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story.lead_photo.caption Shawn Gorham, a longtime member of the Rose Bud City Council, was elected as mayor during the Nov. 6 general election. Gorham, 38, is a lifelong resident of Rose Bud. He also serves on the Rose Bud School Board. - Photo by Mark Buffalo

Shawn Gorham of Rose Bud knew he wanted to serve his community. And after 20 years of working with the public, either in his job at a car dealership or through his work on the Rose Bud City Council, the baseball and softball commission and the Rose Bud School Board, Gorham will continue his work as Rose Bud mayor.

Gorham, 38, was elected Rose Bud mayor during the Nov. 6 general election, defeating fellow alderman Nick Cartwright by a tally of 148-57.

Gorham is replacing Sammy Davis, who has served as interim mayor following the death of longtime mayor Tammy Bomar, who died Aug. 16 during her third four-year term. She had already decided not to run for re-election.

“She was always working behind the scenes, not tooting her own horn,” Gorham said of Bomar. “She wasn’t one who wanted to take credit for anything. She wanted the town to get credit for it, kind of like the whole team. She never wanted to be spotlighted in any way.”

Prior to the election, the Rose Bud City Council voted to honor the memory of Bomar by placing her name on a new scoreboard for Field 2. The scoreboard cost $7,500.

“It’s kind of neat working with someone who was doing it for the right reasons and not just to put the spotlight on themselves,” Gorham said. “That’s the biggest compliment that I can give her. She was always looking out for everybody in town and their best interest, even if it appeared that she wasn’t. She was always looking out for home.”

Gorham said the City Council had already voted to purchase a new scoreboard for the ball field. It was something Bomar had put in the budget.

“She had served our town for 25 years in some capacity or another,” Gorham said. “She planned on putting that scoreboard on the field because she knew that we’d get more income than what we had budgeted. This was kind of what she wanted to do as the last thing she could do as mayor. It just made sense to name the scoreboard after her. We needed to name it after her for her 25 years of service to the town.”

Gorham got involved with the city while working with the youth baseball and softball programs about 10 years ago.

“In that capacity, I saw a need for someone to help the relationship between the city and the school,” he said. “I worked with both of them. We use school fields and city fields. So I saw a major need for someone to bring the two together. It wasn’t like they were at odds, fighting against each other, but they certainly weren’t working together for the betterment of the community.

“That is what started it all — volunteering and running that.”

After four years of working with the ball programs, Gorham decided to run for a seat on the school board in 2012 and was elected in September 2012. He said he spoke with Bomar, who suggested that he run for City Council.

“When I saw that [school board opening], I knew that was my chance to get in the door and to help the school system out,” Gorham said. “Two months later, Mayor Bomar called me, and she said that we’ve had City Council members who were school board members in the past. She knew the relationship needed help.

“I thought about it. That is what needed to happen. I ran unopposed, so I got on the school board and the City Council in 2012.”

Gorham was re-elected to the school board in 2017 and continued to sit on both elected boards and will continue to serve on the school board after he is sworn in as mayor on Jan. 1.

Gorham said Bomar had said she wasn’t going to run for re-election because of health concerns.

“For about two years, I was weighing the options and making sure my employer was on board with it,” he said, referring to Steve Landers Cowboy Chevrolet Buick GMC in Heber Springs. “Obviously, you can’t live on the salary of the mayor of Rose Bud. Once I knew that I had [my employer’s] blessing, I knew that was something I wanted to do.”

The current mayor’s salary is $11,508. Rose Bud’s population from the 2010 census is 482.

Gorham said he believes he can do more as mayor than he could as an alderman.

“The school and the city have come together on more than one project,” he said. “As mayor, I knew I could do so much more. As an alderman, you’re one of five. As mayor, you are doing the recommending for the council, and unless there is a reason someone knows to not go with what the mayor recommends, that is what’s going to happen. I know I can do so much more for the town as mayor.”

First-year Rose Bud Superintendent Luke Lovins said there is nothing negative about Gorham being mayor and a school board member.

“I think it’s always good for a school district and the community to interact with one another,” Lovins said. “I think the better the relationship you have between school leaders and community leaders, the better off you are. I think the more open the lines of communication are, the better the district and community are.

“The fact that you have a school board member who is serving in an elected position, in your town, you probably see each other more regularly than you would otherwise, so that helps with the communication.”

Gorham said his top priority is economic growth.

“We do have tremendous potential to grow the businesses we have. … We’ve got room to grow,” Gorham said. “We’ve got lots of vacant lots that would be prime real estate for someone wanting to come in and open a business that we don’t have. That’s something that has never been promoted. Our budget is just shy of $500,000. We don’t have a lot of revenue to work with.”

Gorham said one of his ideas is to start a city website to highlight what Rose Bud has to offer.

“I’ve operated the city Facebook page for about two years,” he said, “but we’ve never really had a city employee who did anything with that. We’re in the process of getting the budget passed, which will include $6,000 to get a website and maintenance for it. We’re going to get a website up and going like most of the towns around us have. That will spotlight businesses.”

Gorham said a spot on the website will be dedicated for real estate opportunities.

“I’m really going to work on spotlighting what we have to offer to get people to move here, and for businesses to move into Rose Bud with the land and buildings we have to offer,” he said. “We’ve got to get that revenue up.”

Gorham said the sewer system in Rose Bud is in good shape, but the city needs to get the system to more people.

“We don’t have enough pipe in the ground for people to hook up to it,” he said. “That is only because of a lack of revenue. Our city doesn’t owe a dime on our sewer system. Mayor Bomar left us in excellent shape. The city doesn’t owe anyone a dime. There’s not many towns around that can say that.

“I want to continue that. I’m not looking to get us in debt. I’m looking at getting our revenue up so we can get those tax dollars coming through and get that pipe in the ground and hook more people up to that sewer system.”

Gorham also wants to spotlight the senior citizens center, which is also the city’s community center.

“A lot of the seniors don’t know about the things we have to offer up there,” he said. “That’s why the website is so important. I want more activities going on at the senior center.”

The city of Rose Bud also had a summer festival, which included fireworks last summer, and Gorham wants to continue that. Also, the city will have a community Christmas parade and tree lighting Dec. 1.

“There are a lot of things that are exciting that Rose Bud has not seen before,” Gorham said. “The Christmas stuff will bring people out and bring the community together.

“We’re going to be active and do more things for the town.”

Staff writer Mark Buffalo can be reached at (501) 399-3676 or mbuffalo@arkansasonline.com.

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