,” Flores said.
Flores said the city’s demographics and belief systems are changing, so its up to the council to bridge any gaps.
“Our nation is divided, unfortunately,” Flores said. “What we can control is what happens in Springdale.”
Sprouse said he thinks voters’ number-one care is where candidates stand on the issues. Still, he said he’s fired up about seeing a diverse group in this election.
“I think seeing a slate of diverse candidates is very encouraging,” Sprouse said. “I think it’s a good sign for better things to come.”