HI voters say yes to incorporation
Scott Loftis and Samantha Jones
Holiday Island is officially a town.
According to final but unofficial results from the general election on Tuesday, Nov. 3, Holiday Island residents voted in favor of incorporation by a margin of 789-708.
Carroll County clerk Connie Doss released the unofficial final vote totals Wednesday, Nov. 4, after a technical issue prevented election officials from counting most of the county’s 1,844 absentee ballots on Election Day. Absentee ballots are included in all the totals reported in this story.
“Unfortunately, our new ballot printer to take care of what we knew would be a record number of absentee ballots for this election, was not calibrated properly with the DS200 (the tabulator),” Carroll County Doss said in an email on the night of the election.
Election officials recast the absentee ballots using the ExpressVote machines and then tabulated those ballots to reach the final unofficial results.
Daniel Kees defeated Russell Baxter 849-491, becoming the first mayor of Holiday Island. In the Holiday Island City Council races, Lynn Edward Dumas defeated Rick Chambers for Position 1, Linda Graves defeated Susan Rosen 882-449 for Position 3 and Jerry Pittman defeated Barbara Talbot 768-548 for Position 5. Patrick William Elwood and Kenneth E. Mills were unopposed for Position 2 and Position 4, respectively. Wesley Stille won his race uncontested, with Stille becoming recorder/treasurer.
Kees was a leading proponent of incorporation .
“We’re pleased with how it turned out, obviously,” he said. “We put a lot of work into it over the past couple of years and it finally paid off, although the vote was a lot closer than I thought it would be. I knew there was opposition. We knew that not everybody was sold on the idea, but we had a split pretty close down the middle.”
Asked to describe his first priorities as mayor, Kees chuckled and said “getting the city organized.”
“We’re basically started from scratch,” he said. “We have to start from the very basics like deciding when and where we’re going to have our council meetings, setting up bank accounts, getting a telephone number out there, just getting started. The two priorities that we ran on were to bring some revenue back into the community in the turnback money and things like that. That’ll sort of start happening on its own once we’re in the system with the state, and then we’ll get to work on all the ordinances that it takes to run the city. We do plan on code enforcement being one of our priorities.”
Two of the three contested Eureka Springs City Council races were very close. Challenger LauraJo Smole unseated incumbent Susan Harman 596-500 in their race for the Ward 1, Position 2 seat, while challenger Bill Ott ousted incumbent Bob Thomas 573-549 for the Ward 2, Position 2 seat. Incumbent Melissa Greene defeated challenger Michael Seals 769-354 for the Ward 2, Position 1 seat.
Smole said she was "pleased and excited" to see such a high voter turnout. She worked for the city of Eureka Springs from 1998 to 2002 as the liaison for the planning and historic district commissions, Smole said, and is currently the chairwoman of the planning commission. Smole said she wants to see increased focus on the community, saying her goal is for the city to attract more families. One way to do that, Smole said, is to create bicycle and walking lanes on major streets in Eureka Springs.
"I'd also like to see a pocket park in the different neighborhoods … so moms can meet up and kids can play safely," Smole said. "I plan on working with everybody … to see what can be done."
Harman, who has served on various city commissions since 2015, said she's enjoyed her years of public service.
"This is what elections are all about — people get to vote for who they want and what they want, and obviously, this is what they wanted," Harman said. "I'm thankful for the opportunity I had to serve. I don't have any animosity toward anybody and certainly not [Smole]. I wish the city the very best going forward."
Ott said he's excited to serve on the council again, saying he was a council member from 2003 to 2004. One of the things he hopes the council can accomplish, Ott said, is to work together on every issue that comes to the table.
"I'm hoping we can come together and be more proactive for our community rather than reactive," Ott said. "Instead of talking about and voting on things that might crop up, let's get proactive where we actually put together a plan for our city and do things accordingly to that plan so we can help our community grow."
Ott said tourism affects everyone in town, whether they work in the industry or not. He has decades of experience working in tourism, Ott said, and he is looking forward to bringing his expertise to the council table.
"I appreciate everyone's prayers and love and support," Ott said. "Their vote is going to allow me to serve the community again on the city council, but more than that, I appreciate people getting out to vote. It's so important for us to get involved in that way. It's one thing to say, 'I'm sure glad we have a democracy.' It's another thing when you actually get out and prove you do by exercising your right to vote."
Thomas congratulated Ott and Smole for winning their seats on the council, as well as Autumn Slane, who ran unopposed for Ward 1, Position 1.
