NORTH LITTLE ROCK Joe Smith has won the runoff election for North Little Rock mayor, becoming the city's first new leader in 24 years.
At an enthusiastic watch party at Smith's Park Hill headquarters, the mayor-elect thanked supporters for helping him beat opponent Tracy Steele. Unofficial results had Smith winning nearly 55 percent of the vote.
"We've had so many wonderful volunteers," Smith said, taking a break from meeting with supporters. "I want to try my best tonight to hug every one of them and thank them so much."
Steele conceded shortly after 8:30 p.m., thanking a large crowd of his supporters that gathered at a watch party at the Wyndham Hotel in downtown North Little Rock.
"We'll be alright," he told them. "This is the close of this chapter. But there will be another chapter."
Smith, North Little Rock's longtime commerce and governmental relations director, asked voters to support him because of his experience working closely with Mayor Patrick Hays and his projects.
Steele is a term-limited state representative and the executive director of the STAND Foundation in North Little Rock.
Hays decided not to seek another reelection after six terms in the office.
Steele received the most votes in the Nov. 6 general election but not enough to win the office outright.
Read tomorrow's Arkansas Democrat-Gazette for more on this story.