Three candidates for a Fort Smith city director at-large position squared off in an hourlong debate Tuesday, but only two were left standing.

Sam Price and Robyn Dawson remained at the debate following Libby Piatt’s early departure from the debate with an awkward on-stage exchange with Dawson that alleged an altercation prior to the event.

Dawson, principal of Spradling Elementary School in Fort Smith, stressed her community and business leadership experience. Price, a department manager for McDonald’s studying to be an elementary schoolteacher, expressed his interest to present a younger perspective for working families who want to continue what he feels is a “revolution” in Fort Smith.

“If we just would all commit to being better citizens the city would be a better city,” Price said. “The reason I am running is because we need a new innovative voice … For Fort Smith, we have to let people my age know we are open for business, that we as a city, and a board of directors work as hard for them as they do at their job and for their families. It takes a village, and we can be that village.”

Price, 24, has been married for four years and has a 1-year-old son.

Dawson, 52, has been in education and public service for 24 years as both a teacher and principal. She also owns two businesses with her husband, Steve. They have five children and five grandchildren.

Answering questions related to several lawsuits the city faces, particularly with alleged violations of the Freedom of Information Act by the city board of directors, Dawson recommended better training and encouraged looking ahead instead of behind.

Many great things are happening in Fort Smith, Dawson said, from the U.S. Marshals Museum construction to continued growth at the Arkansas College of Osteopathic Medicine. Dawson also acknowledged the Fort Smith city administrator’s recent progress in a goal to extend the timeline of the city’s EPA consent decree.

“I’m not going to look behind,” Dawson said. “Let’s go forward with the city.”

The candidates seek the seat held by Tracy Pennartz, whose term expires Dec. 31. The director position is nonpartisan. City directors serve four-year terms and make a salary of $1,000 a year based on meeting attendance and $400 a month in reimbursement for vehicle expenses.

A full recording of the debate can be found below and at the American Democracy Project at UAFS Facebook page.

Note: Sound in this video begins at about the 40-minute mark and the event begins around the 45-minute mark.

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