Mayoral candidates make their case

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

The Greater Eureka Springs Chamber of Commerce sponsored a mayoral review on Wednesday, Oct. 24, at the Inn of the Ozarks Convention Center, allowing the three candidates for mayor to share their thoughts on a variety of topics.

Mayor Butch Berry is being challenged in the Nov. 6 general election by Theodore Cottingham and Mike Seals.

Damon Henke, the chamber’s interim director, served as the moderator for the event. He said the chamber is a non-partisan organization and does not endorse candidates.

The candidates were given advance notice of the general topics they addressed in a rotating order.

Cottingham said he offers a different perspective on leadership.

"I wanted to give you an alternative to the leadership of Butch Berry," Cottingham said. "I appreciate what he's done for the city. I think there's more to do, and there's a great opportunity. … My leadership style is very much one of empowerment, one of leadership, one of consensus, one of allowing everyone to be creative at the table, and involving everyone at the table. So I have a bit of a different leadership style. I'm very transparent. My theme for this campaign is strategic preparation for deliberate growth. So I'm all about strategy, planning, having goals that are measurable, reporting them, using technology to the fullest, and involving everyone in the process that will be involved."

Berry said he was born and raised in Eureka Springs.

"I know this city,” he said. “I understand this city … One of the reasons I'm in public service is because I love this town. And when you love something, you want to do what's best for it. There is a lot we need to do in Eureka Springs.”

By re-electing him, Berry said, voters can ensure continuity in city government.

“Every four years we change leadership,” he said. “So when you change the captain of the ship every four years, it's hard to complete a goal and where you're going. That's what I would like to do is complete some of the work that we've started. … I want to continue with this same vision."

Seals, who read from a prepared text, said Eureka Springs is “floundering instead of flourishing.”

"I do believe our future can be much brighter than it is today,” he said. “… With the right vision and leadership, we can move from being a diamond in the rough to the crown jewel of the state of Arkansas and the surrounding region."

Seals pointed to his experience as a senior executive with JB Hunt, where he ascended from a management trainee to senior vice president of operations and later founder and president of JB Hunt Logistics. He ended each response by saying: “Seal the deal. Seals for mayor.”

Berry said the city’s financial situation is an example of his success as mayor.

“Four years ago, we almost spent all of our reserves,” he said. “We were down to $115,000 because of attitudes of ‘oh well, we have the money, let’s spend it.’ … We spent a lot of our reserves because our department heads didn’t know much they had to spend and they kept overspending. … I had some sleepless nights when I discovered from the finance officer that we may not be able to make payroll the next month. And so … we enacted a series of steps to stop the bleeding. We created some financial limitations within our departments. We gave access to our department heads to their budgets so they could see how much money they had. We’ve stabilized the budget. We’ve increased the financial health of the city.”

Seals said his goal as mayor would be to double current tourism numbers in 2020.

“Aggressive top-line growth will solve many of our current problems,” he said.

Cottingham said it’s important for the mayor to have a vision for the city.

“When there’s not leadership to read, study and follow up and keep the vision in front of the decision-makers, you can talk about economic development all day but it’s not going to happen until it’s designed and there are people willing to make it happen,” he said. “That’s a part of leadership.”

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