VOTE 2023: Ward 1 candidates answer Fayetteville Flyer questions

Meet your Ward 1 City Council candidates in Fayetteville’s Nov. 14 special election

The Fayetteville Flyer wants to help you get to know your Ward 1 candidates for City Council, which is why we’re publishing questionnaires with each of the local candidates in the 2023 special election.

The Ward 1 position was left vacant after Sonia Harvey resigned in June. Harvey’s term was set to run through Dec. 31, 2026.

The special election is set for Nov. 14. Early voting begins Nov. 7. The current salary for a Fayetteville City Council member is $16,214.

Ward 1 encompasses south and southeast Fayetteville, including the areas south of Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard and Huntsville Road. Mount Sequoyah, Happy Hollow Elementary, and Ramay Junior High School are also included in Ward 1.

The nonpartisan positions are decided by voters who live inside a candidate’s ward boundary, meaning only voters in Ward 1 can cast ballots in the special election (see a ward map here).

The candidates include: David Phillips, a veteran and deputy city attorney in Springdale; Katy Sager, a real estate attorney; S. Robert Smith, a veteran and retired avionics engineer; and Bob Stafford, an artist and small business owner.

David Phillips

Age: 61
Residency: Approximately 18 years in Fayetteville, 16 in Ward 1. I was born in Northwest Arkansas (Springdale).
Employment: Deputy City Attorney in Springdale. I deal with criminal law and municipal planning.
Education: Graduated Springdale High School; Bachelor of Science in Public Administration from U of A, Fayetteville; Master of Business Administration from Syracuse University, New York; Juris Doctorate from U of A, Fayetteville.
Political Experience: I have over 40 years of government service, 20 of which were in the U.S. Army. I have served in federal, state, county and municipal levels of government. I unsuccessfully ran for State District Court Judge in 2020.


Katy Sager

Age: 46
Residency: 43 years in Fayetteville
Employment: I’m a real estate attorney and licensed title agent with Natural State Title, LLC and I manage my own private practice Sager Law Firm.
Education: I attended and graduated Fayetteville High School, attended Stephens College in Columbia MO for 2 years then transferred to the UA and graduated with a BA in English. Then graduated UA Fay Law School in 2002.
Political Experience: No political experience to date in an official capacity.


S. Robert Smith

Age: 68
Residency: 20 months in Fayetteville. I’ve lived in more than a dozen areas of the U.S., as well as two other countries providing wonderful opportunities to learn and grow.
Employment: Retired – 35 years aerospace career, with more than 32 years with Honeywell. I was in the role of Director, Program Management at retirement. U.S. Marine Corps veteran, enlisted – transformational and ignited a passion for aerospace and avionics.
Education: BS EE 1983 Lehigh University – completed all course work for a Master of Arts in Leadership from Augsburg (Minneapolis) while a single parent. I had a change in responsibilities with Honeywell and was relocated to the Seattle area.
Political Experience: No direct political experience, though with any group/organization there are politics.


Robert “Bob” Stafford

Age: 57
Residency: Over 33 years combined.
Employment: I’m a business owner with my wife. We founded and operate Blue Star Business Services, a communications and marketing agency.
Education: Publicly educated in Fayetteville, A Butterfield Bronco, Woodland Cowboy, Fayetteville Bulldog (Class of ‘85) and an Arkansas Razorback where I studied Architecture.
Political Experience: City board and commissions: Entering my 5th year on the Fayetteville Arts Council, including two terms as chair; 2 years on the Fayetteville Urban Forestry Advisory Board.


What made you decide to seek election to the council? Is it something you’ve been considering for a while?

David Phillips

I made this decision rather quickly when I saw the special election declared. The unique issues of Ward 1, future development and the plight of the homeless, have been heavy on my heart since I came here. I want to take part in the decisions and use my experience in government to help in guiding Fayetteville into the future.

Katy Sager

I’ve considered running for years. I have encountered multiple clients over the 21 years I’ve practiced in real estate who have expressed opinions about how Fayetteville can improve their process of construction permitting as well as encouraging business owners to invest in our city. I believe my experience with local businesses, developers and homeowners offers a unique perspective I can provide to our council.

S. Robert Smith

I attended a rezoning meeting for our area and though I was aware of the open Ward 1 seat, seeing the empty space during the council meeting brought a new level of reality and understanding. Upon walking out of this meeting, I mentioned to my bride that I had the qualifications from my career and life experiences to be on council. The next day I picked up the required forms from the City Clerk’s office and here we are.

