Incumbent, two newcomers compete to represent Fort Smith

The incumbent in position five on the Fort Smith Board of Directors is running for a second term and faces two candidates eager to take her place.

Robyn Dawson, 59, served as general manager five for about four years. Christina Catsavis, 37, and Carl Nevin, 67, are her competitors.

Because there are three candidates, the city called a special election on August 9 in an effort to narrow the field to two or even one. If a person garners more than 50% of the vote, that person would have won the position. If the election results in two candidates, these two candidates will face each other in the November elections.

Carl Nevin and Christina Catsavis challenge incumbent Robyn Dawson for a position on the Fort Smith board.

Each nominee pursues the position on the Board of Directors as a way to give back to the community.

“The reason I’m running is because I want to help Fort Smith, and I have the time to do it,” Nevin said.

Nevin is retired and said that means he has more time to devote to the position.

Carl Nevin and Christina Catsavis challenge incumbent Robyn Dawson for a position on the Fort Smith board.

Dawson is proud of the work she was able to accomplish during her tenure as City Manager. The aspect of his job that brings him the most joy is the ability to help individuals navigate municipal government.

Catsavis’ main goal, if she wins the job, is to encourage economic development in the city.

Catsavis sees the post as a way to give back to the people who kept her business, Smith Jewelry and Living, afloat during the height of the pandemic.

Nevin said the issues he sees as the biggest facing the board are homelessness, lack of affordable housing and the consent decree.

“It’s just going to take a lot of money and a lot of man-hours to do it,” Nevin said of the consent decree.

Carl Nevin and Christina Catsavis challenge incumbent Robyn Dawson for a position on the Fort Smith board.

Dawson also pointed to the consent decree as something she strives to mitigate as a director.

“I’m proud of the effort we put into the consent decree,” Dawson said. “You know, the Consent Decree can be the big old storm that seems to follow us constantly, and it’s all mitigated by what we have to do with the Consent Decree. In the four years, we’re in a better place than we weren’t.”

Catsavis also named the consent decree as one of the items she would address in the post.

Catsavis said she will bring a fresh perspective to the board.

“I would definitely point out that you know I feel like because I grew up in Fort Smith and then lived outside of it, I just bring a different perspective than other candidates” , said Catsavis. “As a small business owner, I also feel like it gives me a little different perspective on things.”

Dawson said she always felt called to serve the city of Fort Smith. First as a preacher’s daughter, then as an educator and now through her position in the state. Dawson served as a principal for 15 years before beginning her work last year in state-level education.

Alex Gladden graduated from the University of Arkansas. She previously worked for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette and The Jonesboro Sun before joining The Times Record. She can be contacted at [email protected]

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