Then North Little Rock Mayor-Elect Joe Smith wasted no time on Dec. 17 letting leaders in his sister city of Sherwood know that he wanted a communicating relationship with them.
Smith and the interim administrator of North Little Rock Electric Department, city attorney Jason Carter, attended the Sherwood City Council meeting to explain recent changes in the department and how they may impact Sherwood.
Sherwood recently signed a 20-year contract with North Little Rock Electric so the department can continue providing electric service to about 7,000 city households, a relationship that has existed between the two cities since Sherwood became a city in the late 1940s.
"I wanted to introduce you to the mayor-elect," Carter told Sherwood aldermen. "He won a highly contested campaign."
Carter continued, "You read in the paper. Mike Russ (the former general manager) is no longer with us. He was offered a position with Arkansas Electric Cooperative. He is a great friend and I am glad he had the opportunity but the timing could have been better."
Smith told Sherwood officials that his mission will be to find a capable leader.
"We are committed to finding a good coach and in this process we want to have a capable leader like in the past," Smith said.
Smith said there is discussion in North Little Rock about setting up an electric commission.
Smith added that if an electric commission is set up that Sherwood should have representation on it.
"We will keep you advised," Smith said.
Sherwood Alderman Charles Harmon asked Carter what type of administrator the department would be seeking.
"Are you looking for someone with the same experience, with the same background as Mike had," asked Harmon.
"Yes," responded Carter.
Sherwood Alderman Steve Fender said he was impressed with the department’s Maryland Avenue new electric facility and Russ.
"A lot of good came with Mike Russ," Fender said. "I hope that will be followed up on."
Smith said North Little Rock does not want to work too quickly in finding a permanent replacement for Russ.
"I have got 22 years of experience with the city and the management of the utility," Smith said. "I have got the experience you can fall back on. Jason has experience with the power purchasing agreements. On our senior management at the electric company there are 25-30-year employees I have worked with. I am confident the infrastructure we now have will be taken care of. I have been through 5-6 general managers in the electric department. Right now we are just fine."
Smith said once North Little Rock narrows down the general manager candidates to between 3-4 he wants to involve Sherwood Mayor Virginia Hillman or one of her representatives in the selection process.
Hillman said, "I appreciate that."
Smith said, "I am looking forward to working with our sister city. Any of you have an open door to our office. We are big into customer service."