To “Reflect on 2008, Look ahead to 2009,” 501 LIFE invited a handful of mayors throughout the 11 counties in the 501 area to complete a questionnaire regarding their communities. Questions ranged from the top successes and challenges in 2008 to a preview of what elected officials see in the year ahead.

Additional responses from other cities in the 501 can be found at

In Conway
‘A year of great satisfaction’

by Mayor Tab Townsell

How will 2008 be remembered in your city?
The Hewlett-Packard announcement was the big news of the year. It will bring some 1,200-1,400 good-paying information technology jobs to Conway – the jobs of tomorrow’s economy – as well as establish Conway in the center of the technology industry for the state of Arkansas. 
In the years to come, this will be seen as the water shed event not just for this year but across the broader face of city history. This will be the year cited when people talk about the change in the way we looked at ourselves, the way we looked at our city’s future, and the way we mentally placed Conway in the hierarchy of cities. And that hierarchy of cities now extends far beyond Arkansas borders. 
If you can define a century by tracing its tone back to a single event, history will look back to this announcement to define the 21st century in Conway.

How will you remember 2008?
That everything we have been working for years to achieve, paid off and was resoundingly endorsed by the Hewlett-Packard decision to locate its technical support facility in Conway:
The belief that our demographics, specifically our young highly educated population, our low crime, our good schools, the presence of our colleges, the great public utility, the closeness of Little Rock and its distance, could attract and support a strong white collar job economy.
Supported by the necessary decisions to pursue greater dining options with private clubs, to decisions to raise taxes and fees for both economic development and for great parks benchmarked against the nation, the belief that a vibrant downtown is a vital and necessary component of a quality of life for any future “great city,” the forward-thinking of the Conway Development Corporation and the Conway City Council in developing the Meadows Technology Park, and the establishment of a ongoing revenue stream to finance economic development, the conscious effort to achieve what many said could not be achieved in Arkansas was accomplished. 
It was a year of great satisfaction.

The biggest challenges faced in 2008:
The biggest challenge by far was getting ready for and closing the deal with Hewlett-Packard. The same deal a year earlier would have found the city, the Conway Development Corporation and the Meadows Technology Park not ready. We almost were not ready in 2008 but by the great efforts of many people it happened.
City’s top three successes in 2008:
Beyond H-P: 
1 – The capital improvement program for both streets and parks improvements.
2 – Continued downtown revitalization.
3 – Taking major steps in the direction of sustainability.
Trying to keep up with the transportation infrastructure needs of a growing community is a continuing challenge. Population growth, as well as new school and business development, creates the need for new streets, widened streets and better traffic management. 
In 2008, the city started connecting the new I-40 interchange over Cadron Ridge to the city’s street grid at Salem Road in midtown. Favre Lane was extended over a half-mile west, creating the first east-west corridor in Conway south of Dave Ward Drive. Tyler Street was widened and lined with sidewalks to improve access to the newly completed Woodrow Cummins Elementary School. Street improvements are also under way in the vicinity of the HP project in order to connect the Meadows Technology Park to the city’s street grid by city standard streets. The city added its fifth modern roundabout. continuing to progessively address traffic congestion. Several miles of bike lanes have been also added to new and existing streets.
The parks and recreation offerings are being expanded greatly. The city took possession of the Cadron Settlement Park on the Arkansas River. Land for a new fairgrounds was purchased and work is under way to enable the Faulkner County Fair to be held in the new location on Highway 64 west in 2010. A new girls’ softball complex built to a standard not found in Arkansas will be ready for play in the Fall of 2009. Construction of a new, nine-field boys’ baseball complex will begin in the Fall of 2010 on the site of the current YBMA baseball complex. Bike and walking trail extensions are being engineered for work to begin in 2009.
Conway’s Downtown suddenly became the hottest destination in the city with added shops and restaurants along even further extensions of the sidewalk redevelopment project. Dead four years ago after 5 p.m., today downtown is teaming with cars and people well past prime time hours. The skyline of downtown Conway has been changed by the construction of a new police department building, extending the streetscape of downtown even beyond its historic borders. The new building will be ready for occupancy in the Spring of 2009. Lighting and sidewalk upgrades north along Front Street to Hendrix College and the opening of architecturally urban, student town homes right on the sidewalk extended that urban feel of downtown right into the campus.
Conway continued its quest to be a more sustainable city. The city has started the process to become a bicycle-friendly community, by establishing a broad-based task force to assess the needs of the city with regard to bicycle accessibility. Money was earmarked for alternative transportation needs, and a comprehensive mass transit study is being completed by Metroplan. The city also contracted with Energy Systems Group to conduct a comprehensive energy efficiency update to city buildings which will pay for itself through energy savings. The recycling program continues to expand to include more material, and the city has a purchased a Styrofoam densifier to further reduce the waste stream going into the landfill.

