Sep 21, 2022 - Politics

Local voters to select Bella Vista mayor

From left to right: John Flynn, Steven Bourke, Randy Murray. Photos courtesy of the candidates

Three people are competing to be Bella Vista's next mayor, with Mayor Peter Christie choosing not to run for re-election.

What's happening: Steven Bourke, John Flynn and Randy Murray are on the ballot.

Be smart: A candidate must win at least 50% of the vote plus one vote to win. If no one wins the majority, the two candidates with the most votes head to a runoff election.

  • The mayor serves a four-year term.

Details:

  • Bourke retired from a career in information technology management. He's served on the Bella Vista City Council since 2018 and previously sat on the city's Planning Commission and worked as co-coordinator of the Bella Vista 6 in 60, an annual cleanup effort. He also volunteers on the local Trail Adoption Program.
  • Flynn is an adjunct professor at the University of Arkansas, where he teaches finance and law and ethics at the graduate school. He's served on the Bella Vista City Council since 2015 and as mayor pro tempore for six years.
  • He's also served as chair of the Bella Vista Streets Committee and as a commissioner on the city's Advertising and Promotions Commission. He's the vice president of the Bella Vista Foundation and on the board of directors at the Bella Vista History Museum. He’s also a member of Bella Vista Fly Tyers Club, the Bella Vista Tennis Association and the Bella Vista Men's Golf Association.
  • Murray is the owner of Aquacrete, a commercial shotcrete company and co-owner of a preschool, Busy Minds Academy, both in Bella Vista. He's a member of the Veterans Council of Northwest Arkansas and the Bella Vista Fly Tyers Club. He is an Eagle Scout and was a Boy Scout leader for 15 years. He also founded his church's annual leaf cleanup that offers services to the elderly.

Q&A: Meet the candidates

Axios: Why are you running for mayor and what is your main goal or priority?

Bourke: I am running for mayor of Bella Vista because Ginny [his wife] and I love this community, and we want to make sure it remains a safe, beautiful connected community where neighbors look after neighbors. My highest priority is to ensure that we live in a very low-crime community where we know that police, fire and EMT help is there when we need it.

Flynn: I have always felt that my strong background in law and finance were ideal for dealing with city issues and problems. While working on City Council, I became even more interested and knowledgeable regarding the issues in Bella Vista.

  • Many people, including the current mayor, have urged me to run for mayor over the last two years. I believe that Bella Vista needs to add at least one hotel and several more restaurants in the next few years. We should also strive to improve broadband service, add a charter school on the west side and gradually increase the usage of sewer rather than septic in the city.

Murray: I am running for mayor of Bella Vista because I can make a positive difference. … Our local tax base is weak because [we] lack local businesses. The city had a hard time making ends meet before City Council passed the internet sales tax. This created more revenue for the city but did nothing to help local businesses. Bella Vista residents have to travel to Missouri and Bentonville to buy even basic items for everyday life.

  • We have been in a major economic boom for over a decade and have less business here now than we did before the boom began. Two shopping centers have been bulldozed, and the buildings across from Allen's are not renewing leases; several local spaces are empty. I can fix this. I want to boost our local economy with businesses that make sense here and benefit the community and bolster our local economy.

Axios: What can the city government do to attract restaurant, retail or other economic growth in Bella Vista?

Bourke: Our city government has a responsibility to our business community to encourage shopping local and to partner with our local Business Association on promoting events. The best way to attract new business is to demonstrate that existing businesses are prosperous and are supported by our community.

Flynn: I believe that the connection of our community with the trail system can be utilized as a key factor in increasing our restaurant and retail business. For example the two latest projects are Shredder's Pub in the old American Legion building and Phat Tire on Riordan Road.

  • We can utilize our enhanced stature as a leisure and recreational center in order to increase business. Also the aforementioned addition of another school in the city would have a positive spinoff effect on business.
  • I am also committed to maintaining our pleasant environment and our trees and lakes. I do not believe that unrestrained growth should be the way forward for Bella Vista, but rather a balanced approach that seeks to preserve our relaxed atmosphere and high quality of life.

Murray: Bella Vista is incredibly slow in the permitting process. Change of occupancy permits, building permits and the permitting process is too slow and expensive. The process detours businesses, good builders and investors from doing business here.

  • We have a great staff at Community Development Services. They are just too bogged down with unnecessary code and overbearing restrictions. Most of our city code was copied and pasted from Fayetteville when the city was created, and a lot of it is not relevant or applicable here.
  • I would like to lower the cost of permits and fees. These changes will help incentivize businesses to come here. If you can start a business more quickly here and for less money, why would you go anywhere else?
  • Our real estate is some of the most affordable in Northwest Arkansas. Our crime is very low. We have a large and growing population, and it is absolutely beautiful here. We need to be friendlier to people that want to invest here.
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