Matthew Petty resigns from Fayetteville City Council

Matthew Petty speaks at a candidate forum in 2016 / Staff photo

Matthew Petty has resigned from the Fayetteville City Council.

In a letter submitted to city officials Monday morning, Petty, 37, said his resignation is effective Monday, Oct. 25.

He said his workload and travel has recently increased, making it more difficult for him to provide the level of service he expects of himself.

“So I am stepping aside to make room for another to implement Ward 2’s progressive agenda,” he said in his letter.

The remaining council members have two options for replacing Petty, whose term wasn’t set to expire until the end of 2024.

According to ACA 14-4311, the council must either elect a new member to serve the remaining unexpired term or call for a special public election. An option must be chosen at the first regular meeting after the occurrence of the vacancy.

The council is scheduled to meet on Oct. 19, but the first regular meeting after Petty’s resignation is effective would be Tuesday, Nov. 2.

The council faced a similar situation in 2017 when Alan Long resigned from his Ward 4 post just 11 months into his second four-year term. The news came with one day before the group’s next meeting, so council members had to act quickly. They ultimately voted 5-2 to appoint Kyle Smith to fill the vacancy instead of calling a special election.

At the time, Mayor Lioneld Jordan said he’d seen five situations where council members had to fill a vacancy. He said on three occasions an appointment was made, and on two occasions there were special elections.

“This is not an easy position for you to be in,” Jordan told the council. “You have to use your conscience.”

Petty was first elected to the council in 2008 after defeating Mark Kinion, and was re-elected in 2012 with a victory over Adam Fire Cat and Ryan Abshire. He won a third term in 2016 against Gary McHenry. Petty began his fourth term after defeating William Chesser in 2020 with 64% of the votes.

In his 13 years on the council, he has been present for 298 out of 327 council meetings for a 91% attendance rate.

Petty has long advocated for environmental protection, public transit and affordable housing.

During his time on the council, he initiated and secured funding for the city’s Recycling and Trash Master Plan, which resulted in the expansion of Fayetteville’s recycling program to small apartment buildings and led to a new composting program with grocers and restaurants. He also initiated and secured funding for Fayetteville’s Mobility Plan and 71B master plans.

After the pandemic hit, Petty organized and proposed reestablishment of the city’s Board of Health, while recruiting most of the members and helping the board establish updated rules. He also wrote the city’s mask ordinance and called for a model mask ordinance from the state for other cities to adopt.

He was an active council member who made his first proposal in his third meeting when he called for a marijuana arrest oversight committee (that idea failed 7-1). He also worked quickly to encourage the city to establish a social media presence to directly engage citizens instead of simply using state-required newspaper advertisements.

Petty currently serves as chair of the council’s Transportation Committee, and is one of the council’s two representatives on the Fayetteville Advertising and Promotion Commission where he also served as chair for three years. He has also served on the council’s Ordinance Review Committee and Equipment Committee.

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.

“It has been an incredible 13 years, and I love you,” Petty wrote in a Facebook post Monday morning. “Thank you.”

Petty’s resignation letter

Text from Petty’s letter

Dear Mayor Jordan and colleagues, friends, and neighbors,

I have greatly enjoyed knowing you and working with you as a Ward 2 Councilmember over the past 13 years. This letter serves as my formal notice of resignation from our City Council, effective October 25, 2021. As my workload and associated travel has increased, it has become more difficult for me to continue to provide the level of service that I expect of myself and so I am stepping aside to make room for another to implement Ward 2’s progressive agenda.

Fayetteville is my home and I feel lucky to keep sharing it with my family and the community at large. I am proud of what we have been able to accomplish together and grateful for the role voters have chosen for me four times. Being elected in my twenties and serving for almost thirteen years has been an incredible learning experience. Take it from me: public service is worth it. (More people should consider it.)

Though this is a big change, I will always seek out ways I can contribute because I was raised to always stand up for our values and my convictions. I believe many people in Fayetteville share this ethos. It’s become cliché to say the world is changing and we will only get to the other side together, but it’s true.

In love and respect,