William Chesser / Courtesy photo
Local school teacher William Chesser is making a second run for Fayetteville City Council.
Chesser, 45, hopes to win the Ward 2, Position 2 seat currently held by Matthew Petty, who is seeking a fourth term on the council.
As a three-term incumbent, Petty shouldn’t go unchallenged, Chesser said.
“No one person or party has all of the great ideas,” he said. “Stagnation will not help our city, so if me running to excite some new ideas or challenge some old ones helps our city move forward then it’s a win-win no matter what happens.”
Chesser fully supports the plan for a new police headquarters, and denounced the council’s recent decision to deny grant funding for two new school resource officers at Fayetteville Public Schools.
If elected, Chesser said he’ll push for regular Ward 2 meetings.
“Lacking meetings of this type, having multiple candidates in a race is the only way to require an incumbent to defend their decisions,” he said.
Chesser ran for City Council in Ward 4 in 2012. It was a crowded field that year with five people vying for the position, including Terry Black Coberly, Mike Emery, Alan Long and J.P. Peters. Chesser received 9% of the votes in 2012 with Long eventually winning a runoff election against Emery.
Chesser also ran for County Assessor in 2018, but lost to Russel Hill, who took 56% of the votes.
Ward 2, which is typically associated with the downtown and Dickson Street areas, includes portions of the University of Arkansas campus and stretches west past Garland Avenue to Asbell Elementary School, and north to the Washington County Fairgrounds. The ward also includes the businesses along College Avenue in midtown, and many historic districts including Wilson Park.
The election is scheduled for Tuesday, Nov. 3.
Profile: William Chesser
Position sought: Ward 2, Position 2
Residency: Lived in Fayetteville as a child and returned in 1993, 34 years in total
Employment: Teacher at Fayetteville Virtual Academy
Education: University of Arkansas: Bachelor of Arts in Philosophy (cum laude, emphasis: ethics), Bachelor of Arts in Anthropology, Minor in Geology, Masters of Anthropology – University of Arkansas
Political Experience: Fayetteville Board of Adjustments, Fayetteville Planning Commission, City Council candidate
Meet the Candidates
The following candidates are running for election this year. All candidates were sent a request for more information about their candidacy. Responses are posted in the order they’re received.
What made you decide to run for council again?
Every voter deserves a choice. I noticed the race in my ward had only one announced candidate. I’ve followed recent City Council decisions and felt leaving a three-term incumbent unchallenged would only validate his recent actions. Instead, Council Member Petty appears to be standing against (or, at least, using parliamentary delaying tactics to stall) a police station that 71% of our citizens voted for in a special election. Council Member Petty and I likely agree on lots of things, but certainly not this one. If allowed to run unopposed, voters who might choose otherwise would have no ability to express their voice.
After Wednesday’s special session, Council Member Petty’s positions seem like they may currently be undergoing a rapid transition. I will be very happy to state my position on the new police station on the record, and it is that it should be built soon and its design programming should be largely done by the Chief of Police, officers who will be using the building, and experts hired to advise them while working with an architect.
It should not be designed by committee in a city council meeting. While I would fully support members of the city council being allowed to provide input, I don’t think they should have the majority of decision making authority as to what the building should look like or how it should function. And I absolutely reject the idea that this building should be turned into a community center with a police substation attached, as some members of the community have opined. I would love to hear Mr. Petty’s unequivocal answer to this same question.
This brings me to another reason why I am running. When I lived in Ward 4, they had (and, I believe, still have) regular town hall meetings so they could hear what their constituents had to say. Having meetings in all wards might be a good way to touch base with the citizens of Fayetteville. They don’t have to occur every week or even every month but if I am elected, I want to regularly hear the voices of the citizens, my employers, and also give them a chance to require that I defend the choices I have made on their behalf.
Lacking meetings of this type, having multiple candidates in a race is the only way to require an incumbent to defend their decisions. It also encourages candidates to generate more innovative ideas and potentially increases voter turnout at the local level. Who in Fayetteville wouldn’t want that?
Lastly, I also want to serve the city I was born in and have spent a vast majority of my life in as an adult. I absolutely love this town. We’re consistently rated one of the top three places to live in the country. People want to move here – that’s natural – and means we’re going to keep growing. I constantly ask myself: how can we not stifle that growth while still “Keeping Fayetteville Funky”?
No one person or party has all of the great ideas. We must continue to challenge ourselves to be better and sometimes remind our elected officials to remember who elected them in the first place. Stagnation will not help our city, so if me running to excite some new ideas or challenge some old ones helps our city move forward then it’s a win-win no matter what happens.
Is there anything in particular that drove you to move to Ward 2? How would you describe that part of town today?
I grew up in Fayetteville in the 1970s and 80s. My dad was the pastor at the Wesley Foundation and at St. James UMC. My mom taught at both Washington and Bates elementaries. Our house was on the shoulder of Markham Hill and I would ride on my dad’s Raleigh 10-speed with him to campus every day. We shopped at a grocery store on College that was located where Ozark Natural Foods is now. My dad would take me to the hobby shop on Dickson Street where Clubhaus is now. My mom would take me to the Castle at Wilson Park. If you were to put a pin in the map at College and North and draw a one mile radius around it then it would encompass most of my childhood experiences.
Now as a father with my own family, I want to give my son the same kind of experience. I feel like our house is five minutes closer to everywhere. Ward 2 has Dickson Street, Wilson Park, Washington/Willow, much of College Avenue and the Clinton House Museum. You can’t think about what makes Fayetteville Fayetteville without considering all those places. Don’t get me wrong: I love all of this town and always have, but Ward 2 has a lot of the spirit of Fayetteville that I remember from my childhood and the college within it.
Which recent council decision(s) do you agree or disagree with?
I feel like the recent decisions about SROs have been going in the wrong direction. I hope that changes. Further, when I ran for office the very first time (for Ward 4 City Council) eight years ago, police officers were dressing in the hallway THEN. For many reasons, they need new facilities. The citizenry voted 71% in favor of this and the City Council should listen to them. Stalling tactics and backroom debate don’t represent open, honest, and representative local government. A City Council member should not get in the habit of assuming they know better than their constituents.
That’s really the major thing here. We need members of our council to listen to Fayetteville and its citizenry about what Fayetteville wants to be rather than those who would seek to impose their will upon our town to make it something it is not.
I’ve lost elections before. I know I’m imperfect and there are those out there that do not agree with or like me, but as a member of the City Council you are still supposed to listen to your constituents regardless of whether or not you agree with them. That is something I pledge to ALWAYS do. I’ll listen to you because I am running to be your voice in city government.