With almost two years under his belt as Little Rock’s top official, Mayor Frank Scott Jr. was thrust into leading our capital city through a pandemic.
LITTLE ROCK, Arkansas — It can be a difficult time keeping up with one of the busiest people in Arkansas’s capital city.
But between meetings and events, Little Rock Mayor Frank Scott Jr. joined us along the busy West Markham Street.
In a brief game of this or that, Scott reveals he prefers Twitter over Facebook, a phone call or a text and isn’t a fan of hamburgers or tacos. Not only that but the mayor isn’t fond of cats or dogs.
It’s a side of Little Rock’s chief executive most people don’t get to experience or see.
Scott said being in this position is truly living out his dream. And if there’s anything 2020 has taught us, it’s to take time and enjoy life.
Nearly two years ago, the voters of Little Rock made history by electing Scott.
Not only is he the 73rd mayor for the city, but he was the first Black person to be elected as Little Rock’s chief executive.
“It’s a humbling experience to see what we’ve been able to achieve in 22 months,” Scott said, “but we’ve still got more work to do.”
During his campaign in 2018, Scott made promises to unite the city, improve public safety and revitalize underserved communities.
Scott said that he and other leaders have done “a good job of keeping our campaign promises.”
“We shared that we were going to change the status quo, that we wouldn’t be afraid to do things differently and we weren’t going to do things just because they were always done a certain way,” he said.
But little did he know, Scott’s plans would be halted by major events that couldn’t have been predicted.
In 2019, the Arkansas River reached its highest level in recorded history. That historic flooding swallowed up highways, devoured homes, and left many stranded.
And then not even a year later, a global pandemic due to the coronavirus would strike.
Arkansas reported its first case on March 11 and a state of emergency was announced.
“At the beginning of 2020, we had high hopes and we still do and have been able to get through a lot in the midst of a crisis,” Scott told us.
“But one of our things that we really were focused on was our Lift Little Rock campaign, which would focus on how we reimagine, revitalize and reinvest into War Memorial Park, Hyman Park, and our entire park system.”
That campaign was suspended shortly after the mayor announced the city emergency on March 12.
Scott admitted to us that it hasn’t been an easy year as the city has been dealing with protests, a pandemic and an upcoming election.
“I’d be lying to you if I didn’t say I had some challenging days,” he said.
But in this historic year, Scott has introduced body cameras for all Little Rock police officers on patrol and created the city’s first citizens review board.
He said crime in the city is down 14% and that “Little Rock is a safe city” that has challenges much like any other city.
“Little Rock has been safe in the midst of a social and civil unrest and we credit that to the men and women of the Little Rock Police Department, our community leaders and the willingness from our administration to listen to those who may see areas of opportunity and to find solutions,” Scott said.
Scott also managed to fulfill a campaign promise to revitalize parts of the city that are south of the interstate that run directly through Little Rock.
“We talked a lot on the campaign how certain areas of the city had not been paid attention to how they’ve been unserved and underserved and so we set out on a chart to focus on Asher Avenue revitalization,” the mayor said.
In early September, Scott announced a three-part plan to revitalize the Asher neighborhood as part of a larger initiative to invigorate areas that suffered when the interstate split the city along racial and class lines in the 60s and 70s.
But Mayor Scott is excited for 2021 and the years to come.
He talked to us about a greater focus on equity from an economic standpoint and an increased effort in the city’s development.
“It’s my goal, quite frankly, to chart us on a path that we increase our population from 200,000 to 300,000,” Scott declared. “But not only are we focused on increasing that population, but we have jobs provided for that population, that we have an equitable educational system that is successful that it doesn’t matter whether you choose to go public, private or charter.”
Scott said if city officials can “focus on jobs, focus on unity, focus on safety,” Little Rock will become a city that “everyone is trying to figure out what’s going on” so they can move here.