It is the end of one era, the beginning of another in Little Rock's history as its long-time mayor Mark Stodola announces he won't run again. Let all citizens of good will wish him and his well at this point in his and the city's history. His announcement was to the point. "A very recent serious medical diagnosis involving one of my immediate family members has caused me to take stock of the future and make a decision that is best for my family at this time." Enough said. Emergencies compass time.
Mark Stodola has made history since he was first elected mayor in what now seems long-ago 2006, and even before when he was a prominent figure on the local political scene. Counselor Stodola would become the capital city's first full-time mayor since Little Rock made the switch to the city-manager form of local government in momentous 1957, as in the Little Rock Crisis of. Where there's been local and regional news to be made ever since, he's been a part of it.
The local electorate enhanced the power and authority of its mayor's job by making the office full-time and giving the mayor power to veto decisions of the city's board of directors. Though it would take a special election in 2007 to approve letting the mayor appoint members of the city's multiple boards and commissions. Welcome to the new age of streamlined, centralized power--for good or ill.
Now a new cast of movers and shakers moves on stage to compete for power and pelt, as happens in all democracies. Among those exploring entering the mayoral race in the November elections: State Representative Warwick Sabin; local banker Frank Scott Jr.; former Little Rock School District Superintendent Baker Kurrus; and Benny Johnson, founder of the group Arkansas Stop the Violence.
As for what Mayor Stodola will do next, voters can be sure that he'll continue to make the news. For he's still president of the National League of Cities, so he'll stay on as Little Rock's representative until he finishes his term at the end of the year.
The mayor's had high points and low in a long political career, and recited some of both the other day. Among the highs, he said, was overseeing the creation and opening of the Jericho Way Homeless Day Center. "It was a very emotional moment for me when we were able to open that up and see that happiness in the people's eyes and the dedication that those volunteers have."
Mayor Stodola also had the honor and thrill of flipping on the new lights on the three bridges across the Arkansas River. And he fondly recalls Little Rock's being named the most livable city in the country by Forbes magazine in 2013, whatever that meant besides coming out on top of a pile of statistics that may or may not have much significance for the way We the People live our lives. He's been around to see more than $150 million invested in the development of what has been titled Little Rock's "creative corridor," and it shows in the revitalization of the city's downtown.
Meanwhile, he's overseen a successful bond initiative and an increase in the hotel tax due to pay dividends in the restoration of the Arkansas Arts Center. And those are just some of the things that the Stodola administration will leave as its legacy. Not bad at all for an import from the University of Iowa.
"I am blessed," he concluded the other day, "to be a part of this city and our many accomplishments and most happy to have been a part of it along with my hardworking colleagues on the city board of directors. Thank you for the opportunity to serve." You're welcome, sir. You've been at least as good to us as we've been to you.
Paul Greenberg is the Pulitzer Prize-winning editorial writer and columnist for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.
Editorial on 05/13/2018
Print Headline: New times, new mayor