Flyer Profile: Sarah Lewis

This past election season was on fire. But with most of the attention on the possibility of the United State’s first African-American President, many Fayetteville residents had a difficult time focusing on all six mayoral candidates. It’s no wonder the City Council seats that were up for grabs didn’t receive an incredible amount of attention.

No matter. It’s high time us Flyers had a closer look at those who make the decisions that effect us all as residents of Fayetteville. At the very least, we’re certainly due for some introductions.

When Lioneld Jordan threw his name into the hat for Mayor (and ultimately won), residents
in Ward 4 were left to wonder who would fill the seat that hasn’t seen a new Alderman in nearly eight years. Three candidates entered the race but on election day it was incredibly clear who had Ward 4’s support when Sarah Lewis beat out Craig Honchell and Bernard Sulliban with a whopping 65% of the votes.

Sarah is a an environmental dynamics doctoral candidate at the University of Arkansas, an ecosystems consultant at the Springline Consulting Group, a former award-winning science and French teacher and she has focused much of her day-to-day life on educating others about protecting our natural resources.

As for her community involvement, the list is quite long. Most notably, she is a former Neighborhood Representative and Chair for the Council of Neighborhoods. Of course now, Ms. Lewis will be focused on the Ward 4, Position 2 seat of the Fayetteville City Council.

Oh yeah, and she was kind enough to answer a few questions for the Fayetteville Flyer.

Fayetteville Flyer: What’ve you been listening to lately?
Sarah Lewis: I’ve been listening to Ingrid Michaelson, Amos Lee and Paramore. I’ve also been listening to a lot of classical music because I can study to it. Pandora internet radio and KUAF/NPR are great resources for classical music.

I’ve also just learned how to download music onto my phone!

FF: What brought you to Fayetteville and how long have you been here?
SL: Fayetteville was my home away from home growing up because my aunt and uncle lived here so we would drive down from Nebraska for just about every holiday. Later my family bought a cabin on Table Rock Lake, so summers were spent in this region, as well. I finally decided to move here because I got accepted to graduate school at U of A to study French Literature.

I have lived in Arkansas since the summer of 1997 and moved to Fayetteville in 2000.

FF: Where would you take an out-of-towner to get a real taste of Fayetteville? A particular restaurant maybe? A park or neighborhood?
SL: First we would go to the Farmer’s Market. We would have a cup of coffee from either Jammin Java or Arsaga’s and then later a treat at Lil Bread Company. Then, I would take them on the Historical Walking Tour of Fayetteville after we had stopped in at the Visitor’s Center on the square! After that we would have lunch at Hugo’s and then visit some of the art galleries and boutiques downtown. To walk off our big lunch we would hit the trail system to see more of Fayetteville and its natural beauty. After letting them put their feet up for a while back at Carnal Hall, we’d head back out for drinks and eats at Bordino’s and then go dancing to live music at George’s Majestic Lounge. (Geeze, I need to have someone come visit – that sounds fun!)

FF: We know you’re a busy member of the community but what do you do in your spare time? Got any hobbies?
SL: I walk my beagles, practice yoga and ride my bike. I like to hang out with my friends and I like to dance. Sometimes I’ll sit on my porch swing and play guitar. I also like to enjoy my boyfriend’s good cooking skills. Most importantly, I like what I do so my work/school/community activities are equivalent to hobbies.

FF: Did you make any resolutions for 2009?
SL: Nope, I don’t make New Year’s resolutions. Too much pressure on myself!

FF: At some point, you had to have said to yourself, “You know, I should run for City Council!” When was that and what drove you to go for it?
SL: It has been a process. I began networking within the community while I was teaching 8th grade science in Bentonville through creating real-world activities for my students. From those connections I began to get involved with such groups as the America In Bloom program, Botanical Garden Society of the Ozarks, and the Arkansas Stream Team program. Then when I moved to my neighborhood in 2004 they needed a Neighborhood Representative and I raised my hand. From there I became active in the Fayetteville Council of Neighborhoods and was selected for various leadership positions. I also became active on the Illinois River Watershed Partnership Education Committee because I cared about their mission, but also their efforts related to my dissertation research. The point to this is that everything is connected – one activity ties into another. When Lioneld Jordan decided to run for mayor, people in my networks began to say to me, “Why don’t you run, Sarah?” I thought about it and weighed the decision carefully because I’m near the end of my Ph.D. program and care deeply about accomplishing that goal. I decided that these types of opportunities do not present themselves very often and I felt that I had the desire, capacity and experience to successfully represent Fayetteville’s Ward 4. Therefore, after many conversations with my journal, my friends and my family, I decided to begin the campaign. I had so much wonderful help from people like Susana O’Daniel, Len Schaper, Nate Looney, and on and on. I am very thankful for all of the encouragement that I received. The main thing to take from this is that there was never an “Ah ha” moment that led me here. It was a careful and deliberate process that brought me to this place.

FF: A lot of people we talk to don’t have any idea who their City Council members are, when/where the Council meets, or even what ward they live in. Why do you think that is?
SL: One tool of our campaign was providing a Fayetteville Ward map at the Farmer’s Market table and when I went door to door. I’m a former educator, of course, and so it was fun for me to show people where they are in relationship to other areas in Fayetteville.

In their daily lives people do not think about it. Mostly people want to go about their business and not worry about governmental affairs, which is completely understandable. It is my hope that I can reach out to more and more people in Ward 4 and help them stay connected and informed. There are so many exciting ways to contact people (email, facebook, MySpace, City website, text messaging, and even the old-fashioned mail). I would like to utilize a variety of methods to help reduce apathy to governmental processes.

FF: To us, both you and Matthew Petty seem to represent a fresh addition that will help round out the current City Council with a younger, more sustainability-focused outlook. Do you think that is a fair assessment?
SL: First of all, thank you for including me in the “younger” category. Secondly, I think that the City Council has brought Fayetteville to a wonderful place. I do think that there will be a “new energy” to the Council. I am so grateful to live in a place where people support someone whose message is grounded in sustainability. Remember that sustainability is an approach to problem-solving. It is a philosophy that considers people, planet, and profit. The fact that voters in this community selected candidates whose message contained this philosophy is really exciting. I am looking forward to bringing forward some new ideas that reflect these ideals.

FF: The Ward 4, Position 2 seat hasn’t seen new leadership in nearly eight years. Is there anything Mayor Jordan initiated that you plan on changing or continuing?
SL: Lioneld Jordan worked very hard for Ward 4 and maintained consistent communication with the people in Ward 4. I would like to build on his efforts and develop even more efficient and diverse means of communication with residents.

FF: Finally, is there a specific city-wide issue you just can’t wait to tackle?
SL: I am looking forward to working on some watershed protection initiatives that make both economic and environmental sense. In addition, I am interested in exploring parking and transportation issues that are affecting neighborhood integrity. In addition, Matthew Petty and I would like to propose a resolution to develop an orientation program for newly elected officials.