Saying he's proud of improvements in Maumelle during the past 12 years and of where that groundwork will take the city in the future, Mayor Mike Watson said Tuesday that it's time for someone else to take the city's helm.
Watson announced at Monday night's Maumelle City Council meeting that he won't seek re-election to a fourth term in the Nov. 6 general election. His current term lasts through the end of the year.
Filing for Maumelle municipal positions begins July 27. Maumelle City Attorney Caleb Norris recently announced he will run for mayor.
"It's just time for me," Watson said Tuesday. "It's not one thing. It's a little bit of a lot of things. So it's just time."
Watson, 61, said he doesn't plan on fully retiring and is "talking to some people" about possible career opportunities. Before being elected mayor in 2006, his first political race, Watson spent 27 years as a registered land surveyor for engineering companies.
Maumelle has grown from a population of about 15,115 when Watson was elected mayor to almost 18,900, according to city census figures.
During his tenure, Maumelle built a new police and fire headquarters and a fire substation; replaced its senior wellness center and a public works building; built baseball, softball and T-ball fields; began a city recycling program; and renovated its animal services building.
The city also merged its independent water and wastewater utility with Central Arkansas Water and North Little Rock Waste Water.
Maumelle voters approved a special bond election in 2012 for the fire substation and two sets of road improvements, including an extension of Counts Massie Road. In 2014, Maumelle was successful in a bond election containing four projects, including the senior wellness center.
Maumelle voters also approved in a March special election a one-half percent permanent sales tax for public safety, removing an unpopular community service fee, and another one-half percent temporary sales tax to back bonds to build an interchange to connect the Counts Massie Road extension with Interstate 40. That project has been in the works since the mid-1990s. Bids for the interchange are expected to be let in September.
"In my statement last night, I said I was proud to be a part of the history of Maumelle and hopefully the future of Maumelle with the new interchange," Watson said Tuesday. "I feel we did some good things for Maumelle and moved it forward."
Nearby mayors spoke highly of Watson on Tuesday and lamented the loss of a partner in Pulaski County.
"There's no doubt that Mike was one of the smartest mayors I know," North Little Rock Mayor Joe Smith said. "He was aggressive in trying to make Maumelle a great place to live and certainly was amiable in working with us, being next door neighbors, so to speak, to make everything the best for both cities. He's going to be missed."
Sherwood Mayor Virginia Young said that having neither Watson nor Little Rock Mayor Mark Stodola seeking re-election "is going to be a loss of experience" for central Arkansas.
"It seems like there will be several stepping off at the same time," said Young, who has no opponent for her re-election in November. "Mike's a very good leader and very well respected."
Watson said having more time for family life was part of his decision. He and his wife, Debbie, have four grandchildren.
"The grandkids, that's a big influence," he said. "We don't raise them, but I want to spend as much time with them as I can."
Metro on 07/04/2018
Print Headline: Watson to step down as mayor