Greg Henderson, the publisher/president of food blog Rock City Eats, announced Wednesday his intention to run for Little Rock mayor in next year's election.
"I want to give my kids, and the next generation of Little Rock, more opportunities and a better city than what we have," Henderson, 38, said in a news release. "I also believe small, locally owned businesses are the heartbeat of the city and by helping them succeed the community as a whole succeeds."
Henderson and other challengers will presumably face Mayor Frank Scott Jr., who is serving out the remainder of his first term. Scott defeated Baker Kurrus in a December 2018 runoff.
The Rock City Eats proprietor is the first candidate to announce a bid for mayor in the 2022 race, though businessman Steve Landers Sr. said last month that he is weighing a campaign.
Henderson and other contenders who wish to run for mayor will have to wait before they can formally file election paperwork with the city.
In a phone interview Wednesday, Henderson said he believes Little Rock is "at a bit of a crossroads." He said the city is "pretty much stagnant in growth" in terms of its population and economy.
Recently released 2020 census data show Little Rock grew by just under 5% over the past 10 years. The city topped 200,000 residents for the first time, though its rate of growth fell short of the huge population increases seen in the two largest Northwest Arkansas counties.
Henderson said he has worked with small businesses his whole career.
Compared with national businesses, local owners tend to have a greater impact on the overall economy by circulating money around the city and can be expected to support local initiatives and activities, he said.
He described small businesses as "one area where we can certainly do better."
While Rock City Eats is a food blog, Henderson's company also works with other businesses on marketing, web design and branding.
He said Rock City Eats serves as the publication-side of the company, and Rock City Interaction serves as a local marketing and consulting firm that works with restaurants and other small businesses.
Henderson said he wants to improve the city for his two kids by looking at long-term initiatives with an eye to 10 or 15 years down the road, and by working with the elected board of the Little Rock School District to make sure "the city is giving them every bit of support they need."
He said he was still up in the air with regard to the sales-tax increase scheduled to go before voters in a citywide referendum on Sept. 14.
Scott has championed the 1 percentage-point increase, which the mayor has dubbed "Rebuild the Rock." The net increase to the city's local tax rate will be five-eighths percent (0.625%) starting in January if voters give approval.
Henderson noted the timing of the tax increase amid the covid-19 pandemic.
He suggested a more modest approach would have been better and raised the idea of the city renewing a three-eighths percent (0.375%) sales tax, which is to expire in December, or enacting a half-cent sales-tax increase instead.
Nevertheless, Henderson said the city will have to replace the revenue from the three-eighths percent tax rolling off.
Henderson said he has had tax experts and advisers examine how the city can "make up some other revenue within the existing tax code that doesn't really, you know, put any more tax burden on the city of Little Rock, especially the lower-income taxpayers."
He described feeling disturbed about the lack of a contingency plan should the tax increase fail to pass.
Henderson said "personally, I'm still 50/50 on my vote. I want to see Little Rock do well, and I want to see [us] continue to thrive, but I think that there's some irresponsible spending in it."
Asked about his thoughts on what sets him apart from Scott, Henderson acknowledged that he supported Scott in the 2018 runoff election and that "as far as pure agenda goes, there's several things that we align on."
But he referred to how members of the city board and the mayor often seem to be at odds "very unprofessionally sometimes, and I think that, you know, as mayor, you gotta be a leader."
He pointed to the conflict playing out with multiple lawsuits within the Police Department and the contentiousness over the sales-tax package among the city board members.
To succeed in 2022, Henderson will have to win over the same pool of voters he courted during an unsuccessful 2020 bid to unseat the longest-serving member of the city board, Joan Adcock, for her at-large seat in Position 10 on the board.