Most of the places we’ve lived I’ve volunteered to serve in the community: HOA Boards, Habitat home building, food drives, school supplies, Toy 4 Tots, and since we relocated here I’ve volunteered at the NWA LPGA event both years and just had a great experience serving at the United We Dance Holiday Gala at Fayetteville Town Center.

Bob Stafford

I decided to step up after our former City Council member Sonia Harvey had to step down earlier this year due to being unable to find affordable housing in Ward 1. I served with Sonia on the Fayetteville Arts Council, where we advised the city’s elected officials and staff on matters related to arts and culture. Around the same time, our chair had to step down because she had to move outside the Fayetteville city limits to find affordable housing. This prompted me to run as I don’t feel we’re doing enough to address the affordable housing crisis we’re facing.

As I’ve been an advocate for civic issues and housing in Fayetteville for a long time, I knew I had the skill set and determination to do the job. I worked on Fayetteville’s 2015 civil rights ordinance measure and ran the communications for the 2016 campaign to expand the Fayetteville Public Library. I’m very proud of my work on both those successful campaigns.

As a chair and member of the Fayetteville Arts Council: I wrote an ordinance to revise our charter and worked with city staff and officials to get that passed. I advocated strongly for 3 years for an arts and culture director to be hired by the city. The amazing Joanna Bell now fills that role. Earlier this year, I advocated for the public/private partnership that brought well over $100,000 to the city to resurface and put a wonderful mural on the Walker Park basketball courts without taxpayer dollars. This project was a great success.

I’ve already been a vocal advocate for better infrastructure here on the south side of town, where we have historically gotten the short end of the stick. That includes instigating and advocating for the new sidewalk going in right now on Happy Hollow Road, connecting the neighborhood to the Mount Sequoyah Woods trailhead. Previously, pedestrians had to walk in the street over a dangerous blind hill to reach the trailhead. I also joined neighbors in advocating for traffic calming measures on Happy Hollow Road. Going forward, I’d like to see major improvements on Huntsville Rd. and MLK and better connectivity in our sidewalks and bike routes throughout Ward 1, because we use these routes to commute to work and shop, not just for weekend recreation.

Because of my consistent involvement and good work I’ve been endorsed by:

Arkansas Renters United
Current City Council Member for Ward 1 – Position 2, D’Andre Jones
Former Ward 1 Council Member Sarah Marsh
Former Ward 1 Council Member Adella Gray
Fayetteville School Board Member Keaton Smith
Former Arkansas State Senator Sue Madison
LGBTQ+ Victory Fund

And many more!

Is there anything in particular that drove you to reside in Ward 1? How would you describe that part of town?

David Phillips

My wife has lived in this part of town her entire life. So we naturally wanted to stay in this area. Ward 1 is diverse and fascinating. I am an avid cyclist and enjoy exploring all parts of the ward and the city.

Katy Sager

I live in the Stonebridge Meadows neighborhood and our family loved that we could choose to live in a community which was well developed with established neighborhoods while offering a peaceful and safe community. We live near clients we work with and friends we consider family and we’re so grateful to have found this pocket of Fayetteville that fits our family’s needs!

S. Robert Smith

Availability of a home was the primary reason. We wanted to move to NWA, as we lived in Bella Vista 10 years ago, and were looking throughout Fayetteville as our primary area. We were searching during an extreme seller’s market, so, of the many homes we’ve lived in, this was the first one we bought without setting foot within it. And we are grateful as we love it. Our location is very peaceful, quiet, yet close to shopping, medical, restaurants, and entertainment.

Bob Stafford

To me, Ward 1 is the best part of town. I was raised in Fayetteville, and even while I was away, Fayetteville was always home. When my wife and I were looking for a house in 2018 we were automatically drawn to South Fayetteville. It’s where I feel we have a strong, vibrant, creative, diverse, and engaged community. We also make up a large portion of Fayetteville’s workforce, so I just feel like this is where I belong. It’s a bonus that we are close to the amazing Ward 1 restaurants, breweries and coffee shops, and have easy access to downtown, the trail system, and to our beautiful national forests and the Buffalo River valley to the east. There’s no other part of town I’d rather be.

Which recent council decision(s) do you agree or disagree with?