Top three challenges that lie ahead in 2009:
1 – Maintaining a strong local economy in the face of trying economic times nationally.
2 – Continuing to deliver the much-needed capital improvements for transportation, parks and general services.
3 – Maintaining the operating revenues needed to cover the cost of city services. 
It’s great to be able to build a new youth ball complex. It should help our local economy by attracting tournaments and accompanying out-of town visitors to the city to eat and sleep and generally spend money. We are building these complexes with our revenues dedicated for parks that cannot be used for any other purpose.  However, we also need to be able to hire the staff and afford the equipment and supplies to maintain that complex year after year. Those monies come from a different source. To be successful this next year – and the next few years – we need to maintain both our operating and capital revenue streams in healthy positions. Hopefully, both will contribute to the local economy.

Key to success in the new year:
Weathering the national economy and positioning ourselves to come out of this period of economic troubles strongly. Money managers will tell you that money in troubled times undergoes a “flight to quality” meaning more sure investments.
We believe the same is true in community development. 
If we maintain our high quality of life in these times and take every opportunity we can to enlarge that quality of life, we are better positioned to weather the storm and take advantage of the coming prosperity.

In Cabot
‘A year of partnerships’

by Mayor Eddie Joe Williams

How will 2008 be remembered in your city?
2008 will be remembered in Cabot as a year of partnerships.
The City of Cabot has partnered with the Arkansas Highway and Transportation Department, Lonoke County and the federal government in order to improve the infrastructure within our city. We are currently opening a railroad overpass that will remove the majority of our school bus traffic from our current railroad crossings and enable us to keep our students safer. This railroad overpass will also allow us to close the Polk Street crossing, which has been determined to be one of the most dangerous crossings in Arkansas.
We are also working on a new north interchange for Cabot. This is a huge project that will take large partnerships on the local, state and federal levels. This new interchange will connect with the new railroad overpass and will allow us to reduce the amount of traffic on Highway 89, which is one of the busiest two-lane highways in Central Arkansas. 
These are two of our top projects at the moment, but we have several smaller projects that we have completed through partnerships as well. Cabot’s infrastructure has improved greatly through working with other agencies.

How will you remember 2008?
It was a year that passed very fast. It is the completion of the halfway mark of my first term, and as I look back, I am happy with what we have accomplished in the City of Cabot in the past two years. 

When I came into office the city was in financials straits, and we now have a substantial amount of money in a savings account for emergency needs and future projects. 
There is a new attitude in the city to work together to meet the needs of our citizens. I believe 2008 was a successful year, and I am looking forward to what the next two years will bring.

The biggest challenges faced by your city in 2008:
Cabot faced some hard times in 2008. 
We were hit by two tornadoes, just a few months apart. Through these experiences we learned a lot about our city and the support we have from other people. Teamwork was what enabled us to get through the cleaning and rebuilding.
Some other challenges we faced were operating under a tight budget to enable us to save money for necessary future projects. We have several things that we must address in the coming years, such as a new fire station, and these things take money. 
Traffic was also a big challenge in 2008, and I believe many people in Cabot will agree that we have made great strides.

City’s top three successes in 2008: 
The top three successes in 2008 were improved traffic, the ability to save approximately $2 million for projects, and the establishment of a new website that is more user friendly and enables the public to do many services online.

Top three challenges that lie ahead in 2009:
The top three challenges in 2009 are to remain focused on an efficient budget, finish road projects to create better traffic flow, and to determine the best location for a new fire station in Cabot.

Key to success in the new year:
The key to success for the new year is teamwork. We have many projects that lie ahead of us, and the way we accomplish these tasks is to work together using pooled resources.  This philosophy has deemed itself to be successful the last two years, so we will stick to it and see where it takes us in the future. 
Cabot is on the road to becoming the safest, cleanest, most livable city in Arkansas!

In Hot Springs
‘A year of community growth’

by Mayor Mike Bush
How will 2008 be remembered in your city?
The unusual phenomenon of two back-to-back hurricanes impacting our city dominated headlines during 2008. Gustav and Ivan did a lot of damage in Hot Springs and Garland County.  
2008 will also be remembered as a year of community growth amidst a stagnant nationwide economy.

