7 file for vacant Earle mayor’s seat
Two former mayors among candidates on crowded ballot
The race to fill the job of mayor in Earle is off and running.
Seven candidates — including two former mayors — have submitted papers to run for the office, which was vacated when Carolyn Jones was recalled.
The list includes Jesse Booker, Otis Davis, W.H.
Johnson, Jr., James Perry, Jr., Frederick Pitchford, Sherman Smith, and Judy Wiley.
Jones was recalled from office in November after a stormy two years in office marked by controversy and strife.
Former Mayor Otis Davis, who was defeated in his 2014 re-election bid by Jones, said he thought long and hard about running again and decided that he had some unfinished business that he would like to complete.
“I had quite a few people talk to me about running again,” Davis said. “I think we were headed in the right direction and there are some things I feel I didn’t complete.”
Davis, who is pastor of First Baptist MBC, said the city’s fortunes can be revived with proper leadership.
“It’s in bad shape,” Davis said. “It’s going to take some time to turn things around. But I think it can be turned around. I think my record speaks for itself.
We did streets. We put garbage collection in place and the water lines. We had some other things I was looking at. I just didn’t have the opportunity.”
Sherman Smith, who was mayor from 1985-2006, said the city is in desperate need of experienced leader- ship.
“It is critical at this time or it is going to go down, down, down,” Smith said.
Smith, who works as a grant administrator for East Arkansas Planning and Development District, said the first thing the next mayor will need to do is restore credibility with the citizens. “Credibility is a key thing,” Smith said. “When you don’t have that I don’t care what you are doing.
You’ve got to show that you have credibility to take care of business. It’s going to take everybody. We will need to put our best foot forward.”
Jesse Booker, a general contractor, said he is running for mayor to help people and to save the city
from financial ruin.
“We’re spending money like we are a big city, like we have money,” Booker said. “You should run it like a business.”
Booker said Earle is headed in the wrong direction right now, but has good people and assets to build on that they can use to attract more residents and businesses to the city.
“Right now we are not heading in the right direction,” Booker said. “I would just like to see us clean things up and take what we have and use it right. I’m not running against anybody. I’m just running to help the city.
I’ve had a successful business for 50 years. If they want me, I am here to help.”
James Perry, Jr., said one of the main reasons he is running for mayor is to turn around the city’s declining finances and to bring more jobs to Earle.
“I think I have the tools to make it happen,” Perry said. “Right now the city is going down.”
Perry, who works in manufacturing and warehousing distribution in Memphis, said if elected he will be a mayor for all the people.
“My door is always open,” Perry said. “If we work together, the sky is the limit.” W.H. Johnson, Jr., who runs W.H. Johnson Funeral Home, said Earle needs new blood at the top and some new ideas in order to move the city forward.
“We need a change in Earle,” Johnson said. “We need a new language, a new jargon as they say.
They need to talk something different than what they have been talking and do something different than what they have been doing.”
Johnson said the city is under-protected and needs more police and more businesses to come to Earle.
“I think I am the better candidate for that bar none,” Johnson said.
Judy Wiley, a longtime resident of Earle, said she decided to give politics a try because she wants to see the city regain its respectability and prosper again.
“I was born in Earle. I’ve lived all but 12 years of my life in Earle.
I’ve seen in times of prosperity and I’ve kind of seen it go downhill,” Wiley said. “It’s terrible when you say ‘oh, I’m from Earle’ and people say ‘oh my goodness. I can’t believe you live there.’ But I would rather live here than anywhere else.”
Wiley, who retired from the wholesale glass industry after 41 years, most notably at Lewis Auto Glass, said Earle still has a lot to offer.
“I love Earle and I want to see Earle great again,” Wiley said. “There are a lot of great people here and I want to see it revitalized.”
The election will be held March 14.
Attempts to reach Pitchford were unsuccessful.
By Mark Randall