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El Dorado Works chairman steps down and new chairman elected

Posted on February 15, 2019

By Tia Lyons
Staff Writer

The El Dorado Works Board is saying goodbye to one of its original members and welcoming aboard a new member and new officers.

Former EWB chairman Robert Reynolds decided this week to step down from the EWB, having fulfilled a commitment to serve another year after his initial term expired in 2018.

Reynolds had served as chairman of the EWB since it was constituted in early 2016, three months after the El Dorado Works tax went into effect.

He was also chairman of the former El Dorado Economic Development Board for eight years.

The function of both boards is to administer the city’s one-cent sales tax that is geared toward economic development and quality-of-life improvement projects.

The EEDB oversaw the El Dorado Forward tax, which sunset in June 2015 after eight years.

Two months before the tax expired, El Dorado voters decided to continue the momentum the city had gained the previous eight years by going to the polls and OK’ing the El Dorado Works tax for 10 years.

The El Dorado Works tax went into effect in October 2016 and several city officials asked that a new board be created to administer the tax.

El Dorado City Council members constituted a new board that included Reynolds and Alan Gober, both of whom were eight-year members of the EEDB, with Gober serving as treasurer.

City officials agreed that Reynolds and Gober’s background and institutional knowledge were needed to help the EWB get off the ground.

Both the EEDB and EWB are public facilities boards, which are limited to five members, per state statute.

Reynolds and Gober agreed to serve for another two years and a year, respectively.

With the EWB, Gober continued his role as treasurer before rolling off the board when his term expired in January 2016.

Reynolds’ EWB term expired in 2018. Other board members asked him to stay on for another year.

As a member of the EEDB, Reynolds was one of the principal players in the development of the lead — and largest — El Dorado Forward project: land acquisition for and the design and construction of the El Dorado Conference Center.

On Tuesday, Reynolds said other obligations — including board president of the De Soto Area Council of Boy Scouts of America and a member of the Arkansas Pollution Control and Ecology Commission — are keeping him busy, saying that the Feb. 12 EWB meeting would be his last as a member and chairman.

“It has been a true honor and pleasure to work with people who want to make El Dorado better,” Reynolds told the group. “I will help the El Dorado Works Board in any way I can.”

As one of his final acts as EWB chairman, Reynolds said he will present a $10,000 funding request to the city council, whose next meeting is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. Feb. 21.

The request was presented Tuesday by the El Dorado Historic District Commission, who is applying for a state grant that includes a component to develop a citywide historic preservation plan.

EWB members approved the $10,000 request, contingent upon the amount, if the grant is approved, that is awarded by the Arkansas Historic Preservation Program.

The board also agreed to reappoint treasurer Alison Abson to another term. Abson’s term expired last month and she agreed to serve another term.

Board members also voted on the appointment of Avo Vartenian to fill the vacancy left by Reynolds.

Vartenian was one of several applicants to vie for a seat on the EWB when the city formed the board in 2016. The business and property owner also serves on the El Dorado-Union County Recreation Complex Board.

EWB member Greg Downum was elected as the new chairman and Abson was re-elected to the office of treasurer.

The city council and Mayor Veronica Smith-Creer will consider the appointment and reappointment of Vartenian and Abson, respectively, during the Feb. 21 meeting.

Board members tabled a vote for vice chairman, agreeing to a suggestion by EWB member George Calloway to wait until the full, five-member board convenes.

EWB member Craig Mobley was unable to attend the meeting Tuesday.

Tia Lyons may be contacted at 870-862-6611 or