Former Fort Smith Director Don Hutchings seeks a return to the board

story by Ryan Saylor
rsaylor@thecitywire.com

He may have left the Fort Smith Board of Directors in 2012, but former City Director Don Hutchings is hoping the the goodbye will not be permanent.

Hutchings, the senior pastor at Evangel Temple Assembly of God in Fort Smith, confirmed Wednesday (March 19) that he would seek a second full term in what he hopes will be a return to the Board later this year.

Initially declining to run for re-election in 2012 due to a building project then in planning at the church, it will likely come as little surprise to many observers of city politics that the minister is looking for to return to the Board, as he has attended Board meetings as an audience member for the last several months. He said a return was possible due to his church's building project getting funded and off the ground.

"We're building an $8 million facility across the street (from the current sanctuary). I needed time to meet with builders, architects and the church. It's (now) running better than I ever imagined and I feel like it's alright to come back on the Board — if the voters will have me."

Should he be successful in his bid to replace retiring City Director Philip Merry, Hutchings said he wants to make it a priority to get citizens involved in their city government.

"Coming to the meetings, it's interesting to see who doesn't come. Like last night (March 18), most of the room was empty. Sitting in the audience, you get a new perspective. So we've got to get more of our people plugged into our process."

Reflecting on his service on the Board from 2009 to 2012, Hutchings said there were many successes, including the hiring of City Administrator Ray Gosack and the lowering of monthly sanitation rates, along with "about 100 other great things that happened."

The Board of Directors, he added, has continued to work hard for the people of Fort Smith.

"I don't have any criticisms of the Board. I have a new respect for the Board as I sit back as a spectator. I realize how important they are and how hard they work. And actually, it's given me a greater appreciation of what the administrator, the mayor and the Board do for our city."

Should Hutchings win a seat on the Board, he said his primary focus would be on attracting more high tech jobs to the Fort Smith region, as well as working with small businesses, adding that his previous term on the Board was spent "trying to help them with the process of establishing businesses here in the community."

But if there is one thing he hopes to correct, it is perceived problems with how the city's planning department works with developers and homeowners.

"I served for five years on the planning commission and I didn't realize how much time that the planning department takes with potential new businesses," he said. "But there's evidently a problem with some communication not being as efficient as possible. There are some hoops to jump through, but every city has that. It is a challenge that will always be there, but we can make it better. Training, education, awareness that this is how it works. …My goal is to not assume that people know, even if they're asking questions, but to walk them through."

As for how Hutchings — who has already given up serving on the Board previously due to obligations to his church — plans to balance his service to the city and his obligation to his growing congregation should his election prove successful, he said it would be a challenge, but it would be no different than the last time he was on the Board.

"God has blessed me with a tremendous staff of ministers. We have seven full-time pastors and something I really wanted to stress is the church life and the city director life would never interfere with each other. I never talk about (political) issues from the pulpit. I never use our facility or our people (for political purposes)."

He added that dividing his obligations between the two would simply come down to time management.

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"I never knew until pastoring how much joy, but also how much time management, there is. But it's not a big problem."

The filing period for city director and mayor will open May 14, according to City Clerk Sherri Gard, though she said packets are already available for pickup at her office, located at 623 Garrison Avenue. So far, she said Hutchings and two other unknown individuals have collected packets for the Position 7 At-Large director position.

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Comments

Hutchings - A good fit

I would say at present we have done about as good as we ever have of getting 'all' of Ft Smith represented up there. Don Hutchings coming back would certainly help keep the trend going.

Double Dipper

Personally think that the Rev has his fingers in enough pies and Fort Smith doesn't need another double or triple dipper! Church, TV, Pass the plate, salary, and if elected, just another dip for the big dipper! Can you name one thing that the Big Dipper ever accomplished when he was on the BOD?

It's not like they address a joint session of Congress

up there so maybe that's why I'm not aware of any earth shaking legislation any City Director ever here has accomplished. As busy as he is and as little as this pays it looks to me like it indicates he just wants to do it.

Self Import

Self import and political gain seem to drive this man so hard that he sometimes backs up the entire push forward! He may want to do it but wanting and actually succeeding are two very different things. Its a very big NO NO for me because his real mission in life should be saving souls and attending to his flock because the work of the church is never done.

