Editor’s note: This is part of a series of profiles of the alderman on the Bryant City Council.
By Martin Couch
Ward 2 alderman Ed Collins moved to Bryant 11 years ago after spending 12 years in active duty in the United States Army and being a policeman for 14 years.[more]
“I worked for seven generals, on their staff,” Collins said. “I started off after graduating high school in Connersville, Ind., as an Army cook and I moved my way up.”
During his service, Collins visited the south and came to Camp Robinson in North Little Rock for classes.
”I loved this part of the country,” he said. “My first contact with an Arkansan was at a gas station in North Little Rock. I had paid for my gas and gotten a Diet Pepsi and the lady behind the counter said, ‘Thank you, come back and welcome.’ I thought, ‘Wow’.”
That was in 1992 and Collins moved his family to Arkansas in 1993. Four years later, he came to Bryant to settle down.
“I pulled into Forest Cove subdivision and saw this gentleman who was a retired Sergeant Major,” Collins said. “I stopped and talked to him about Bryant and the last thing he said was ‘Welcome to Bryant’. My wife and I picked out a plot and put a deposit on it and we’ve homesteaded ever since.”
Around 2000, Collins’ neighbors noticed increasing water drainage due to storms, while the cities growth to the north was taking away the natural watershed.
“I went in front of the planning commission representing my neighbors and told them this was what we were seeing,” Collins said. “I was basically very politely disregarded even after asking for direction. I told them to remember my name, I was going to be back.”
Collins decided to run for mayor of Bryant.
“I learned a lot about politics in a small-bedroom community where people want to get up in the morning, take their kids to school and go to Little Rock, Hot Springs or any of the surrounding areas to work,” he said. “I came in third place.”
After losing the race for mayor, he put his name on the ballot for alderman and campaigned door-to-door. Collins won by 54 percent of the vote and unseated a two-term incumbent. Two years later, he decided to run for mayor again and finished third again.
“I put my name on the ballot for alderman again and didn’t put out a sign or campaign, but people called me the day of the election to make sure that was me on the ticket,” Collins said. “I don’t know if it was a fluke or what, but I think it was name recognition. I wasn’t afraid to talk to people and if you’re going to ask to be the people’s voice, you have to make time for them and know what they are talking about. I ask them how they’d vote on sensitive issues, because ultimately I am voting for them. That’s how I roll with that.”
Issues like the Raymar Road south to the Regional Airport, the new apartment complex being constructed next to Razorback Car Wash and the ongoing flooding problems are some of the main items Collins hears about.
“It’s a balancing act with business who can bring in more taxes and citizens paying more property taxes,” he said. “I think being an elected official ranks up there with putting a badge on for the first time after graduating from the police academy or putting on a uniform after basic training. It’s prestigious and honorable, and comes with a lot of respect.
“I care enough that I want to participate in this part of my town,” Collins added. “This is what I picked to do to give back. We live in a Democracy and it rules. If you can’t explain your issue or side well enough to convince the majority of the council to vote your way, you lose, but that’s what it’s all about.”
Regarding the current Bryant City Council, Collins said, “We have a quasi-mix council up there. Some have served more than three terms, our ages are different, there is a female on the council — we have a lot of diversity up there — some of them don’t say anything and do their talking out in the community and there are some who go on and on and on. Someone like me, I enjoy a good debate. Let’s be respectful and professional about it, but you have to convince me to vote with you and I like that, but I don’t control any aspect of it. I think city council members are the governing body of the city and together we control the budget and the laws of the city.”
Collins prides himself on finding out answers for his Ward 2 citizens.
“I don’t like being told I’ll look into it — that doesn’t work for me,” he said. “Where I came from in the military, you had to have the answers.”
Collins commends Mayor Larry Mitchell for the work he’s done for Bryant during his term.
“There are still some things we are struggling with, like the watershed issues in my Ward,” Collins said. “But, because of our per-capita data, we don’t necessarily qualify for grants like other smaller cities do. We are expected to hold our own and that’s where it comes down to the eight city council members using the money wisely.”
Collins has no ambition to run for mayor for a third time.
“My ambitions have changed to a different direction more toward being a business owner in Bryant,” he said. “I don’t think my wife and I will do another term or not. It’s been wearing on us for the past two years. It’s not a political draw for me. It’s about getting the little things done and not minding being a voice of citizens. I’m not an aggressive person, but sometimes you have to be a bulldog and bite a little bit. I have shown them I am not afraid to ask the hard questions.”