David Phillips

Recently, the council has done a very good job of tackling the issues of our day. I wouldn’t seek to drastically change the course we are set on. However, I would like to focus more attention on the homeless and on encouraging more businesses to locate in Ward 1. We need better jobs so people can afford the high rent. We also need to identify our homeless population so we can get them into services and re-integrate them into society.

Katy Sager

I am grateful for the city’s decision to approve the addition of SRO’s to our school systems by accepting federal grants to fund that need. One of the reasons I believe now is the time that I should consider running for public office in Fayetteville is because I experienced first hand the need that our schools have in providing support staff through our local police. My children’s experiences, especially at FHS, have opened my eyes to this need. Fayetteville students appreciate the support SRO’s offer, for the most part. I believe our biggest asset to our city are the quality of education we can provide to our children. Teachers should not have to spend their limited time with our children on campus breaking up fights or enforcing laws. It’s their job to focus on teaching our children, while feeling safe in doing so.

I would disagree with the recent decision by City Council to deny a conditional use permit for short-term housing of a property located 700 feet from the UofA’s track & field facility. The constituents I have spoken with in the city have polarizing opinions as to whether short-term housing should be allowed. My thoughts are that the best course of action for the city is to consider these applications on a case-by-case basis which takes into account factors such as location, safety/hazard risks, and impact to the community, etc. The appeal brought before City Council in September of this year involved a property located in an area of the city where short term rentals are prevalent. Although there were some neighbor concerns as to the impact, the applicants have appeared to make efforts to comply with the city’s requirements to apply for the permit (which is, unfortunately, widely ignored across the vast majority of short term rentals in Fayetteville) and there are other avenues to enforce some of the neighbor complaints regarding the application. When applicants are cooperative with the city’s regulations regarding these permits and are willing to self-enforce the city’s concerns surrounding short term rentals, I would vote in favor of approval of those permits, in the hopes that such vote may invite more applicants to apply appropriately for the permit, thereby allowing the city the opportunity to properly vet those applications. Our city’s current situation is one in which we are forced to spend tax dollars to hire outside firms to research those that are violating the permitting process, so that the city can then enforce the violations. Perhaps it’s time to re-evaluate the approach the city has taken with short-term rentals so that we can achieve the results we’re looking for, as opposed to chasing violators.

S. Robert Smith

A proposal to submit an application for a federal grant to help our housing concerns was voted down primarily due to staff being busy on current projects. My disagreement starts from the lack of action (or recognition) by multiple city officers when they were initially notified of this grant availability. During the public council meeting, multiple people spoke urging working on this grant application as well as volunteering their considerable expertise to assist with completing the application. Housing in Fayetteville, quantity – quality – purchase – lease – affordability — as well as the growing segment of people without any homes – is the number one concern I see!

Bob Stafford

With a vacant seat, Ward 1 is currently underrepresented on the council and this has led to some regrettable decisions for the city.

Recently the City Council voted no to a proposal by Ozark Regional Transit to extend bus service south to 15th Street, where it is greatly needed. The proposal failed by one vote. If my vote had been there, this would have passed.

Another vote I strongly disagreed with was the council’s decision not to have the city apply for a $4 million dollar grant proposal that would have helped hire additional planning staff for our overburdened planning department and other uses to help us tackle our housing issues. Again by one vote, the council said no to the chance to receive outside funds to help us tackle one of our greatest challenges, I don’t understand how someone says “no” to this, especially when community members had organized and basically wrote the grant proposal for the city. If my vote was at the table this would have also passed.

One other common decision made by the council is the decision to table agenda items, especially those concerning housing. Every time housing is tabled it costs time and money, and that cost is passed down to the renter or homebuyer. Our job as council members is not to add to the affordability problem, and I’ll fight this behavior.

Looking ahead, the Fayetteville City Council may be responsible for voting whether or not to ban books at the Fayetteville Public Library. A new state law would criminalize librarians and jeopardize our first amendment rights. Right now, there is a preliminary injunction against this law, but if things go the wrong way in court this could become a terrifying reality. Let me be clear: I will never vote to ban a book, much less entertain the idea that any elected official should have the right. I trust our Fayetteville librarians. I believe I’m the only candidate in the race who’s pledged never to ban books at our library.

I’m the only candidate that has already been so deeply involved in the Fayetteville community, doing the work at the city level and showing up. Because of my years of work with Fayetteville city staff and elected officials, I will be ready to serve on day one.