Council candidates lean toward tourism

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Voters of Eureka Springs will be voting to elect new council aldermen on Nov. 3 for terms of two years. Half of the six council seats are unopposed such as incumbent Harry Meyer for Ward 3 Seat 2, incumbent Terrence McClung for Ward 3 Seat 1, and Autumn Slane for Ward 1 Seat 1 replacing retiring Mickey Schneider. Ward 2 Position 2 offers the voters two choices: incumbent Bob Thomas and Bill Ott.

Ott has been a resident of Eureka Springs since 2000 and announced that as of Nov. 1 he will be retiring from his position as Marketing and Communications Director of the Crescent and Basin Park Hotels. Ott served a two-year term as an alderman in 2003-4, and said this year he was asked by several people to consider running again.

“So,” Ott said, “I prayed over it and asked God for his guidance. A candidacy began to feel right so I felt it was God saying, ‘Give it a try—you can be My servant while serving the people of the community you love… a community in which I placed you twenty years ago.’”

Ott said he is not familiar with candidate Bob Thomas’s leadership credentials and does not oppose his candidacy, but instead offers voters his own credentials. Born in Chicago, Ott moved with his family in 1955 to Hot Springs, where he graduated high school, then earned a degree from the University of Central Arkansas.

In 1975 Ott started a career in hospitality in Hot Springs and served as an advertising/marketing/public relations account executive for the Hot Springs Advertising and Promotion Commission for 12 years. Since moving to Eureka, Ott has served on a long list of public and private committees including president of the Greater Eureka Springs Chamber of Commerce, Chair of the Chamber’s Legislative Liaison Committee, president of the Eureka Springs Group Travel Council, president of Rotary, Chair of the Mayor’s Tourism Task Force, and Chair of the Board of Eureka’s Christian Health Outreach, ECHO.

He has 45 years’ experience in tourism and believes he could benefit the community by not only serving as an alderman but also serving on the CAPC saying, “I would be honored to accept that position,” if appointed by the mayor and approved by council.

“As far as political positions go,” Ott said, “I have none nor will I until a topic comes before me and the rest of the council, we review it, research it, talk to folks, and then determine what is best for our community, her citizens, and our only industry: tourism.” Ott refused to offer his opinion of the current ballot issue of the Entertainment District saying, “I appreciate your question but that’s why they call it a ‘secret’ ballot. Just know I support our only local industry, tourism. Unless, of course, it is something obviously detrimental to our community and/or our fellow citizens.”

Thomas pro Entertainment District

Incumbent Bob Thomas is not secretive about his position on the permanent entertainment district, maintaining consistency with his past votes on council. Thomas openly said that on Nov. 3 he will be casting his ballot in favor of the E.D. to promote the local tourism industry.

Thomas said he does not believe the ordinance will incite drunken crowds, but instead be an added benefit to tourists and citizens who want to enjoy strolling through the parks without leaving their alcoholic beverage at the bar/restaurant.

He was alderman who originally brought the E.D. topic to council in 2019 for discussion, and chaired the committee, composed of business owners and residents to organize discussion and collect facts about the possibility of adopting an ordinance. Thomas’s leadership in forming an objective ED Committee supports his continued efforts to promote open conversations and establish transparent government processes.

“I seek out and listen to a variety of people—residents and businesspeople—I do as much objective research and fact-finding as I can,” he said. “And I consider both the short and the long-term implications of my vote.”

Thomas believes every public official should come to the table well informed on issues and offer research data to council. Opposed to leadership styles which promote hidden agendas, Thomas advocates for transparency and active management of the city budget.

He said he believes candidates running for public office should clearly state why they are running and said, “If all the candidates were just running for city council [without a reason] we could legitimately base our vote on who is our friend or who looks the best, dresses the best, goes to my church, etc. Candidates must have and share with voters their reason or reasons for running.”

Thomas believes most citizens of Eureka Springs are “intelligent, knowledgeable, and concerned about the issues facing their city. They want to know more and need to know more about the candidates to vote wisely.”

More to come

Next week’s interviews with Ward 1 Seat 2, incumbent Susan Harman and LauraJo Smole; Ward 2 Seat 1, incumbent Melissa Greene and James Michael Seals are pending.

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