Editor’s note: This is the second of a two-part interview with Paragould mayoral candidates. The first part was published in Saturday’s Weekend Edition of The Daily Press.
Since Paragould Mayor Mike Gaskill has decided to step down this year, a special election for mayor to finish the term (two years) is scheduled to take place during this year’s general election on Nov. 3.
Early voting for the general election begins on Oct. 19.
The municipal offices are non-partisan positions. The Paragould Daily Press asked mayoral candidates, Josh Agee, Jesse Fry, and Farrell Gibson to respond to the following questions by email along with this statement: “We are asking that candidates try to limit their answers for each question to about 250 words at the most:”
PDP: The city retains a fairly large cash reserve – which has funded several major projects including the new number 1 fire station and the 911 Center without resorting to a bond issue – due to its 3/4-cent sales tax. Do you favor keeping the tax rate where it is, raising it or lowering it?
Josh Agee: I am the only candidate on the Budget Committee of the Council and I completely understand the importance of conservative budgeting. We, as a City, possess one of the lowest tax rates of any City our size in Arkansas and maintain some of the largest reserves, per capita. We are able to enjoy this rainy day fund due to conservative budgeting. We must work diligently to keep taxes, power rates and overall cost of living low for residents, industries and, of course, local business. In attracting new business, industry and the attendant inflow of residents, low tax rates and low cost of living is a huge selling point and it must be preserved. I will make every effort to accomplish this task.
Jesse Fry: After spending so much on existing projects we need to emphasize our resources back to the community. I am for lowering taxes to help the citizens be able to live a higher quality of life by not taxing them so they can put that money back into their households.
Farrell Gibson: We need to maintain a focus on keeping our cost of living affordable for all in our community. We need to make sure that we take responsibility for all not the few. We will face challenges with the recent pandemic and need to take into consideration, as well as have a plan, should we experience lower revenues. At the same time look for creative ways to attract new revenue through attracting people and businesses to our community.
We do not want to raise the cost of living by raising taxes on our citizens. We need to focus tax dollars spending on projects that affect all, not the few.
We have a growing retirement community of both citizens that worked here as well as many that found jobs elsewhere but are moving home after retirement. We will assure our retiree’s that we will protect their investments by controlling cost while continuing to make Paragould a prosperous community.
There are other options to find funding for community improvement and beautification projects. We will work with our many foundations in creating funding as well as look to the other options for civic improvements.
PDP: Please tell us about yourself (family, employment, etc.).
Jesse Fry: My name is Jesse Fry. I am 38 years old and have two kids: Kaylyn, my daughter who is 11 years old and Wyatt, my son who is three years old. I am a master electrician with 16 years’ experience. I have run jobs up to $750,000 budgets and have never busted any. I am currently the Chief Electrical Inspector of Jonesboro.
Farrell Gibson: My family – Wife Kelly Kueter Gibson of 34 years. Kelly’s family was Tommy and Sue Kueter who had Kueter’s fish farm, now her brother runs it.
My parents are Cloyce and Pat Gibson of Paragould. My dad is retired from Arkansas Department of Transportation. Both are still alive. I have one sister Darlene Rogers who owns Rogers’ Green house.
We have four girls – Katelyn McMillon who is married to Dr. Jake McMillon who practices at Family Practice Clinic. They have two boys. Lauren Rowe PHD in physical therapy, married to Matt Rowe who is a civil engineer PE. They have two children. One boy and one girl. Lunden Gibson of home studying to be a massage therapist. Emma Gibson of home Sophomore at Greene County Tech.
I am a lifelong resident of Paragould. Graduated from Paragould High School. My working career began at 16 in high school working for Vern Williams, Big Star groceries. While working there to pay for my attendance at Arkansas State University studying business administration, I was given management responsibilities at Big Star which began a lifelong pattern of organizational management.
I stayed in Paragould after college, went into management as assistant store manager for Walmart for 20 years, bought Terry’s cafe and started Geo’s Espresso.
I raised my family here in Paragould which remains my/our community.
Josh Agee: Christen, my wife, and I are both lifelong residents of Paragould. We have raised three daughters and also operate a small business locally. Christen is a fifth grade math teacher in the Paragould School District, while also working a few nights per week in the X-Ray Department at Arkansas Methodist Medical Center. I own and operate Agee Distributing, Inc. overseeing the distribution of food products, including Little Debbie Snacks and Sunbelt Granola Bars. I also own and operate a real estate development company, Agee Investments, LLC, which primarily focuses on the purchase and renovation of properties in Paragould. To date, we have purchased and renovated 12 properties – a number of which were distressed and not appealing to the eye of existing business or visitors to our City.
Two of our daughters attend PSD, one in the third grade and another in eighth grade. Our oldest daughter recently relocated to Little Rock in order to pursue her master’s degree at UALR. We hope that she decides to return to Paragould, pursue her career and call the City of her birth, home. As is evident, making Paragould a place where our children want to stay, begin a career after high school or college and start a family is of tantamount importance. Absent our ability to accomplish these goals, our City loses. That is why I want to be your Mayor – for our children, grandchildren and betterment of our City.