The country celebrated many firsts in this year's mid-term election, and now history is being made again. Former banking executive Frank Scott was recently elected as the first Black mayor of Little Rock, Arkansas.
On Tuesday, Scott defeated 64-year-old attorney and businessman Baker Kurrusa in a nonpartisan runoff election. KATV News reports the former district superintendent lost to Scott who gained 58 percent of the vote to his 42. Scott replaced Mark Stodola, the outgoing mayor, who did not seek re-election after 12 years in office due to a family medical issue.
The newly elected 35-year-old served as a state highway commissioner and adviser to former Governor Mike Beebe. He also served as an associate pastor, deputy police director and on the boards of directors for Big Brothers and Big Sisters of Central Arkansas and the Little Rock Port Authority before his new position.
Scott, a Southwest Little Rock native, attended the University of Arkansas during his undergraduate studies and earned a master’s degree in business administration from the University of Arkansas at Little Rock.
“I’m a product of Little Rock public schools and a graduate of the University of Arkansas – Little Rock's Master of Business Administration program. Despite a modest beginning, I have been able to live out my potential because of the foundation I had right here in Little Rock,” he said.
Little Rock has had only two Black mayors, but they were elected city directors chosen by fellow board members, not voters. Scott is the city’s first Black mayor elected by popular vote. He believes in Little Rock’s ability reach its full potential.
“Many may not believe that same kid from Southwest Little Rock can become mayor of the state’s largest city, but anything is possible if we unite vision and purpose to our potential,” Scott stated.
His supporters included New Jersey Senator Cory Booker, the first Black U.S. Senator from New Jersey, who's considering running for president in 2020. He’s also gained support from Republicans like Will Rockefeller, grandson of Arkansas' first Republican governor since Reconstruction. Supporters hope Scott’s election in the state where 42 percent of the city's population is Black will address racial divides.
Joyce Elliott, a Democratic state senator from Little Rock, expressed her thoughts about race relations in the city:
“Race is a major dividing line in this city. That’s one, but the other major dividing line in this city is economics,” she said. “Those two things have been lethal for this city, and we are not doing a good job of having a conversation or a plan that involve all of us that we carry out.”
The desegregation of Little Rock Central High School in 1957, where nine Black students had to be escorted past an angry white mob to enter the previously all-white school, serves as testimony to the history of racial tension in the state. In recent years, Little Rock's police department has come under fire for questionable tactics including the use of "no-knock" warrants.
The city is taking steps in the right direction. The new mayor shared his push for unity with supporters Tuesday night.
"If you believe it's time to unify this city, let's do it," said Scott.
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