"[Slane] has been working and 'learning the ropes' for some weeks already. I know she is determined to do a good job," Thomas said. "As for me, I want to thank everyone in Eureka Springs for allowing me to serve on your council for six years. It truly was an honor and a privilege each and every day."
Slane did not return a call for comment.
Greene, who served on the historic district commission for 14 years and the council for three years, thanked everyone who came out to vote.
"What I've learned is I live in a very unique town. I listen to everybody," Greene said. "I want to do the very best job that I can. I will listen to you. Please approach me. I am very approachable."
Seals said he wasn't surprised at the results of the race, saying Greene has worked in public service for a long time. Seals said he's been focused on serving as interim director of the Greater Eureka Springs Chamber of Commerce over the past few months.
"[Greene's] done a good job. Her heart's all in it and I knew it was going to be a difficult race," Seals said. "I want to congratulate [Greene] and I have told her I'm going to be there to help in any way and every way I can moving the city forward. I think right now, the best place for me to do that is at the chamber of commerce."
Voters overwhelmingly favored keeping the Eureka Springs Historic District Commission, with 854 votes against a proposal to abolish the commission and 319 in favor of the proposal. Mayor Butch Berry said the vote proves voters understand the importance of the commission.
"They recognized that the whole reason for this initiative was someone was mad they didn't get their way and got mad at the commission," Berry said. "I think we'll see some changes, possibly within the guidelines and things. I think [the commission is] going to start addressing some of those issues which they were working on prior to the election. It's all going to be positive."
Greene agreed, reflecting on her history of service on the historic district commission. She knows the value of the historic district, Greene said.
"Preserving our historic district is huge. I am proud of the people in Eureka Springs for supporting us ," Greene said. "That's what the identity of the town is and to lose it — we would lose our historic homes. Bentonville is a perfect example of it. They've lost all their historic area to brand new McMansions and condos."
Greene added, "As for the 300 people who voted against it, we need to work hard to make them understand how important those [commissioners] are and we want to help them understand what an asset Eureka is to them."
A proposal to create a permanent entertainment district in Eureka Springs received 518 votes, with 641 votes against the proposal. A proposal to repeal a permanent entertainment district with a sunset clause received 603 votes, with 548 votes against the proposal.
District 3 Justice of the Peace Harrie Farrow defeated challenger Ferguson Stewart 884-425 in the only contested race involving the Carroll County Quorum Court.
Farrow thanked everyone for voting in the election and said she felt honored to receive so many votes this time around.
"It's always a good feeling," Farrow said. "Being re-elected is a lot more exciting than being elected in the first place, because they liked you enough to ask you to come back again."
Farrow said it's been tough for the quorum court to do much beyond business as usual because of the COVID-19 pandemic but said she'd like to look into ways to protect the local environment.
"We're so limited in the county as far as funds, so it's hard to take on new projects," Farrow said. "It would be great to find funding so we can do more in the community on that."
Farrow said she's impressed with the current makeup of the quorum court.
"Everybody's got different backgrounds and knows about different things," Farrow said. "It's great to see how dedicated they are and how much they all care. The county's in good hands."
Stewart did not return a call for comment.
District 97 State Rep. Harlan Breaux defeated challenger Suzie Bell 3,908-3,671 in Carroll County. In addition to a large portion of Carroll County, District 97 also includes parts of Madison and Washington counties. District-wide, Breaux had 8,646 votes compared with 4,932 for Bell.
Bell said she is proud of the campaign she ran, saying she's been blessed by the whole process.
"I got to really meet some awesome, amazing people. I'm proud of the campaign we ran because we kept it positive and we didn't get down in the gutter," Bell said. "I just feel richer for having gone through the experience. Of course, I'm disappointed."
Bell encouraged everyone to stay engaged and stay positive.
"There's still a lot of good work to do and this doesn't change what I do," Bell said. "I'm going to continue working hard and doing the things I've always done. I just get to spend more time here in the community rather than doing it in Little Rock."
Breaux, who spoke on his way to Little Rock, said he's grateful for everyone that voted in the election.
"I'm just real thankful. My wife has been a tremendous blessing with all that she's done. I had a lot of people praying for me," Breaux said. "For that, I am very thankful. I was so afraid it was going to be close, and it wasn't even close."
Breaux said he represents everyone in his district, whether they voted for him or not.
"I will still work for you and I will give you my best. I'll work hard for you," Breaux said. "I'll be honest. Thank you for representing me and my district, because I'll be representing you in Little Rock."
Breaux said he's always a phone call away.
"If you need something, please give me a call," Breaux said. "I will answer the call. I will get back in touch with you. I must be old school, because I do answer my calls and I do get back with you."