Between 65 and 70 people attended a forum in which the four men still actively seeking to become Booneville’s mayor for the next four years made their respective cases.
One day before the scheduled debate Edgar Baker, via a Facebook post, said he was disbanding his campaign for the office. However, Baker will remain on the ballot along with Harold “Porky” Kimbrell, Aaron Brewer, Jerry Wilkins and Bobby Halford.
Monday’s event, held at the W.C. Littlefield Building on the South Logan County Fairgrounds, permitted each of the candidates to present their case to be mayor for two minutes, followed by a series of 13 pre-selected questions, and a three minute closing for each of the four.
Many of the questions dealt with particular departments within city government — parks, police, the airport. Others dealt with relationships with organizations like the Chamber and Boys & Girls Club.
Others dealt with ideas for job creation, managing time between a full time job and the job of mayor, renewal of the city sales tax, experience in grant writing, and the sale of alcohol.
The later drew different perspectives.
Wilkins, the four term incumbent, said he was opposed to alcohol sales on all levels.
“I do not drink so you probably know my opinion on alcohol,” Wilkins said. “Sold (by the drink) locally, I’m totally against that. Sold in the city of Booneville, I totally against that. There are people that say we need sell alcohol, maybe in packing stores, to get the sales tax. But usually when you sell alcohol, the problems come with it and they usually eat up that small amount of sales tax you get out of it, with police problems.
Halford had different opinions depending upon sale.
“That’s a tough question,” Halford said. “I’m opposed to going into a restaurant in Booneville Arkansas and being able to buy alcohol. The people who are going to drink are going to drive over to the north side and get it. We’re losing out on the tax dollars. Would I vote for alcohol in the city of Booneville, no, but we are losing revenue to the north side, Arkota and Nubbin Ridge. That money is money the citizens of Booneville could use, we could do more with.”
Kimbrell said it is a voter decision.
“I’m opposed to selling alcohol in Booneville but I think what I’m against is not what we’re talking about here. I think it should be put on the ballot and let the people of Booneville decide whether they want it or not. To me I wouldn’t drink enough of it to make anybody any money. But, we’ve got 4,000 people living in Booneville (and) 2,000 are registered to vote. I think it should be put up to them whether they want it or not.”
Brewer said he has had multiple discussions about it over the past few months and he agrees with Kimbrell.
“The people are interested in considering it at this time. It’s not something that I do, personally I’m opposed to drinking, I don’t do it,” said Brewer. “But I think that Booneville needs an opportunity to speak as a community, collectively, to make a decision about how they feel collectively about that. There’s a lot of revenue that is lost and it’s only a few miles up the road at Nubbin Ridge. That’s where most people go, but at this point in time I’d like to refer that to the people to decide.”
Regarding the sales tax distribution, Brewer said he didn’t see any reason to alter the tax distribution.
Wilkins noted the changes made in 2015, raising the senior center and police department’s take, and added the tax is “the livelihood our community,” and he wouldn’t make any changes as of now.
Halford said he would review the allocations moving excesses to something different, but “as it is right now, I’d have to admit Jerry has worked hard to get that sales tax allocated.”
Kimbrell said he’d like to see a little more efficiency out of the tax.
In regards to the double duty of a mayor Kimbrell and Brewer stated being self-employed made them available to leave the full time jobs to handle city matters. Wilkins stated he has done the same through his job with Roberts Funeral Home for the past 15 plus years.
Halford said he had been asked the question and had answered he would like to stay with his UPS job for two more years but he said Monday his future employment with the shipping company would be determined by the outcome of the election.
None of the candidates had any specific grant writing experience, though Kimbrell noted his association with the Project 18-21 voting initiative and said he intended to seek advice from someone he said had written many for police departments in Oklahoma and utilize the BDC/Chamber Executive Director Susan Bulger.
Brewer said he would like to create a grant writing position for the city and added there is a means within the state that allows one municipal access to feedback on grant proposals.
Wilkins also noted Bulger’s efforts in writing grant and added his time in office he has seen matches for grants increase from the typical 20 percent to a typical 50 percent and that grant writers generally command a 10 percent writing fee.
Halford said he has visited with Bulger about the subject and several possibilities Bulger mentioned should be pursued by the city.