Little Rock, Earle mayors attend national mayors conference in Washington

D.C. event draws Little Rock, Earle chiefs

Little Rock Mayor Frank Scott Jr. (left) and Earle Mayor Jaylen Smith are shown in these 2022 file photos. (Arkansas Democrat-Gazette/Helaine R. Williams)
Little Rock Mayor Frank Scott Jr. (left) and Earle Mayor Jaylen Smith are shown in these 2022 file photos. (Arkansas Democrat-Gazette/Helaine R. Williams)

WASHINGTON -- Two Arkansas mayors were among the more than 250 municipal leaders who attended the U.S. Conference of Mayors' annual winter meeting in the nation's capital this week.

Little Rock Mayor Frank Scott Jr. and Earle Mayor Jaylen Smith participated in seminars on topics such as utilizing federal resources, public safety and technology innovation. The annual meeting concluded Friday with Scott, Smith and other mayors meeting with President Joe Biden at the White House.

The U.S. Conference of Mayors is a nationwide organization consisting of mayors from cities with populations of at least 30,000 people. Smith -- whose town has a population of around 1,800 residents -- was invited by the African American Mayors Association, which Scott heads as its president. Scott also mentored Smith during his mayoral campaign.

Smith, 18, became one of the youngest mayors in the country when he won his contest in November. His attendance at the meeting happened as he marked his third week in office.

In an interview with the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, Smith said the meeting provided opportunities to learn effective solutions for addressing a myriad of issues while building relationships with leaders from across the country.

"I've met so many mayors," he said.

"I'm going to reach out with any questions I have," he said. "I'm not going to hesitate; I'm just going to make that call because the mayors that are here, they are supportive and very willing to help."

Scott, who began his second term this year, has used previous meetings to learn about possible solutions to issues in Little Rock. He mentioned talking to leaders of Austin, Texas, about services for people experiencing homelessness. Scott tied those conversations to plans for creating a micro village to provide residency for these people.

"No one has a price on a good idea," Scott said. "We want to make sure that if we're able to implement an idea that can work well in Little Rock and someone's already gone through that journey, we want to utilize it."

The city would use American Rescue Plan Act funds for the homelessness project, Scott said.

Other relationships of interest to mayors are those involving federal agencies. Representatives from various national offices, such as the Treasury Department and the Small Business Administration, participated in forums alongside mayors and advocacy leaders to discuss issues shared across multiple communities.

"It's really good when we are sending applications out for these grants and this federal funding that we are able to put a name with a face with the city and the people that are making these key and critical decisions," Scott said.

During Scott's tenure, Little Rock has sought federal investments for various projects, including the community schools model efforts directed at improving academic outcomes.

"We really believe it is a direct relationship," Scott said. "Not only because we're providing great applications, but we're creating and building relationships with members of the federal government who are making these critical decisions and giving us these dollars."

Smith also sees opportunities to utilize resources for improvements, such as upgrading Earle's infrastructure and opening a new grocery store. He added it will take a united effort to ensure the town gets the most from investment opportunities.

"We're looking at building up Earle, Arkansas, and so we're going to have to take risks, take steps, and make sure everybody is on one page. Me -- the mayor -- the city council, and people working together as one to move our city."

"It's not just the mayor making the decisions, but everybody working together and making the best decisions for our city to move forward and getting those projects and getting those people to come in and invest in Earle."

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