Despite challenges, Eclectic mayor wants self sufficiency

Eclectic Mayor Gary Davenport expressed hopes that the town will be able to grow its business community in 2019. (Amalia Kortright/The Observer)

Despite the town’s financial challenges, Mayor Gary Davenport said officials are determined to bring progress and prosperity to Eclectic in 2019.

Davenport said officials are currently looking to provide and maintain the “bare necessities” by upgrading and maintaining the town’s infrastructure, recreational facilities and public safety equipment.

Additionally, Davenport said the town hopes it will can bring in more retail developments and restaurants in the coming year.

 Q. Looking back at 2018, what are you proudest of accomplishing as a mayor and council?

A. We had probably one of our most successful cotton festivals. At the end of 2017 and beginning of 2018, we paid off one of our bond issues. In 2018, we completed our new sewer plant and got approval to do the Madix/Middle Road industrial development.

 Q. What wasn’t done this year that should have been?

A. We still need to do some sidewalk repairs. We were really hoping to get some more residential development in, which we were unsuccessful with. We really wanted to have two or three more retail operations, either stores or restaurants. We really wanted to have a franchise restaurant and a mom-and-pop, meat-and-three restaurant, which we were unable to get.

 Q. What’s your personal vision for the town in 10 years?

A. I think we’re on a good, comprehensive path as far as improving our small-town, family-type atmosphere. I think, in the next 10 years, we will probably bring in some more housing developments. We will, hopefully, bring in some type of multi-family dwelling development, whether it be apartments or townhomes. My goal is to continue to upgrade our infrastructure. We really need to concentrate on some of our roads and some of our utilities, which we haven’t had the means of doing that. And (we want) to continue to be fiscally responsible.

 Q. What are your most important goals for the town in 2019?

A. We want more retail, some road improvements, sidewalk improvements, upgrades to our recreational facilities, which would include Aaron Park and Panther Palace, and to continue to serve our citizens with a safe community. They’re required. In my opinion, if we do the job we are elected to do, those are the bare necessities.

 Q. What are the most important long-term projects for the town over the next decade?

A. There are things that are on the drawing board: residential development, the multi-family dwelling, road improvements, recreational facility improvements. What I call the bread and butter of a small community are restaurants and retail operations that can serve the community, so that we don’t have to go outside to do our shopping. Basically, to make us self-sufficient, if that’s what we desire.

 Q. What needs to be done in the town that has never been done before?

A. The only thing that comes to mind is a franchise, 24-hour restaurant, such as a Huddle House or a Waffle House. Something along those lines, to where citizens would have a place that they could go to safely, regardless of their work schedule. That’s never been done before and I think we’re getting close to being able to do that. There is the potential for expanding the town limits but it needs to be done very carefully and very slowly, simply because of the current structure of the town. For example, 50 percent of our water and sewer department is outside the town limits, so we need to look at that. In the past, we have gotten involved with the industrial park, which did not pan out exactly the way we had wanted it to. It’s something that needs to be done very carefully, with a lot of planning.

 Q. Which parts of the town’s budget need to be increased and which parts need to be cut?

A. Well, we always need more sales tax revenue. We’ve done a wonderful job of policing our community, as far as business licenses and other types of revenue. As far as cutting the budget, I don’t know that there’s anything that we really need to cut. Most of our shortfalls are a lack of money and funds. We need police cars and equipment replaced because of age. That is our biggest need right now. Typically, we satisfy those needs by being smart shoppers and through the use of grants that we can obtain.

 Q. What are the chances of executing these plans?

A. I think the chances of us doing that are very good. It’s just a matter of proper execution and being careful how we expend those funds and taking advantage of any financial assistance that we can get.

 Q. Do you believe in term limits for the mayor and council?

A. I, as an individual, believe in term limits in local, state and higher offices. I feel like the democratic process was built on the fact that the more people you get involved in the process, the better ideas you get and a better-structured government. I am not in favor of somebody getting elected to an office and staying there on a lifetime basis.

 Q. What are the most significant questions you hear from your constituents?

A. How can we keep our town clean? How can we better maintain what we already have? How can we keep vandalism from happening? What kind of things does the town need to have in order to appeal to different types of business entities and developers? These are typical questions that we all think of on a day-to-day basis but never have the opportunity to express.

 Q. What does the town government do well and what could it do better?

A. I think the Eclectic town government system does a good job of listening and trying to do the best they can with the materials and assets they’ve got to provide for its citizens. I think the town government and employees really have a desire to make this town the best that it can be. I think what we could do better at is getting our citizens involved. I think, sometimes, we fail to ask for help, ideas and assistance. I think the more people that you get involved in different projects, the better those projects become over time.

 Q. If you could change anything about the town, what would it be?

A. Probably that (the town) be bigger. Not a metropolitan city but it’s amazing how much more a community can do if it was just a little bit bigger and had more to draw off of. If we were a population of 2,250, we would be able to do probably twice what we can do now, being a population of little over a thousand.