Controversy Explained During At-Large Director Race In Fort Smith

FORT SMITH (KFSM) -- Early voting starts Tuesday (Aug. 7)for the upcoming primary race on August 14.

In Fort Smith, three candidates are running for the At-Large Director Position 5: Samuel Price, Robyn Dawson, and Libby Piatt. The position is currently being held by Tracy Pennartz, who is not seeking  re-election.

Price, 25, is the youngest of the candidates. He's also currently enrolled in college and will finish next year.

“I think a lot of people feel like experience isn`t as important as vision,” explained Price.

He went on to say that he wants to be the voice of the working class, and he wants to educate the rest of the board on how their decisions impact them.

Part of Price’s vision capitalizes on the city’s potential between the low-cost of living and strategic geography.

“I feel like I could be the type of leader that could challenge the citizens and say if you want a better city, then you have to be better.”

Dawson has been in education for 25 years. She is the current principal at Spradling Elementary School.

“As a leader, a principal, the things that I do every day, which is budget, and hiring, and mediation, and problem solving… I thought I could take those skills and put them to work for the city,” Dawson said.

If elected, Dawson says part of her plan is to maintain a balanced budget without deficits. She also wants to support the city administrator in getting the consent decree changed or elongated, so the city doesn’t have to invest as much money in a short period of time.

Economic development is also part of her plan, which includes the revitalization of downtown projects and the riverfront.

Dawson has also drawn some criticism on social media about how she could attend board workshops while she’s working as principal. Dawson said she would take personal leave from her job to do that. If she exceeds her allotted personal time, she says it will be deducted from her pay.

On Tuesday, the candidates got the chance to discuss their platforms at a town hall event on the UAFS campus. The debate took an unusual turn when candidate Libby Piatt was present but chose not to participate and walked out before the debate had ended.

5NEWS talked with Price and Dawson about what happened at the event.

“From my perspective, she alluded to something that took place before the event that I was not present for,” said Price.

“As far as the drama goes, I don`t look at that. I can`t control peoples` drama, so I`m just really focused on what needs to be done with the city," explained Dawson.

On Friday (Aug. 3), 5NEWS talked with Libby Piatt in-person and on the phone. She chose not to be interviewed for this story, but agreed to speak with us for a separate interview next week.