Fayetteville artist, small business owner wins special City Council election for Ward 1 seat

Bob Stafford
Bob Stafford

FAYETTEVILLE — An artist and small business owner will represent the south part of town on the City Council.

Bob Stafford gained enough votes to win Tuesday’s special election for the Ward 1, Position 1 seat without a runoff. He defeated three other opponents: David Phillips, Katy Sager and S Robert Smith.

Final but unofficial results Tuesday evening were:

Stafford…..827 (65%)

Sager………339 (27%)

Phillips……79 (6%)

Smith………22 (2%)

The Ward 1, Position 1 seat has been vacant since June. Sonia Harvey was first elected in 2018 but moved out of her ward because she could not find a home her family could afford.

Of 12,428 voters registered in the ward, 1,268, or 10%, voted, according to the results. One absentee ballot was counted as an undervote, meaning the voter did not pick a candidate. One provisional ballot was still uncounted Tuesday.

Stafford, 57, owns Blue Star Business Services, a digital marketing and graphic design firm, with his wife, Evelyn Rios Stafford, who serves on the Washington County Quorum Court.

Stafford grew up in the city, graduating from Fayetteville High School. He has a background in architecture, photography and art and serves on the city’s Arts Council. His parents founded the Star Shopper NWA weekly advertiser.

Stafford said previously his top priorities are creating more housing, solving homelessness and stimulating the city’s creative economy.

Housing is a supply and demand issue, Stafford said. The city needs to encourage development of a variety of housing types and help accelerate their production to stop an “explosion” of homes most residents can’t afford, he said.

Ward 1 carries much of the weight homelessness brings to the city, Stafford said. Organizations such as 7 Hills Homeless Center, Salvation Army and Genesis Church need more support from the city, he said.

The city relies too much on police to deal with people experiencing homelessness, Stafford said. Tackling homelessness requires getting at the root causes, and the city has organizations with the knowledge and experience to take it on.

Pumping money into the creative economy is an investment, he said. Public money invested in the arts brings a return that improves quality of life for all residents, he said.

Ward 1 covers most of the southern part of the city, including 15th Street, South School Avenue, Huntsville Road and Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard. Notable landmarks include Walker Park, Lake Sequoyah, Kessler Mountain Regional Park, Fayetteville High School and Ramay Junior High School.

City Council members serve four-year terms and earn $16,214 per year. The positions are nonpartisan.

Stacy Ryburn can be reached by email at [email protected] or on X @stacyryburn.