The first African American to run for the position of mayor in Fort Smith, George McGill was elected to the position in 2018. A former small business owner of McGill Insurance & Financial Services, McGill holds a B.S. in Education and an M.B.A. from the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville.
He had previously served in the Arkansas House of Representatives, acting as Deputy Pro Tempore for the House and actively served on numerous committees, including Aging, Children, Youth Legislative and Military Affairs committees. He has been an active member of the Fort Smith community, serving on the planning commission and the River Front Task Force Committee.
He’s also been active on boards and commissions at the state level, including the Arkansas Contractors Licensing Board and the Arkansas Prevailing Wage Commission.
What are some of the biggest surprises when you became mayor?
I was surprised by how well the city of Fort Smith serves the more than 250,000 people who live, play and work in the Arkansas River Valley. Within the scope of these services, however, I was surprised the mayor’s office did not have a director-level staff person in charge of strategic planning or constituent services. I have been pleasantly surprised at how quickly the administration began to trust my leadership and commitment to get things done.
What are three of the top initiatives the mayor’s office will undertake in the next year?
First, create an oversight committee for the largest departments that provide essential services, water and sewer. Second, provide the mayor’s office with a Director of Constituent Services and Strategic Planning and, third, help the city move forward on current lawsuits.
Why is transparency in local government important and what are some of the mechanisms you are using to ensure citizens have access to information?
Transparency is the key to the trust of our citizens. In the mayor’s office, we want citizens to see exactly where the money is being spent. We want to be able to update citizens on current projects, expenses and when the time of completion should be. We provide our citizens the means to see the Board of Directors meetings in real time through a city televised access channel that broadcasts board meetings live. The city also communicates through social media and media releases.
How do you balance the needs of the various areas of the city, particularly between high growth areas like Fort Chaffee and downtown?
In order to balance the needs of any area of the city, I focus on the city as a whole. We will make investments that will begin to pay for themselves through a stronger, healthier economy. The goal is to make every part of our city better than before and to have the best infrastructure in the country.
Why was the downtown master plan needed? What are the next steps in implementing that plan?
A downtown master plan gives a framework for the vision we have for the western edge of the city, and those plans are already being implemented. Upscale housing is expanding downtown, The Unexpected arts project has attracted worldwide attention, entertainment downtown draws visitors from the whole region, and our new theatre will be completely restored in the next year and a half. Fort Smith is moving forward to bigger and better things.