By Martin Couch
Jill Dabbs could be the first woman mayor of Bryant should she win the November election against current mayor Larry Mitchell.
"It's going to be very challenging, but I don't think the fact that I'm a woman in this day and age running for office is an issue," she said. "I don't think it's a benefit or a disadvantage. I am running for mayor, because I've been in the community for 10 years and have been involved in a number of different committees and different campaigns. I have watched how the city has grown. It started growing when we moved here and has doubled since then and I really feel like the city needs some new leadership. It needs somebody in there with new and fresh ideas to pull the community together and keep the wonderful attributes about Bryant at the forefront, as well as encouraging positive growth."
Dabbs is the Chief Operating Manager of her family-owned business, Back and Body Chiropractic, located in Bryant. She is married to Dr. Allan M. Dabbs and they have two children Emily 16 and Reagan 10. Dabbs is president of the Bryant Barracudas swim team and is a board member for the Racers Swim Club. She is also a founding member of People for Parks Committee that was instrumental in the development of Bishop Park. Dabbs graduated from the University of Arkansas at Little Rock with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Speech Communication.
"My experience with the city at different times has been that they don't reach out to the community," she said. "It is a really close, tight-knit group. When I first moved here I attended a few City Council meetings representing a few positive committees, who didn't raise a ruckus, and we didn't feel welcomed, and that shouldn't be the atmosphere coming out of City Hall. People who choose to be in government need to be there to serve the people that pay the taxes that pay them."
Dabbs' background is in business, marketing and communication.
"I think all of those skills combined, along with my inter-personal skills that give me the ability to work with large groups of people with diverse ideas, can bring all of those talents together to be one of my most important strengths," she said. “And the person in an executive position, whether it be in government, business, community organizations or sports teams, needs to have those skills in order to put everybody's talents together to be used to the best of their ability. One person can't do it all. You have to tap into the talents around you, the skills and knowledge of others who have visions bigger than your own to make good things happen."
The city's infrastructure is one of the main agendas on Dabbs' plan as mayor.
"I would continue to address that a little more strongly than the current administration has done," she said. "The flooding issues are always there and ETC engineering has done some studies to help the city improve it, but there are other areas of the city where it needs to be addressed, where there have been problems for a long time and have been pushed to the side. It's time we start considering those areas, too.
“We have a $25-million budget a year, so we should be able to run the city in such a way that it can take care of some of these problems,” she continued. “To me, they are minor problems that need to be addressed, but they are huge to those people living in those areas and then there's some others who don't even notice them.
"Another thing I want to do is modernize the mayor's office by making it more accessible via expanding the website and utilizing social media — not changing the carpet or the furniture — its to make it more accessible to the public," Dabbs continued. "I think that needs to happen. There needs to be more interaction between the city government and the different organizations in our community. I think there are some really good partnerships that can improve the quality of life for the people of Bryant. For instance, the schools in the city working with the parks department. The city just built an $18-million facility and the school is going to benefit tremendously from that. The city needs to partner with the school and those two entities need to work together to serve as many people as possible. The school is building a beautiful new facility and it needs to benefit our high school students to get them an education and be safe. I am very excited that is taking place right now, but that facility can also benefit the community as well and I'm sure there are ways that we can tie into that as a community and then great things can happen."
Dabbs is also concerned about what she called, "the road to nowhere," which is the pre-planned construction of Raymar Road south to the Saline County Regional Airport that is located within the city limits of Bryant.
"I've heard a lot about that, but I don't know too much about the 'road to nowhere'. What I do know is that we have an airport within our city limits now and infrastructure around it would provide for a lot of business that would, in turn, bring in good quality jobs to this area," she said. "We need to work with the people that the road will affect the most and come up with a solution that curbs the transportation out there, so we can benefit from the airport being here. We need to look at how it impacts the people on Raymar Road and the surrounding area."
Dabbs plans to bring a more innovative style of leadership to the city of Bryant.
"That doesn't mean giving myself a 30 percent raise in my first month or my last month in office, or any raise for that matter," she said. "The mayor is being paid sufficiently, but that's just a plink in the bucket of the whole big picture. We need to look at the budget in every department and see where money can be saved and where it is being wasted. Every time I've looked at a budget there has been waste there that had to be eliminated. We need to make sure there is no waste and I am pretty confident there is waste where government is concerned and it needs to be cut.
“When the Target complex went in, it generated $10-million a year in tax revenues for the city,” Dabbs mentioned. “Four or five years ago, we didn't have that, so why are we out of money? What I plan to do is hold everybody in City Hall accountable for managing their own budgets and doing things as they should. I am certainly not an expert in fields like the street department, the water/waste water management or the finance department, but there are experts out there in our community that have the knowledge and we can bring them in to put them on the boards and committees and advise us as a city on what we need to do next."
Dabbs said she is in no stranger to hard work either. She graduated from Malvern High School and went to UALR for her BA degree.
"We put ourselves through college and went to Kansas City to get Allan a professional degree, then we moved back here to practice," she said. "I have worked in dentistry and for a large cosmetic law office in Little Rock as the practice development coordinator, so I was out in the field putting a lot of pieces together to help their practice. Ten years ago, we started Allan's practice here and I have been involved in it in a full-time capacity and as a trainer. I have a great staff and have trained everybody here, so I know how to delegate responsibilities to other people.
“I was very heavily involved in the parks initiative in getting it passed for the city,” she said. “I think it's a very good project and will benefit everybody in Bryant.
"I have been involved for six years with the Bryant Barracudas swim team and they've grown since I have been helping from 50 kids to 224," she added. "We run things on a shoe-string budget and we have a committee of 10 people who manage everything. That's been fun working with different people with different backgrounds and we've stayed with it to grow a team. My experience with that and everything with the city has encouraged me to learn and do bigger things.
“As mayor, my top priorities include practicing fiscal responsibility, engaging the pubic in city government, and implementing fair business practices that benefit the private sector of our community. I am a visionary leader who will take a hands-on approach to managing the spectacular growth of this city and as chief executive of Bryant, I will prioritize economic development, focusing on sustaining what we have and actively looking towards the future."
Dabbs has plans to spend tax dollars wisely.
"I will run City Hall in such a way that you can continue to be a proud member of this community," she said. "My door will always be open and outsiders’ input will be welcome."