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Bentonville Ward 1, Position 2 has crowded field

by Mike Jones | September 30, 2020 at 7:01 a.m.
Gayatri Agnew (top left), Jeff Matkins (top right), Dylan Shaddox (bottom left) and Jeff Wadlin (bottom right)

BENTONVILLE — Four candidates are vying for the Ward 1, Position 2 seat on the City Council.

Chad Goss, who holds the position, didn’t run for reelection.

The candidates are Gayatri Agnew, Jeff Matkins, Dylan Shaddox and Jeff Wadlin. Elle Jackson filed for the seat, but she has since decided not to run, she said in an email.

Ward 1 is in the northeast part of the city. The City Council is made up of eight members, two in each ward. Position 2 is a four-year term. City Council members are elected at-large but represent wards.

Council members are paid $808 per month, according to the city website.

The nonpartisan election is Nov. 3. Early voting starts Oct. 19. A voter may request an absentee ballot application by contacting the county clerk in the county where the voter is registered, according to the Arkansas Secretary of State website. Voters may download the application from the county websites.

The Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette emailed the same questions to the candidates. Their responses are below. Candidates were limited to 200 words per answer.

Question: If you were in charge of the Parks Department, would you encourage more recreation development or green space development? Explain.

Agnew: This question is a great example of needing to find the middle ground. If we are creative, we can have both. Over the years, I have visited several recreational areas that are intermixed with green space.

We can both ensure we are creating high quality recreational experiences and caring for our land. It is vital for Bentonville to support both the development of recreation facilities and to preserve green spaces. As Bentonville residents, we want places for recreation so we can enjoy the outdoors while watching our kids at a ballgame, hanging out at a skate park or walking along the greenway trails.

That is part of our life here. We love and appreciate all that the Ozarks have to offer. Some of my best memories involve watching fireflies, seeing the deer in our backyard and hearing the amazing chorus of insects and amphibians during the night on our back porch. This is something I want all future generations to be able to experience.

Matkins: David Wright is doing a great job at balancing recreational and green space development. I would support the current vision of park development in Bentonville.

Shaddox: If I oversaw the Parks Department, I would highly encourage more green-space development after we get the 28th Street Park and 8th Street Park completed.

We will be in good shape when it comes to parks for the city of Bentonville for the years to come. It is important to have a high quality of parks for our residents, but we also must think about the environment and how development can affect that. It can affect anything from erosion to disturbing the wildlife.

That being said, we have a good number of parks on the east side of town, so I believe the residents are content with the amount of parks Benton-ville has at the moment.

Wadlin: I would encourage more green space development. The local government has a role to play here in maintaining the public land and investing in equipment (playgrounds, sport courts, etc.) that can be enjoyed by all with public access and no fee.

On the other hand, indoor recreation facilities that charge a fee should be left to the private sector.

We have plenty of private gyms and other private facilities and more are being added all the time. The one exception to this might be swimming pools because those are a bit of a hybrid between public space and private facility, but even then I’d look for a public/ private partnership, where, for example, the city would provide the land, but contract out the operation of the pool to a private party.

Question: What does Bentonville need to do to become a more inclusive city?

Matkins: Bentonville just created a committee for equality and inclusion. Out of over 100 applicants, Mayor Orman has carefully selected a very diverse group of citizens to be a part of this committee.

Shaddox: Bentonville is very welcoming. To become more inclusive, we can do many things.

The first thing to do is to encourage people to apply and be a part of the Diversity, Equality, and Inclusion Task Force, which is a group that would support the Bentonville Together initiative.

This will help the city tackle any issues with diversity, equality and inclusion. That would be a good first step, but just genuinely talk to people in the community and see where they come from.

We could have many events throughout the year, for example, have a group set up a booth at the First Fridays or Farmers Market.

The city can invite guest speakers to come to talk about issues like racism. One of my focuses is “Community Collaboration,” so I’m looking forward to bringing the community together even more.

Wadlin: American government, down to the local level, is intended to be for the people and by the people. And that means all people. Local government has a limited, but important, role to play in inclusivity.

It should ensure that all of its laws, regulations and policies are unbiased. And perhaps more importantly, it should ensure that its policies are not being enacted or enforced in a biased way.

