Sonia Davis Gutierrez to run for City Council in Ward 1

Sonia Davis Gutierrez speaks during a press conference to announce her candidacy inside the Fulbright Building on East Dickson Street.

Todd Gill, staff photo

Sonia Davis Gutierrez, a local graphic designer and creative educator, was the first person to announce plans to run for City Council in the Nov. 4 general election.

Gutierrez, 40, said last week she will challenge Adella Gray for the Ward 1, Position 1 seat.

Gutierrez runs 3c21 Design, and is co-founder of the New Design School, a nonprofit graphic design school located inside the Fulbright Building on East Dickson Street.

Gutierrez has never run for public office, but she has served as chair of the Creative Economy Action Group, a committee created from the Fayetteville Forward economic development summit. The committee helped create the city’s first art gallery guide, established a local music collection at the Fayetteville Public Library, and launched the annual Last Night Fayetteville celebration held each New Year’s Eve on the downtown square.

There are three other Position 1 seats up for grabs on Nov. 4, including those held by Mark Kinion (Ward 2), Justin Tennant (Ward 3) and Rhonda Adams (Ward 4). The city attorney position, held by Kit Williams, is also up for election.

The filing period for City Council candidates begins July 25.

Profile: Sonia Davis Gutierrez

Position sought: Ward 1, Position 1
Age: 40
Residency: Lived in Fayetteville for over 20 years
Employment: President and co-founder, New Design School; Graphic designer, 3c21 Design
Education: Master of fine arts, Parsons School of Design; bachelor of arts in art and bachelor of science in microbiology, University of Arkansas
Political Experience: None

3 Questions for Sonia

We send each candidate three questions after receiving their announcement. We post their answers here once they respond.

What made you decide to seek election to the council? Is it something you’ve been considering for a while?
The Fayetteville Forward event is the most direct influence toward my decision to consider running for Fayetteville City Council. Being invited by Mayor Jordan to lead the Creative Economy Action Group in 2009, was also a motivating factor and then meeting all the amazing people of the other groups, including the local food, green economy, transportation, education groups, over the past six years created a deep connection for me to energized and inspiring leaders all over the community.

I had not been considering running for City Council because I did not really see myself as a “political” type but running your own business and founding and managing a non-profit makes you much more aware of city-level decisions. I would say the awareness and the sense of urgency for making strategic decisions as we enter this incredible growth phase have become top-of-mind. I realize that as a designer, I am constantly redesigning city amenities based on my personal use of them and watching others with varying economic means or disabilities interact with them. For example, today I passed a man sitting in a field of clover in front of a fast food business on Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard waiting for the bus because there was not a bench nor a shelter. The rain was just about to start. As a designer, I see problems as opportunities and enjoy coming up with ideas and then finding solutions that benefit everyone. It is my nature.

Is there anything in particular that drove you to reside in Ward 1? How would you describe that part of town?
Convenience to my CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) is definitely a great reason for me to live in Ward 1. We pick up our box from a neighbor’s front porch and walk home and enjoy organic, fresh vegetables, herbs and fruit grown and harvested only 50 miles away.

I’d like to describe two parts of Ward 1 as I am between both and they are day and night.

My husband and I were living on I-540/49 and Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard off of Futrall in an apartment. We had an incredible view of the highway and mountains west and south of Fayetteville and it was so convenient to turn right out of our complex and head north to Springdale, Rogers or Bentonville. However, the student community and ten lanes of traffic outside of our window did not mesh well with our basic needs for sleep and peace. I lovingly referred to this home as our extended-stay business hotel while we got the businesses, New Design School, 3c21 Design and Davis Gutierrez Sculpture, off the ground. It was fairly inexpensive, safe, clean, well-maintained and best of all, the bus stop was right outside of our door.

We have just moved three miles east to a lovely, peaceful loft home with our own four walls, back patio and front porch. We are still renting, due to much student debt, but now enjoy tree-top views, bird watching and lunch at home as our new place is just south of the parking lot of our office in the Fulbright Building on Dickson. We do not hear racing motorcycles accelerating onto the highway and kids coming home at 2 a.m. turning on music and playing shooting/grenade launching video games. Instead of stepping out to the smell of greasy fast food we breathe fresh air filtered by a canopy of trees.

Are there any recent citywide or Ward 1 council decisions you agree or disagree with?
Very excited about the Mount Kessler purchase. I will take all my visiting friends and family there to enjoy the natural beauty Arkansas and Fayetteville have to offer.

I have lots of questions regarding the parking downtown. I look forward to delving into that.

News release: Sonia Davis Gutierrez

Hello family, friends, colleagues, neighbors, members of the media! My name is Sonia Davis Gutiérrez.

It is my pleasure to welcome you to the Roberta Fulbright Building, located here in Ward 1, originally designed by Warren D. Seagraves in 1962, and built for the Fayetteville Public Library. Today, it houses the offices of world-renowned architects, attorneys, nonprofits, bankers and investors, realtors, sustainability consultants, and us—New Design School and 3c21 Design.

Today, I announce my candidacy for Fayetteville City Council, Ward 1, Position 1.

I would like to take this opportunity to tell you how I came to this decision and why I want to serve the people of our community on the City Council.

I grew up and graduated from North Pulaski High School in Jacksonville, Arkansas and moved to Fayetteville in 1992, where I have studied, lived, worked and played for over 20 years. I earned a bachelor of science degree in microbiology and a bachelor of art degree in art with an emphasis in graphic design and drawing from the University of Arkansas. In 1996, I earned a Rotary Ambassadorial Scholarship that allowed me to study for a full academic year at the Universidad de Salamanca in Spain. While there I traveled throughout Europe. In 2002, I received a master of fine art degree from New School University at Parsons School of Design in New York.

