Thursday, January 1, 2009

NWAT editorial on Jordan's rise to mayor's office

Times Editorial : Heir Jordan
Northwest Arkansas Times
Posted on Thursday, January 1, 2009
Each New Year's Day the editorial page discusses the reasons behind the newspaper

staff's decision to name one person, usually, who through news developments locally can rightly be named as the year's top newsmaker.

The decision, reached through voting among the newsroom staff members, isn't a judgment about good or bad or an evaluation of the person's performance or anything of the like. Instead, it's a reflection of the impact the person had during the year or, one might say, the significance of the news that person played a role in making.

Heck, at least once, the newsmaker was an inanimate object.

Developer John Nock, former Fayetteville Alderman Don Marr, local parent-advocate Laurie Taylor, the high-arching crane that once stood above the intersection of Mountain Street and College Avenue atop a development that has yet to develop, are among our notables in recent years.

Sure, 2008 brings us a variety of notables. Washington County Judge-to-be Marilyn Edwards is a big change for the face of county government. Arkansas amendments (yes to a state lottery, yes to annual state legislative session, yes to barring unmarried adults from adopting children) might have been a unique choice. Or simply change in general (goodbyes - from Razorback track coach John McDonnell and UA Chancellor John A. White to any number of local officials - were the order of the day in 2008.) And the list goes on and on.

But, just as it was a foregone conclusion that Time magazine would name President-elect Barack Obama its Person of the Year, there was never any doubt in our minds who the Northwest Arkansas Times' 2008 newsmaker of the year had to be.

Who else, of course, but Fayetteville Mayor-elect Lioneld Jordan?

A council member for the last eight years, the Ward 4 alderman was a well-known commodity to residents long before announcing his intention to follow Dan Coody as the city's mayor. From day one, too, it was obvious that his resume would make him a formidable candidate. As chairman of the Fayetteville Street Committee, Jordan has steadily evolved into the city's defacto point man on a variety of transportation issues; his beliefs about which roads are most deserving of expansion will likely shape our city for several years to come.

During his 26 years with the University of Arkansas, he probably gained more knowledge of what makes the Fayetteville institution tick than most local residents have. Again, that type of knowledge will mean something whenever the city and university visit. Then there's his relationship with organized labor. Some business proponents see this as a negative. At a bare minimum, though, it gives him an opening with working men and women all over town.

But there's more. Fayetteville residents for 35 years, Lioneld and Diana Jordan have witnessed the incredible changes that have come to Northwest Arkansas. The Jordans probably "get" what it is that makes Fayetteville tick as well as anybody. That's no little thing to bring to the table.

But his designation as newsmaker really stems from the scenario from which he earned the city's top administrative role, some would say against the odds. When he announced intentions to run a full year before the election, neither Jordan nor anyone else could have predicted how intense the mayor's race would become. He joined a race that already had businessman Jeff Koenig and consultant Walt Eilers in it. Before it was over, Koenig dropped out for health reasons, former Attorney General Steve Clark shocked everyone by getting into the race, and Coody himself reneged on plans to step down and filed for re-election.

In that amazing circumstance, Jordan survived in the general election then came around in the runoff to beat the incumbent. It is a testament to Jordan himself and the political machine of supporters he put together. Working with less money, they nonetheless changed the direction of Fayetteville. Just how much and exactly how will have to be reported over the next four years of Jordan's term.

Every town is the sum of all its parts, so the election of one man won't determine its future. But Lioneld Jordan certainly made the news in 2008 and deserves notice for having done so.

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