18-year-old mayor, new school boards and alderman among those elected in Arkansas runoffs

New Earle mayor said to be youngest Black mayor in the country

By: - December 7, 2022 12:36 pm
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There were a handful of school board and special elections across Arkansas on Tuesday. (Antoinette Grajeda/Arkansas Advocate)

In Tuesday’s runoff elections, Benton County residents elected two Bentonville School Board members in an election that garnered interest from a national conservative group, while east Arkansas voters elected an 18-year-old mayor.

Jeremy Farmer defeated Blanca Maldonado in the Zone 3 election while Tatum Aicklen beat Letisha Hinds to become Zone 5’s representative, according to unofficial results.

Twelve candidates sought five positions on the board, which restructured itself last year to create two at-large positions and five geographic zones. Previously, all seven members represented specific areas. The at-large members were not up for re-election. 

Jennifer Faddis was the sole incumbent seeking re-election. She kept her position on the board by defeating Gail Pianalto in the Zone 2 race with nearly 58% of the vote during November’s general election. Faddis joined the board in 2020.

Although school board elections are nonpartisan, conservative political action committee 1776 Project endorsed Pianalto and four other candidates — Yoselin Bolivar, Joel Dunning, Tim Rosenau and Matt Smith. 

The endorsements are an example of a national trend of conservative groups influencing local school board elections with money and endorsements. Dunning, who won the Zone 1 seat in November’s general election, was the only endorsed candidate to win. 

With the conclusion of the election, Bentonville School Board members will draw to decide when they will be up for election next so their terms will be staggered. Board members typically serve five-year terms. 

In addition to school board elections, Tuesday’s runoffs also included 34 mayoral races. Half of those did not include incumbents, such as the Earle mayoral election where voters selected 18-year-old Jaylen Smith as the city’s new leader. Smith said he’ll be the youngest Black mayor in the U.S..

“It’s time to build a better chapter of Earle, Arkansas,” Smith said in a Facebook post. “I would like to thank all my supporters for stepping up getting people to the polls. I am truly grateful for you all.”

Of the seventeen races with incumbents, four mayors kept their seats — Big Flat Mayor Glenda Wiseman, Farmington Mayor Ernie Penn, Kensett Mayor Allen Edge and Parkin Mayor Diane Patterson.

Unofficial results showed a tight race in Elaine. Mayor Michael Cravens has 96 votes to Lisa Hicks-Gilbert’s 92, according to the Helena World. Provisional ballots are expected to be counted Wednesday. 

Elaine is in Phillips County where election officials had problems tallying and reporting voting totals to the Secretary of State. This prompted the Arkansas Board of Election Commissioners to agree to open an investigation into the Phillips County Election Commission.

Phillips County Election Commission Chairman Harold Boals couldn’t be reached by phone Wednesday morning.

For more details about election results in your community, contact your county clerk’s office.

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Antoinette Grajeda
Antoinette Grajeda

Antoinette Grajeda is a multimedia journalist who has reported since 2007 on a wide range of topics, including politics, health, education, immigration and the arts for NPR affiliates, print publications and digital platforms. A University of Arkansas alumna, she earned a bachelor’s degree in print journalism and a master’s degree in documentary film.