ELKINS, Ark. (KNWA/KFTA) – The city of Elkins has two candidates for mayor that will be on the midterm ballot. Those candidates are Troy Reed and Paul Graham. Both acknowledge the next mayor will have some challenges to face.
Reed is the chairman of the planning commission in Elkins. He’s also been working for the Elkins Police Department for 14 years.
“I’ve been a public servant here for a long time. I would love to continue to be a public servant in a different aspect,” said Reed.
Graham serves on the Elkins Parks and Recreation Committee and is a former Farmington Alderman as well as a former Justice of the Peace for Washington County.
One of the biggest tasks for the future mayor to face will be infrastructure. Over $20 million is needed to fund a water and sewage project. Reed said there are also flooding issues that need to be addressed.
“There’s not much elevation change throughout the city limits. We have seven outlets that go to the river that carry our stormwater- those are going to have to be cleaned out and maintained. They’ve not really ever been cleaned out or maintained. So that’s something that, if elected, we’re all going to have to work on,” said Reed.
As for the water and sewage project, Graham said the city is millions short in its funding for the project, and something needs to be done.
“We’re going to have to hire a grants administrator to go get money because we’re $20 million short of being able to fix the water and sewer that we’ve already passed bonds for. That’s a big issue. We’re going to have to look at creative ways to possibly fix the issue so that we can grow our tax base so that we can afford to make these fixes in the long run,” said Graham.
With the population in Elkins booming, the mayoral candidates are looking at future plans. Reed says he wants the master plan to be more short-term due to how quickly the community may change. He said since the last census, the population has doubled.
“I’m looking at more toward a 10-year master plan because of our growth. It’s immense. We’ve got some subdivisions here that are filling up,” said Reed.
Graham is looking at more of a long-term plan.
“I’m calling my plan the 2050 plan so that we can start looking out as far as what the Regional Planning did for Northwest Arkansas so that we can make decisions that are going to affect our children and grandchildren and have them in place now,” said Graham.
Reed also wants to see more businesses come into the area. Right now, city employees and the mayor are the ones who go out to encourage businesses to set up in Elkins. He said the current process is slow. That’s why he wants to create an Elkins Chamber of Commerce.
“We need to keep up with the times. Having a chamber of commerce will do a lot to get people out here- not only citizens but businesses as well,” said Reed.
Reed and Graham both want Elkins to maintain its small-town feel, while still growing. Graham believes that can be done by careful and thorough planning ahead.
“That comes back to having a plan on how you want to develop. You have to get citizen buy-in on anything that you want to do. I mean, in a perfect world, Elkins wouldn’t grow, and we’d remain exactly like we are,” said Graham.
According to Reed, the fire and police department in Elkins have a high call volume. With growth, comes more need for emergency personnel.
“Hiring and retention is going to be huge and then general programs for the officers’ incentives and those kinds of things. The fire department- we’re going to have to add more full-time people there,” said Reed.
Graham is interested in starting a public safety commission with members of police, fire, and Central EMS.
“I would love to see more civic engagement in that process. So, everyone knows what great departments we actually have, and I would love to work to get central EMS out here in Elkins or an ambulance service,” said Graham.
Both candidates say people in Elkins want to be heard. Reed has been hearing from residents who want an open-door policy across city government.
“When people have a problem, they want to be able to go to somebody to be able to express their issues, whether it’s a problem, a concern, a comment, people just want to be heard. I’m a people person, and that’s what I intend to do,” said Reed.
One of the items Graham wants to address if he’s elected is communication issues between citizens and city leaders, especially regarding budgeting.
“It’s the citizens plans that need to be implemented because it’s not just me who lives in Elkins, it’s 3,700 other people,” said Graham.
Early voting continues through Nov. 7. Election day is Nov. 8.