Flyer Guide: How to become a Fayetteville City Council member in 2012

If you’re planning to run for a seat on the Fayetteville City Council this year, there’s a good chance you already know what to do. But if you need a refresher on what’s expected both before and after the election, or if you want to make sure you don’t miss any important deadlines, this post is for you.

What seats are available?

There are eight City Council seats made up of two positions in each of the four wards. Every two years, four of those positions become available. Whoever holds a seat can decide to step down or run for re-election.

Who will you be running against?

You’ll be up against anyone who files in your ward between now and Aug. 17, 2012. Only one City Council member has said they’ll run for re-election this year. Here are the current council members and where they stand on re-election (unless they change their minds):

Ward 1, Position 2: Brenda Boudreaux told us she will not seek re-election.
Ward 2, Position 2: Matthew Petty told us he will seek re-election.
Ward 3, Position 2: Bobby Ferrell has said he will not seek re-election.
Ward 4, Position 2: Sarah Lewis said she will not seek re-election.

2012 filing and election dates

First day to file: Friday, July 27, 2012
Last chance to file: 12 p.m. Friday, Aug. 17, 2012

General election day: Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2012
Runoff election day (if necessary): Tuesday, Nov. 27, 2012

Filing packets are available at the City Clerk’s office.

Where to start

Start by calling Sondra Smith at 479-575-8323 or stopping by her office. She’s the City Clerk and she’ll give you the papers you need to fill out as well as some extra information. Her office is on the third floor of City Hall at 113 W. Mountain Street.

What you’ll need

After you have your packet, it’s time to do some paperwork. Here’s what the packet contains:

  1. Nominating petition: You’ll need to gather 30 signatures from local residents who support your nomination and who are registered voters in the State of Arkansas. Besides their signature, you’ll also need to list their printed name, date of birth, address, and the date they signed the petition. Every name is verified, so make sure you get more than you need in case it turns out that some signatures belong to people who aren’t registered voters.
  2. Political practices pledge: This is similar to an application in that you list your name, address, and phone number. Then you have to sign it to certify that you’ve never been a convicted felon in the State of Arkansas or in any other jurisdiction outside of Arkansas.
  3. Affidavit of eligibility: This is a form verifying that you live in the proper ward for the seat you’re seeking. For example, if you live on Dickson Street, you’re a Ward 2 resident which means you can only run for City Council in Ward 2. Not sure which ward you live in? Head over to the city’s maps page where you’ll find a link to a wards map.
  4. Statement of financial interest: Since Fayetteville residents will be electing you to work for them, they might want to know who pays you. The public has a right to know who your employer is and who gives you large monetary gifts so they can decide whether they think that money might have an influence on your council votes.
  5. Campaign contribution and expenditure reports: The public also has a right to know who donated more than $50 to your campaign and who you spent money more than $100 with during the campaigning process. If you raise more than $500 total, you have to report it before the election. If you raise less than $500, you have to report it after the election. Either way, you have to tell the public who helped you get elected.

It’s time to file

To actually file, you must deliver your petition, pledge and affidavit to the Washington County Clerk at 280 N. College Ave., Suite 300 by 12 p.m. (noon) on Friday, Aug. 17, 2012. It’s very important that you not miss this deadline and that you take it to the county clerk and not the city clerk. The only document you’ll return to City Hall is your statement of financial interest which is due no later than Aug. 20, 2012.

What’s next?

This one’s up to you. You could sit around and cross your fingers or you could plan and carry out a campaign that educates voters on why they should a) vote at all, and b) vote for you. You’ll be invited to participate in debates. You’ll be asked a lot of questions, particularly from the media. Someone from the newspaper will probably call you to schedule an in-person interview to help the editors decide who to endorse. Please don’t ask us for an endorsement. We’ll do our best to educate people on who the candidates are and where they stand, but we will not tell anyone who we think they should vote for.

Meetings are held inside City Hall on Mountain Street just off the downtown square.

What if you’re elected?

We’ve never been in an elected position, so if you want to know exactly what to expect, you should ask a current or former City Council member. We do, however, know what meetings you’ll be expected to attend.

Council meetings: There are two council meetings each month and they’re held at 6 p.m. on Tuesdays in room 219 of City Hall.
Agenda-setting sessions: There are also two agenda-setting sessions each month which are designed to help you prepare for the following week’s council meeting. Those are held at 4:30 p.m. on Tuesdays in room 326 of City Hall.
Committee meetings: The mayor will appoint you to serve on two of the following City Council committees if elected: Street Committee, Water & Sewer Committee, Nominating Committee, Ordinance Review Committee, Equipment Committee. The committees meet once each month and are made up of one council member from each of the four wards. Here’s more on that.

If elected, attending these meetings is your new job. You should try to miss as few meetings as possible. Has anyone had perfect attendance? Almost. Lioneld Jordan was a City Council member before becoming mayor. He went eight years without missing a single council meeting and missed only one of about 192 agenda-setting sessions. Good luck topping that.

Some council members hold ward meetings from time to time. Some council members are visibly active in the community. The job is what you make of it, but it’s still a job so don’t take it lightly.

As a new alderman or alderwoman, you’ll get paid a little extra money, you’ll get your name on a plaque inside City Hall chambers and you’ll become internet famous, at least locally.

Most importantly, though, you’ll be one of eight voters in some of the most important decisions that this city will face during the next four years.

Good luck.