This requires outreach and encouraging citizens to voice their concerns and acting on those concerns quickly. The local government also has a role to play in ensuring that citizens treat each other fairly, particularly in commerce. Americans are free to believe and practice whatever they like, so long as they’re not harming someone else.

My liberty should not infringe on your liberty.

Agnew: When I came to Bentonville, I felt at home here. That is what inclusion means — being a place where everyone feels welcome no matter where they are from.

While the community does so much to create a welcoming and inclusive environment, we can do more. We need to design for a future that includes everyone — an example of this is the ability park recently opened by the community center that creates a shared play space for children of all abilities.

We need to ensure neighborhoods are walk/bike-able, when neighbors can walk in their communities, they are able to meet one another, get to know one another and through these relationships build stronger communities. The new 28th Street Park will be home to new baseball fields and a cricket pitch to host matches for some of the many teams in our community.

We need to protect our economy and create a strong infrastructure for Bentonville’s small businesses. This allows people to have access to the goods and services they need right here in our community.

When we include everyone the whole community thrives and benefits and that’s what I want for Bentonville.

Question: What makes you the best candidate for this position?

Shaddox: What makes me the best candidate for this position is that I strive on having high integrity. I will listen and fight for what’s right for the city of Bentonville and its residents. I promise to look out for every citizen of Bentonville.

I will work hard to ensure Bentonville keeps its great quality of life and be fair to all. Transparency is one of my focuses along with smart growth and smart spending. Benton-ville does a nice job having a balanced budget, but I will ensure to work with city staff and council to keep it that way.

Also, I have experience being a chairman of a local committee and 10 years of retail experience, so I know how to interact with customers and other people around me.

Agnew: I love Bentonville, and, when you love something, you take care of it. I am running to bring leadership for our community’s future.

This means smart growth that both preserves our legacy and prepares us for the future. This means open and transparent government where all citizens are engaged. #OneBentonville, which means working together to build an inclusive community so no matter where you are from, you feel at home here.

I am a mom and a business leader. I have experience negotiating with diverse groups of people and managing complex issues. We have real challenges we need to solve by working together.

We need to make smart decisions about development and roads so our streets are safer, more walkable and bikeable. We need to work together to manage the drainage crisis, so your homes and yards stop flooding when it rains. We need to work together as stewards of the environment, so we have great parks, but protect the land for the future.

Finally, I would like to improve our local infrastructure for recycling (curbside glass pickup anyone?). We have an amazing community, and I want to work to continue to make Bentonville the community we all love.

Wadlin: What makes me the best candidate for this position is that I’m just an average citizen like my neighbors I’ll represent. I’m not particularly political, and I’m a centrist. I have two boys at Bentonville High School, and I’m just looking to make Bentonville a better place for all families, and people of all stripes.

Matkins: I am a fifth generation Bentonville resident and am passionate about the people and places in it. While I am humbly thankful for the generous gifts of special interest groups to help beautify Bentonville, my influence does not lie here. I want to represent the people.

My intention is to sensibly manage growth-related issues that stay true to rules and regulations so that Bentonville continues to be a great place for people to want to live.


Gayatri Agnew

• Age: 38

• Residency: Lived in Ward 1 for six years

• Employment: Senior director at Walmart

• Education: Master of business administration and bachelor of arts in political science, Seattle University

• Political Experience: Unsuccessful candidate for Arkansas House in 2018

Jeff Matkins

• Age: 41

• Residency: Lived in Ward 1 for 11 years

• Employment: Owner, Matkins Greenhouse and Flowers in Bentonville

• Education: Home schooled through high school

• Political

Experience: None

Dylan Shaddox

• Age: 27

• Residency: Lived in Ward 1 for one year and three months

• Employment: Facility designer at Walmart

• Education: Attended Northwest Arkansas Community College

• Political Experience: Unsuccessful candidate for Bella Vista City Council in 2018

Jeff Wadlin

• Age: 49

• Residency: Lived in Ward 1 for three years

• Employment: Senior director, membership, Sam’s Club Home Office

• Education: Master of business administration, Kellogg School of Management, Northwestern University, Evanston, Ill.; bachelor of science in mechanical engineering, University of Virginia, Charlottesville

• Political Experience: Unsuccessful candidate for Benton County justice of the peace in 2018

Mike Jones may be reached by email at mjones@nwadg.com.

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