Sep 23, 2022 - Politics

Voters to select Bentonville City Council members

From left to right: Ragan Hensley, Allyson de la Houssaye, Cindy Acree, Beckie Seba. Photos courtesy of the candidates

Bentonville City Council has four contested races going into the November election.

Be smart: Each of the council contests is citywide, meaning residents can vote in all the races, regardless of the ward in which they reside.

Election Day is Nov. 8. The deadline to register to vote is Oct. 11.

  • Council members serve four-year terms.

Ward 1, Position 1 — Allyson de la Houssaye v. Beckie Seba

  • Houssaye is the executive director at Women of Oz, a mountain biking organization, where she's also chair of the board of directors. She volunteers at St. Vincent De Paul School and Sugar Creek Elementary, and she has completed special projects such as philanthropy for the National Interscholastic Cycling Association.
  • Seba is senior vice president and a real estate agent at Weichert, Realtors. She has volunteered as a crisis coach at Loving Choices in Rogers and has done community outreach for For the Love food truck. She's a founding member of Warrior Women, a Christian group that prays for government, education and health care leaders.

Ward 2, Position 1 — Incumbent Cindy Acree v. Ragan Hensley

  • Acree is CEO at Habitat for Humanity Benton County Inc. She serves on the city's Traffic and Signage Committee and the Benton County Historic Preservation Commission. She was a Republican member of the Colorado House of Representatives from 2009 to 2013.
  • Hensley is a merchant at Sam's Club Home Office, a volunteer at Court Appointed Special Advocates' (CASA) Light of Hope event and a former member of the Junior League of Northwest Arkansas.

Read about the other races.

Q&A: Meet the candidates

Why are you running for Bentonville City Council and what is your main goal or priority?

Houssaye: Growing up a Navy child, I watched my Dad sacrifice to serve this country. His education from the Navy gave him a chance to start a small business and achieve the American dream.

  • My experience as a small business founder and leader and chairing an executive board for a local nonprofit have given me many transferable skills well suited to help guide the city of Bentonville and represent its voters.
  • It's no big surprise that growth is our biggest issue in Bentonville today. With growth comes infrastructure stress. Infrastructure is more than just housing and roads. It's also water facilitates, green spaces and so much more. The Bentonville voters need a representative that takes a careful and practical approach to how we grow so we can keep Bentonville being Bentonville.

Seba: I understand the needs of the city because of my diverse experience, and I want to make sure it remains a great place to live, work and play.

  • The biggest issues are in the areas of property rights, housing affordability and infrastructure. We must adapt to the growing population by studying and implementing ways to increase density, while adequately planning for increased traffic, stormwater and the need for city services. Public transportation and alternative mobility solutions will be needed as well.

Acree: [I'm a] Bentonville native [who] loves this community. [I] want to see us manage our growth and preserve our history and find solutions to promote affordable housing and make sure … citizens have easy access to government services and departments and that they are responsive to the people.

Hensley: I'm a mom of two young boys, and I'm running because I want to ensure they have a safe, inclusive place to grow up. Bentonville is changing rapidly, and the representation on our city council needs to reflect that change and growth.

  • We need fresh perspectives and leadership to tackle key issues such as access to housing, infrastructure and planning for the future.
  • My education and experience in business and as a single mom brings that perspective and leadership needed. My top priority as a city councilperson is to champion responsible growth and development and to ensure Bentonville is a safe and inclusive place. … I love our town, and I'm passionate about making it even better.

Axios: What can the city government do to alleviate rising housing costs?

Houssaye: Unfortunately there is no magic wand with a single solution to address housing costs for everyone. We should look at this through the lens of a combination of strategies: keeping our local economy strong by focusing on job creation and economic development, communicating with local stakeholders in related fields and keeping open channels of education with the public on current opportunities in the city.

  • City Council can play a prominent role in all of the above solutions while serving the Bentonville voters.

Seba: Affordable housing is needed particularly so that teachers, fire fighters, police personnel and other similar households can afford to live in the city that they serve.

  • City Council must address these needs by removing barriers and creating incentives for development of properly priced housing for those households. Some of these barriers could include expediting the processes for affordable housing projects, changing minimum setbacks, changes in site area requirements and parking requirements.

Acree: We are doing it. We have established a work group on affordable housing. We will bring recommendations to City Council on code changes that will make development more cost-effective and encourage a commitment to affordable housing. We can't abandon our support of single-family neighborhoods and encourage the remodel of older homes people can afford.

  • We must address affordable, meaningful and efficient public transportation. The city must absorb some of the costs for infrastructure rather than only rely on developers and homeowners to fund things like sidewalks. No more sidewalks to nowhere!!!

Hensley: Both housing availability and rising costs are at issue. In 2021, far fewer housing units were built than what is needed to meet the growth of our city. Further compounding the issue is that NWA is at 97% of rental occupancy. Because greater demand and lower availability lead to higher costs, we must ensure that our city government partners with organizations already working to explore and expand housing availability in Bentonville.

  • City government has the responsibility to work to encourage smart growth and development by removing friction for developers and alleviating the burdens related to executing projects. We must also ensure that we help facilitate creative approaches to development and consistently apply zoning regulations.

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