Puppy Dog

Sorry Generation4 but Don reminds me of a little puppy dog with his tongue hanging out waiting to be fed his favorite meal. We don't need any more of the same old, same old behavior on the BOD that has put Fort Smith at the bottom of economic growth in the State. We need people on the BOD that will make intelligent business decisions and will hold the city managers feet to the fire if he does not perform.

A puppy dog? Really? That

A puppy dog? Really? That doesn't even make sense. How does running for office in hopes to better the economy of the city indicate him begging like a dog? I have a feeling you've never met the man therefore you can't attest to his character. Why don't you keep your insults to yourself from now on.

NO NO NO and Another NO

Please tell me that Hutchings is not running for the BOD because that would be a return to the failed past.

Did Don Hutchings Really Represent the People or City Hall?

I wasn't going to comment on this article, but when Don Hutchings shared this article on his Facebook page, I decided to comment. Although the comment was deleted from his Facebook , I placed it again, and it too may be deleted. But here goes: Sorry, but Don Hutchings says he represents the citizens, but does he? During the Prepared Food Tax, Don supported city administrator Ray Gosack's attempt to force this tax without a vote of the people. Secondly, Don Hutchings sat silent when the city administrator used police in big black SUVs to deliver subpoenas to good, decent people, in front of their families and neighbors forcing these folks downtown for depositions at the city attorney's office, when the only thing these good citizens were guilty of was collecting names to overturn the tax. I'm sorry, but this type of force should not be allowed to take place in an American city and it is unconscionable that a preacher would allow innocent people to be intimidated and herded like sheep downtown for such abuse without taking a stand for the people he says he represents.
I wasn't going to comment on this article, but when Don Hutchings shared this article on his Facebook page, I decided to comment. Although the comment was deleted from his Facebook , I placed it again, and it too may be deleted. But here goes: Sorry, but Don Hutchings says he represents the citizens, but does he? During the Prepared Food Tax, Don supported city administrator Ray Gosack's attempt to force this tax without a vote of the people. Secondly, Don Hutchings sat silent when the city administrator used police in big black SUVs to deliver subpoenas to good, decent people, in front of their families and neighbors forcing these folks downtown for depositions ...>> Read the entire comment.

Tax and Spend Don

Totally agree with your comment Mr. Swink but be aware that the big black SUV's could be ordered to stop at your house.

Thank you Don for your prior

Thank you Don for your prior service, but please let someone else have a shot. Lets move Ft. Smith in a new direction with new blood. Nothing personnel Don, we just need new ideas, new people, and new leadership. You wouldnt run before becuase your church was adding on, has that been completed?

Responsibilities

Good reply Matthew and it was always my understanding that a Preacher's first responsibility is to God and the people of his church. You cannot serve 2 masters so Rev Don should devote all of his free time to his Creator and his Church and allow someone else a chance inject new ideas into leadership because its the right thing to do.

Spelling and Thoughts

We all appreciate the correct "personal" but most Doctors, attorneys, and CPA's are not the best at spelling. Think the author of the comment is a CPA but its the thought that counts and his meaning was clear even with the wrong spelling. I am very concerned about the enormous waste of taxpayer dollars in Fort Smith because this money could be better used to improve our schools.

Not A CPA

I checked with the Arkansas State Board of Accountancy and To To set the record straight, Matthew Garner is not a CPA. Becoming a CPA includes attending 5 years of college and passing a very rigorous multi-day, 4 part examination. Either Matthew has chosen not to take the exam or he has not passed the exam. Either way, he is not a CPA.

The Hype

Matthew is not running for office so why would you check to see if he was a licensed CPA in Arkansas? He could have a CPA license from another state but it really doesn't matter. Did you also check to see if the Don is really an Ordained Minister from an accredited college or is he just ok because he always votes with the good ole boys like you?

Sorry for the spelling error,

Sorry for the spelling error, the comment box here is sometimes hard to proofread. But the point remains-We appreciate what Don has done, but I stand by the fact that he has the same issues going on that he had when he said he would not seek another term.