Who wants to be Conway's next mayor?

Conway Mayor Tab Townsell has stated recently he is not planning to run for mayor again. His fifth term is scheduled to end in 2016, but he has said if another opportunity presented itself he may exit before that date.

In a look toward the future, several names have been brought up as possible successors. Although the election still may be years off, the Conway rumor mill has started churning out possibilities.

One of those possibilities is Jack Bell, current city chief of staff. Bell served several years on city council and was recently promoted from assistant to the mayor to chief of staff.

While Bell has not expressly shown interest in the position to the Log Cabin, a move just a few offices down into the mayor’s office would not be a far leap. His extensive knowledge of the inner workings of the city and his participation in current projects could provide a smooth leadership transition.

Another possible successor with intimate knowledge of several facets of the city is Bart Castleberry.

Castleberry recently retired from his 33-year career in the Conway Fire Department where he served for 20 years as fire chief. Since then he has stepped into the role of director of permitting and code enforcement, which he has been carrying out since July 22.

With the changes and his new job, Castleberry said he has a lot on his plate. Concerning running for mayor, he said “if and when that opportunity presented itself, I would consider it at that time.”

County Judge Allen Dodson has been thrust into the leadership limelight since he was appointed Faulkner County Judge earlier this year when former judge Preston Scroggin was appointed to the position of director of the Arkansas Livestock and Poultry Commission. Soon after that transition, the Mayflower Oil Spill forced the county into disaster mode with Dodson at the helm.

Although Dodson will not be allowed to seek re-election as county judge when the term expires in 2014, he has not ruled out the possibility of staying in public service.

“It would be a privilege to serve as Mayor for the City of Conway,” he said in an email. “Naturally, though, a decision to run for the position would depend on the timing and circumstances.”

Former mayoral candidate Mark Elsinger is not a stranger to the campaign trail and has said he has already thought about running for mayor again when the opportunity arises.

In fact, in a message to a Log Cabin reporter, Elsinger said, “I can tell you that I will definitely be seeking that office.”

Elsinger served in the Conway Police Department for more than 30 years — including a time as interim Chief of Police — and ran against Townsell and a third candidate Randy Herrold in 2012. Townsell received 10,217 votes and Elsinger came in second with 7,736 votes.

Another name that has popped up in the “who will be the next mayor” murmurs is current City Councilman David Grimes.

Grimes has served on city council since being sworn in New Year’s Day in 2003. Being a native of Conway, Grimes has had several leadership roles throughout the city including time as president of the Kiwanis Club of Conway, former board president and campaign chair of the United Way of Faulkner County and CFO at American Management Corporation.

In regards to his future political aspirations, Grimes told the Log Cabin that “running for mayor is something I might be interested in exploring at some point in the future.”

Also currently serving on Conway City Council is Alderwoman Shelley Mehl, another possible future mayor. Mehl has not told the Log Cabin about an interest in running for mayor, but that does not mean others haven’t suggested she seek the position.

In addition to serving on city council since 2006, Mehl has been the associate vice president for advancement and director of development for Hendrix College, former executive director of United Way of Faulkner County and the University of Central Arkansas’ interim vice president for institutional advancement.

The city won’t know for sure who will fill the mayor’s position until the time comes for would-be candidates to qualify, but that has not stopped the rumors and discussion around town.

Meanwhile, voters can start thinking about who they feel could fit the job. Does the city need someone who is already involved in local government or does it need a fresh face with new ideas? Should the next mayor have an immediate plan for the city or take some time to perfect some of the plans already in motion?

Only time will tell who will step forward to run in that race.

(Staff writer Angela Spencer can be reached by email at angela.spencer@thecabin.net or by phone at 505-1212. To comment on this and other stories in the Log Cabin, log on to www.thecabin.net. Send us your news at www.thecabin.net/submit)

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