How will you remember 2008?
We experienced the loss of our longest-term city official with the passing of City Director Bill Edwards. He spent more than a half century serving the citizens of Hot Springs and epitomized public service.
The biggest challenges faced by your city in 2008:
Recovering from the two hurricanes and their damage to public and private property.
Participating in an unsuccessful campaign for a new jail and public safety initiatives for fire and police.
Relocating the city’s finance department and its 23 employees to the former Air National Guard headquarters at Hot Springs Memorial Field.
City’s top three successes in 2008:
Hotel, retail and residential development led to an exceptional year for Hot Springs, including new apartment buildings, medical complexes, hotels (such as the Comfort Inn and Candlewood Suites), and the onset of construction for the Fairgrounds Crossing, a major retail center on Higdon Ferry Road. As of Dec. 12, permit evaluation of projects in Hot Springs has reached a total of $116,436,447, nearly doubling 2007’s record permit numbers. Several new construction projects are already planned in 2009.
Relocation of the finance department to the former Air National Guard facility at Hot Springs Memorial Field.
Decreasing unemployment, another indicator of a healthy economy. Hot Springs was one of only eight of the nation’s 369 metropolitan statistical areas to show a decrease in unemployment this year when compared to last year.

Top three challenges that lie ahead in 2009:
Replacement of the city’s aging infrastructure, particularly its wastewater system.
Initial planning for a new water treatment plant to serve Hot Springs’ growing customer base.
Addressing the continued need for improved public safety (jail expansion, police communications, renovation and relocation of fire stations).

Key to success in the new year:
The formulation of a comprehensive plan for addressing the major issues facing the city through interagency cooperation.

In Benton
‘Preparing to better serve Benton residents’

by Marsha Guffey
Director of Community Development

How will 2008 be remembered in your city? 
Since I have been here (2006), many departments have been preparing to better serve Benton residents in the future. 2008 has been a continuation of those efforts.

How will you remember 2008?
Nothing stands out to differentiate 2008 from other years. They are all extremely busy with a wide variety of projects to tackle.

The biggest challenges faced by your city in 2008:
I think for the city council settling the AFSCME (American Federation
of State, County and Municipal Employees) lawsuit was a big deal. A lot of big financial decisions have been waiting on the outcome. 
Also, we were challenged by the storm damage from the April tornado, Hurricane Gustav and Hurricane Ike.

City’s top three successes in 2008:
The voluntary annexation of the Exit 114 property.
The voluntary annexation about to take place of Alcoa property. This deal will protect Benton’s interests in this part of town, plus will protect the interests of Alcoa, Almatis and St. Gobain.
Completion of road projects that have been in the works for some time.

Top three challenges that lie ahead in 2009:
Staying on top of infrastructure needs.
Dealing with budget issues if the economy continues to sour.
Developing the events center and selling it to the community.

Key to success in the new year:
We have the same council and mayor for another two years and they all have a good working relationship. We have seen some great leadership on different issues from every member on the council.

In Maumelle
‘Even greater opportunities’ on horizon

by Mayor Michael Watson

How will 2008 be remembered in your city?
In 2008, subdivision development and home construction slowed but continued at a moderate pace. Commercial development has also slowed, but the opening of the new Kroger store and the Neighbor Market changed the landscape in Maumelle.

How will you remember 2008?
We started the design process for the new interchange on Interstate 40 and completed two bond projects in 2008.
While there are concerns for the industries located in Maumelle due to the country’s economic picture, there were several expansions, new job creations, and the addition of Propack to the industrial park.

The biggest challenges faced by your city in 2008:
The rising fuel prices and the rising construction costs and supplies that are used to maintain the pathways and roadways were some of the biggest challenges we faced.

City’s top three successes in 2008:
Opening of one of the largest Kroger stores in a five-state area.
Breaking ground on a new police station and a new main fire station, located on the same tract of ground.
Opening of our new softball complex and hearing the good remarks by visiting teams.

Top three challenges lie ahead in 2009?
Continuing to meets the needs of the growing community with an ever-tightening budget.
Bidding and completing the final two bond projects approved by the citizens in 2004.
Trying to forecast the effects of the economy on city revenues and expenditures.

Key to success in the new year:
The key to success in 2009 will be completing four major construction projects throughout the year and securing federal funding for the new interchange.
Additionally, having fuel prices remain at a level that is considerably lower than the high prices that we experienced in 2008 will help us achieve our goals for 2009.

Other comments:
Maumelle looks forward to breaking ground on a new high school in 2009, which will bring a new dimension to the community and offer residents and businesses even greater opportunities.

In Jacksonville
‘A positive, progressive year’

by Mayor Tommy Swaim

How will 2008 be remembered in your city?
As a positive, progressive year.

How will you remember 2008?
In spite of an economic downturn, the City of Jacksonville has continued to provide excellent services to the citizens of our community.

The biggest challenges faced by your city in 2008:
Keeping the local hospital going.
Educating our children.

City’s top three successes in 2008:
Having the PCSSD (Pulaski County Special School District) Board vote to give Jacksonville its own school district.
Having a charter school approved for our area.
Delivering $5 million to the Little Rock Air Force Base for a Joint Education Center.
Top three challenges that lie ahead in 2009:
Complete construction of the new $4 million library.
Begin construction for the new Joint Education Center.
Continue to push for our own school district.

Key to success in the new year:
Continuing good public and private partnerships to help our citizens.