Mayor only male elected city official in community

By Wayne Bryan Published November 3, 2013 at 12:00 a.m.
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Wayne Bryan

Seven women and Mayor Johnny McMahan fill the dais during meetings of the Bauxite City Council. From the left are council members Karen Brooks, Paula Matthews and Brenda Haney; McMahan; Treasurer Sheryl Johnson; City Attorney Pam Perry; and council members Allison Cain and Mona Struble. Several council members said the all-female makeup of the council has little effect on how the city is run. Others said it makes a difference in how council members approach city issues.

BAUXITE — Bauxite City Treasurer Sheryl Johnson said Mayor Johnny McMahan might feel a little out of place, every once in a while, during a Bauxite City Council meeting, but she thinks he likes being the only man on the dais.

“He definitely gets to hear the female point of view,” Johnson said, smiling, “whether he wants to or not.”

“Yes, I do like it,” Mayor McMahan said before a council meeting on Oct. 20. “These women take being an alderman more seriously than some of the men who have been on the board in the past. I believe some of the council members we had in the past thought they had found a good part-time job, making $175 a month for spending an hour or two at City Hall once a month.”

All five members of the City Council are women. They include the youngest member of the council, Paula Matthews, 28, who said she takes a mother’s perspective in many issues.

“So many of the issues we cover here have to do with the future,” she said. “I am part of the younger generation, so this future is for me and my children. I try to speak for younger people and kids when I speak in the council meetings.”

Mona Struble said much the same about her approach to city legislation.

“As long as we are moving forward, we do the best we can,” she said. “With every situation, I think about my son. I want to set a good example and make Bauxite a good place for him.”

All current members have been elected or named to the board since November 2010.

“Just before that election, I heard a council member say that everything was perfect in Bauxite,” McMahan said. “‘I’m here two hours once a month, and if something was wrong, I would have seen it,’ she said.

“This council is not looking at the old ways of doing things. They are more in tune to see the city progress and do better. They seem to know how to do just that. They are thoughtful and intelligent.”

Allison Cain, who is in her second term as a council member, said the mayor is right that this council is serious about changing the way the town has been run.

“We are all more positive,” she said. ‘We all want to have an impact about cleaning up the city’s procedures.”

Another woman meeting with the council is City Attorney Pam Perry. The town’s lawyer does not see a women’s perspective being part of the city’s actions.

“I don’t think in terms of male and female,” Perry said. “It don’t see it define the council’s effectiveness.”

Council member Brenda Haney, the senior member of the board, said she does not think the makeup of the council has any effect on the way legislation is formed or passed.

Mayor McMahan said the women who now make up the council are a change from the old ways.

“This is a cultural change for Bauxite,” he said. “They get along well together and with me. I even campaigned aggressively for some of their elections. They live real active lives and carry an idea of what is right to do for the city.”

For instance, Allison said, the council is taking a new and open approach to cleaning up a mess made when the city was not paying the income-tax withholdings for its employees.

“We have to have accountability and not be hiding

anything,” Cain said. “We have checked and rechecked to keep everything as it should be.”

She said the city has worked out a deal with the Internal Revenue Service that employees’ income-tax withholdings will be paid as scheduled, and the city will pay the IRS $30,000 the city owes before the end of 2017.

“Its is being paid down now, so the city should be out of it early,” she said.

At the Oct. 20 meeting, the council called for a special town-hall meeting, to be held Monday, to discuss the mayor’s idea for a half-cent sales tax to be charged in the city to pay for sewer grinder pumps, plus maintenance.

“I believe a one-half-cent sales tax would generate more funds and cost each citizen less money than the $10 on their water bill,” the mayor said. “This issue will have to be voted on by the citizens, and we hope the issue will be on the primary ballot in May 2014.”

McMahan said the city’s sewer plant was built in 2003 with no money for maintenance and no “rainy-day fund” for repairs.

“The sewer grinder pumps are breaking down and must be repaired at a cost of $400 to $1,000 each,” the mayor said.

The meeting will be at 7 p.m. at the Bauxite City Hall.

The council also deferred the purchase of an emergency generator for the Bauxite Volunteer Fire Department. Fire Chief John Davis told the council the Fire Department had a “horrible” problem when a late-December snowstorm of 2012 cut power to the department for several days.

“We thought the pumps on the trucks would freeze,” he said. “If they do, you just have to get a new pumper truck.”

The council asked to see if a bid price could include installing the generator on a concrete pad and building a security fence around the equipment.

The council also announced that the third annual Bauxite Holiday and Christmas Party potluck dinner will be held Dec. 13 at the Bauxite Community Hall and Museum.

Staff writer Wayne Bryan can be reached at (501) 244-4460 or wbryan@arkansasonline.com.

Tri-Lakes Edition Writer Wayne Bryan can be reached at 501-244-4460 or wbryan@arkansasonline.com.

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