A&P Commission selects Hannah Withers, Bobby Ferrell for open seats

Former alderman and A&P Commissioner Bobby Ferrell (left) speaks with event organizers seeking A&P dollars last year.

Flyer photo

The Fayetteville Advertising and Promotion Commission on Monday chose Hannah Withers and Bobby Ferrell to replace two outgoing commissioners.

Withers, who co-owns Little Bread Co. and Maxine’s Tap Room, is also founder of the annual Block Street Block Party. Ferrell is a retired communications manager who served eight years on the Fayetteville City Council and six months on the A&P Commission.

Withers will fill one of four tourism industry positions. Ferrell will take over the sole at-large seat.

Seventeen applicants were vying for the seats, but the choices were quickly narrowed to two people per position.

Commissioners were nearly split on the appointments, with Withers and Ferrell each getting the nod to their respective seats by identical 3-2 votes.

Withers edged out eight-year commissioner Maudie Schmitt, who owns Cafe Rue Orleans. Ferrell was chosen over David Russell, president of First Security Bank.

The nominations for Withers and Ferrell were led by commissioners Matthew Petty and Justin Tennant, who each serve as members of the Fayetteville City Council. Both aldermen pointed to the council’s Nominating Committee report, which recommended Withers and Ferrell after nearly five hours of interviews held last week.

Petty said Withers’ experience in the restaurant and bar business was only part of the reason why he was backing her appointment.

A&P Commission applicants

Michael Andrews – owner, Fresco Cafe & Pub
Roger Barrett – manager, Nightbird Books
Terry Coberly – retired teacher, Bentonville mayor
Bobby Ferrell – retired communications manager, Fayetteville alderman
Cyrena Hattabaugh – sales manager, Candlewood Suites
Jim Huson – owner, Doe’s Eat Place
Julie McQuade Heyes – executive director, Fayetteville Underground
Eric Howerton – marketer, WhyteSpyder, Inc.
Louis B. “Bucky” Jones, Jr. – retired lawyer
Steven H. Kay – self-employed attorney
Shellie Morrison – co-owner, The Event Group
David A. Russell – president, First Security Bank
Maudie Schmitt – owner, Cafe Rue Orleans
Terri Trotter – chief operating officer, Walton Arts Center
Bill Waite – owner, Dickson Street Liquor
Hannah Withers – owner, Little Bread Co.
Denise Youngblood – owner, Mojo’s Pints & Pies

» Read more about each applicant

“The perspective Hannah would bring to the commission is unique because the success of the Block Street Block Party, I think, is unparalleled,” said Petty. “She started that event from the ground up and it has grown to 15,000 attendees, which is absolutely phenomenal.”

Petty said he believes the success of the commission hinges upon its members having an understanding of two things – large annual events that bring in tourism dollars and local-centric events that cultivate a sense of place.

Petty said cities like Austin, Texas are attractive not just for their larger festivals like South by Southwest and Austin City Limits, but also because of the landscape of events that occur there year-round.

“People associate a certain energy and atmosphere with Austin and that’s why they visit,” said Petty. “That’s exactly the kind of thing a local event like the Block Street Block Party does for Fayetteville.”

Tennant said while he was in favor of Withers, the decision to replace Schmitt was not easy.

“It’s tough not to recommend Maudie,” said Tennant. “It’s hard for sure, but Hannah’s value is apparent and would serve the commission well.”

Besides Petty and Tennant, commissioner Matt Behrend also voted for Withers. A&P chair Ching Mong and commissioner Bill Lyle voted in favor of Schmitt.

Those voting in favor of Ferrell’s appointment said their reasoning was based on the former alderman’s fiscally conservative business background.

“That (at-large) position, the way I see it, is almost like a watchdog,” said Mong. “I would prefer to have someone who has a little bit more time to do that, someone who is not actively in the business.”

Schmitt, who was not allowed to vote because of a state law which restricts outgoing commissioners from voting for their successors, said she thought Russell’s banking experience could provide the same level of oversight as Ferrell.

After a lengthy discussion, Mong eventually nominated and voted for Russell along with commissioner Lyle.

The two, however, were outnumbered once again, with Tennant, Petty and Behrend voting for Ferrell.

“If there’s anything Bobby does well, he takes taxpayer money extremely serious,” said Tennant. “He’s always prepared and always thoughtful, and I think that’s good to have.”

The appointments must first be ratified by the City Council before the new members can begin serving on the commission. The council is expected to consider the decision later this month.