Members of the Fort Smith Board of Directors, along with Mayor Sandy Sanders and City Administrator Ray Gosack, met in executive session Monday night (March 11) at the Creekmore Park Community Center to make appointments to the city’s Comprehensive Plan Steering Committee.
Sanders said 77 individuals applied for a spot on the committee, which the city had extended the application deadline to Feb. 22.
“We got a substantial number (after extending the deadline),” Sanders said. “It helped flesh out the field as far as background information and people with a variety of backgrounds.”
Individuals appointed to the Comprehensive Plan Steering Committee are: Bobby Aldridge, Donna Bragg, Rob Coleman, John Cooley, Leroy Cox, Joel Culberson, Rham Cunningham, Ed Devero, Jack Green, Pete Hanham, Michelle Hood, Galen Hunter, Matt Keep, Teresa Keller, Bruce David King, Zena Marshall, Mitchell Minnick, Alex Nguyen, Megan Raynor, Alex Sanchez, Sam Sicard, Jeff Smith, Jim Spears, Sherry Toliver, Rocky Walker, Ulysses C. Washington, Phil White and Whitney Yoder.
The steering committee was initially formed more than a decade ago to develop Fort Smith’s first comprehensive plan on how to develop and grow going forward, according to Sanders.
He said the plan developed from the last steering committee had been used by the city since its development.
“And now a lot of things have changed in 10 years. It’s time to update the thinking of what the citizens who live here now and will live here in the future think that the city needs to do to develop and improve what we do, not just as a city government, but as a city – where we need to grow, how that growth needs to look. You know (there are) a lot of the things people on the committee can bring to it…Seven directors, we don’t have a market on all thoughts and ideas,” Sanders said.
The selection process for the committee is unknown since the proceedings were completed in executive session. But before entering executive session, large sheets of paper were on display, taped to walls, listing categories of employment (i.e. Retail, Medical, Hospitality) and age (i.e. 20 – 29, 40-45). The names of applicants to the committee were also listed on separate sheets.
Ward 3 Director Mike Lorenz said before the meeting that the selection process undertaken by the Board on Monday would be thorough and complete to ensure the best and most diverse group of applicants was chosen for the committee.
“I think we all put a lot of effort into getting to understand each applicant and the interview process went really well,” he said.
According to City Director Keith Lau, each member of the Board interviewed about 10 applicants.
The questions asked were varied, according to Lorenz.
“A couple of things I would ask is what their view is of where Fort Smith will be in 10 (or) 20 years and got some great feedback with that,” he said. “That’s where the committee needs to be thinking when they do this and also how they work in groups and their previous experiences in situations like this.”
Lorenz said the most important question he would ask applicants was why they wanted to be on the committee.
“You’d get some pretty interesting responses to that question. I think the best thing we can do is make sure we have a broad spectrum of the community so we have all the different interests represented. You get a better plan that way when everyone is involved,” he added.
Sanders said regardless of who is appointed to the committee, all voices will be heard when it comes to developing the city’s next comprehensive plan.
“They will use the steering committee to engage other people,” Sanders explained. “They may have a subcommittee on recreation. I would anticipate they would have public meetings open to anybody and everybody.”
He said citizens who cannot make a meeting would be able to submit questions and comments to himself, Gosack and the committee itself, ensuring that the voice of the citizenry is heard.