Former Rep. Pennartz to run for open Fort Smith Board seat

story by Ryan Saylor

The first candidate for the seat being vacated by City Director Pam Weber filed papers Monday (May 19) morning to succeed the Fort Smith Board of Directors' only woman.

Former Rep. Tracy Pennartz, D-Fort Smith, said she was running for the position 5 at-large position as a way to continue public service that ended when she termed out of the legislature in 2012 after serving three two-year terms in the Arkansas House of Representatives.

"Having served as a public servant as a legislator was one opportunity and I believe this is another opportunity to serve my city," she said Monday after she filed. "There happened to be circumstances where a position came open and this position will be an open seat. I felt with my experience, background and commitment to this community, maybe I could have an opportunity to be a public servant again by serving as a city director."

Pennartz, who ran unsuccessful for the Arkansas State Senate in 2012, said her number one priority should she win a seat on the Board would be to implement policies that bring jobs to the area.

"I taught at the University of Arkansas (at Fort Smith) this last semester and the one thing I've heard from some of the students graduating is there aren't jobs in this community to start their professional life here. So I'm concerned (and want) to keep them and attract others (to) this area, have the jobs to make them valuable members of this community."

She pointed to the city's more than 1,000 job announcements in the last year or more, but said the city should not just focus on bringing big business to Fort Smith. As a policy-setting body, Pennartz said it was incumbent on the Board to focus on small business, as well.

"Small businesses create most of the jobs," she said. "It's nice to have the big company and we all want that, but small businesses need an environment where they can make a living but also provide for our people. If there are policies that don't do that, we need to look at that."

Pennartz also highlighted development along the Arkansas River as a priority should she be elected, saying it could improve "quality of life, but also attract new people to Fort Smith."

She said it was time for the Board to start looking at the river and other areas not just in the here and now, but as part of the future of the city.

"I'm very interested in us being future-oriented. (We have to) look five, 10 years down the road and enact policies that will be positive for future citizens, also."

She said the Ben Geren Aquatics Center was part of having an eye on the future, saying that it will not only address quality of life in Fort Smith, but also positively impact the business community.

"It draws in not just from Fort Smith but also the region. That can have an impact for our small businesses, hotels, other businesses in the area," she said, adding that it was important for the project to be ran like a business and make money.

"Certainly, when you engage in an endeavour, $10 - $12 million like that, you want a return on your money. I think the city and county are still engaged in what type of organization and operational setup that will be. …So I look forward to engaging with setting policy with what that infrastructure should look like."


Weber's position created the second vacancy on the Board following City Director Philip Merry's announcement that he would not seek re-election to his position seven at-large seat on the Board. Former City Director Don Hutchings and Parks Commissioner Sherry Toliver have announced their intentions to run for Merry's seat, though neither had filed as of Monday.

As of Monday, the only candidates to have filed to run for Board positions besides Pennartz were Mayor Sandy Sanders and Vice Mayor Kevin Settle, who holds the position six at-large director position. Both men are seeking re-election to their respective positions.

The filing period for municipal Fort Smith offices runs from May 14 to Noon on May 29. An election will be held Aug. 12. If needed, a run-off election will be held Nov. 4.

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What were Ms Pennartz's major accomplishments.. the House of Representatives?

Good Question Generation4

"What were Ms Pennartz major accomplishments.." and what can this person do for our city? People need to know!

What is Pennartz's record on doing what she says?

I am encouraged to see Tracy Pennartz focus on attracting jobs by helping small businesses in this area. However, I am rather new to the area - what is her track record? I also agree the water park will help small businesses, by bringing people in from other areas who will need to grab a bite to eat or stop and get sunscreen and t-shirts. Who knows? But any kind of positive energy directed towards the young adults, jobs, and small business has my attention!

StugglingBizOwner Reply

Hope Tracy coming back to the BOD will help the Don get religion but on a serious note, Fort Smith needs many Downtown events that will bring visitors to town by the thousands who will experience a great time and shop until they drop. We need to show off our beautiful city and treat every visitor like family so they will leave with a lasting impression of the Fort Smith experience and hope that they tell all their family and friends to "come on down".

Beautiful City?

Ft. Smith has a long way to go before it looks beautiful. Pam Weber spearheaded beautification. Who will continue those efforts on the BOD ? Don't look to "the Don", his dreams are not of this world. Sure we need to cultivate attractions for visitors, but we need mutual trust between citizens and municipal leaders first. That trust is not earned with "pork barrel priced" beautification scams. Let's keep it simple, affordable yet impressive with grassroots pride of ownership....with some help from the city treasury for little things like housepaint, weedkiller, small repairs,etc. for those who cannot afford to do it physically or financially. Lipstick on a pig can still hide the "pork". So don't get greedy, City Hall.

Beauty Is In

the eye of the beholder and the people who have not seen the brick city in OKC, the river walk in TX, the bridge of lions in St Augustine, does not really understand what can be done to make the city more attractive to the visitor. Much more can be done and one would suspect that some of our 270 million dollar city budget has not been properly used to make Fort Smith the number 1 destination city in the Southwest.

True MC

Fort Smith can do it better and be the number 1 destination city in the region by directing some of that enormous city budget into Downtown events that the people will enjoy. Why not?

Most on here will agree...

that most of our 270 million dollar city budget has not been properly used to make Fort Smith the number 1 destination city in the Southwest. Of course, how to use said money is always up for discussion.

Perhaps the trick is for the city to work with everyone

and not be almost exclusively at the beck and call for the aggravatingly active few. I have no doubt a few citizens here have been sacrificed on the altar to try and appease their many gods over the years.

Why Settle For Less

Lets appease the gods more with the sacrifice of bigger fish so the gods will smile on the regular folks in Fort Smith who want block parties and great events Downtown. Wouldn't that be the trick needed to put city hall where it belongs as just an aid to the private sector? Bring it on!

Settle for Less

We have Settled for less. Look at our director Kevin Settle ever since he got elected Fort Smith has fallen furthur behind.

Visions and Decisions

Visions are dreams and decisions are now and its my opinion that The BOD is almost powerless to deal with city management that keeps them in the dark. We need great parks, police, schools, and fire protection but are lacking the spark that will bring thousands of visitors to the city. Is anyone working on events that will bring lots of quality entertainment events to downtown because the bikes, blues, and barbeque does it for NW Arkansas but our city seems to be asleep at the wheel.

5,10.............30 years, what's the difference?

Pennartz is touting the same thing only different with her political double-talk. I suppose 5 to 10 is better than 30 years as a benchmark but we need action NOW using what we have at present. No more dreams and promises for the future, PLEASE ! It is crunch time and career politicians don't deal with that as a reality. Get current, get real or get out, I say to all the polticos.

Escape hatch

Pam was smart enough to get out while the getting was good and Mr. Merry is saying good bye for most likely the same reasons so who will stoop low enough to join the yes people on the BOD?