With this education under my belt, I am fueled to have a direct involvement with creativity, technology and business education in our community, including serving on the Professional Advisory Board of the UA School of Architecture and teaching classes in visual communication—graphic design, design software, and web development at the University of Arkansas, NWACC, the Fayetteville Public Library, the Yvonne Richardson Community Center and New Design School, sharing essential skills and mentoring the workforce of the 21st century.

My first salaried job began in the summer of 1996, where I climbed into a flour tower as a Quality Assurance Supervisor for Tyson’s Mexican Original plant. There I learned about documentation systems while working directly with the FDA and Tyson Corporate. I also learned about the workers of a food factory, their families and their challenges.

In 2006, I co-founded, with the help of family and friends, the non-profit New Design Center in south Fayetteville, an enterprise that has evolved to become New Design School, licensed and regulated by the Arkansas State Board of Private Career Education. New Design School is a member of the Fayetteville Chamber of Commerce, and we understand the challenges and opportunities involved in setting up, owning and operating a small business and what it takes to found and run a nonprofit entity. As a self-employed creative director, brand strategist and web designer at 3c21 Design, LLC, I have had the opportunity to work with amazing clients doing incredible work in the community including: Audubon Arkansas, Beaver Water District, Watershed Conservation, Pack Rat Outdoor Center, Terra Tots Natural Parenting, Ozark Highlands Trail, Ozark Tracker Society, Marlon Blackwell Architect, University of Arkansas Departments of Education & Health Science, Engineering, and Architecture. 3c21 Design has developed packaging, branding and print materials to help get our clients in front of Walmart and Sam’s Club buyers and has worked with local businesses and nonprofits to educate, inform and empower the public with their diverse products, services and missions.

Up to today, I have never run for public office. I am an active citizen dedicated to civic engagement in our community. As a member of the Fayetteville Forward Economic Accountability Council, I have collaborated with other community leaders to develop projects on what effective economic development solutions might look like for our community. Mayor Lioneld Jordan asked me to serve as Chair of the Creative Economy Action Group, and members worked together to create the city’s first Gallery Guide, establish a local music collection at the Fayetteville Public Library, and launch Last Night Fayetteville, our premier, unique New Year’s Eve event complete with a Hog Drop.

Last year, my husband Mike Davis Gutiérrez and I worked with the Ozark Literacy Council on the successful Pigshibition community public art endeavor that drew awareness to local literacy issues, promoted local artists, highlighted the uniqueness of Fayetteville culture, and supported the organization’s efforts to develop a more literate workforce. I’ve participated as a volunteer in many community service activities, ranging from a clean-up project at Lake Fayetteville to providing STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Math) education workshops for the Girl Scouts to co-sponsoring relief events for tornado victims.

Now, I aim to serve the people of this one-of-a-kind community as your representative on the Fayetteville City Council. I believe that I have the education, experience, energy, and enthusiasm to be an effective member, and I ask you for your support.

It is important that all residents have water, sewer, recycling services, good streets, safe sidewalks, and adequate police and fire protection, the basic services of local government. But, it is also important to remember that what makes a memorable place and where people call home—values for natural beauty and the environment, a value for amenities like trails and public transportation, public art, aesthetics, architecture, history, delicious food grown and raised in our mountains and put on plates at our local eateries, access to world-class art and a community of creative, fun-loving, talented people. We have it all. Let’s maintain it, enhance and protect it from growing away from the values of those who have been here generations creating it and preserve it for those who are just arriving that see it as the jewel that it is. Together, we can make sure that our future honors our past while making this an accessible, inclusive and compassionate home for everyone.

Small businesses, nonprofits, individuals, University employees, factory workers, city staff and all work each day to shape Fayetteville into this amazing place we call home. Ward One is home to Walker Park, the proposed Regional Park, Mount Kessler and Mount Sequoyah natural areas, outstanding public schools, the Fayetteville Animal Shelter, the Fayetteville Senior Center, the Yvonne Richardson Center, the Fayetteville Adult and Community Education Center, the manufacturing firms in the Fayetteville Industrial Park, the Arkansas Research and Technology Park, part of the University campus, many small businesses, and a vibrant, diverse community of residents, new and old, homeowners and renters. We choose to live in South Fayetteville because we value our hills over billboards, trails over traffic jams, and parks over parking lots.

I will give my duties my full attention, because I believe it is important that the residents of Ward One are represented on every measure that comes before the Council. Mayor Jordan never missed a City Council meeting during his eight years as an Alderman, and that is a fine example. I will read and understand every document in the Council packets before a vote, and I will be involved in the budget discussions to make sure that our tax dollars are invested wisely.

I have a deep commitment to open and transparent government, and I will work hard to listen to the concerns of our residents and assure that everyone has access to information about issues, services, and actions of our city government. I will attend regular Ward meetings open to all residents and will always be available to visit or meet with constituents. With your help, I will be an informed and effective voice for our concerns and our community.

As Mayor Jordan so often says, “I love this City.” I ask for your support and your vote – and the opportunity to serve you and the community we cherish. As your City Council member, I intend to listen to your concerns, continue these conversations, start new ones, bring my diverse perspective to the table, and offer innovative, creative ideas and energy to serve all the people who live, work and visit Fayetteville and Ward 1.

Thank you.