It is Thanksgiving morning in Fayetteville. The early-morning air is cool and crisp. The sun, having made its way over Mount Sequoyah, holds the promise of yet another beautiful day in the Ozarks. It's unusually quiet for a Thursday morning. Many are out of town; most are out of work for the day or weekend. For many of those who remain, the hours ahead hold the promise of the Macy's Parade, in which the Fayetteville High School band will be participating, football, visits with family and friends; and of course, Thanksgiving dinner. There's trouble in India, but for the moment, it is unable to break the holiday's spell.
On a morning such as this, it is difficult to believe that just a couple of days ago there was so much excitement in the air due to Fayetteville's mayoral race and the runoff election between Dan Coody and Lioneld Jordan. I was at the Jordan campaign's watch party, which was held at Uncle Gaylord's Tuesday evening. The restaurant was filled, not only with Lioneld's campaign team, but many hopeful supporters as well.
At around 9:00 p.m. former alderman Don Marr announced the final election results. Mr. Jordan had won the election by a bit more than 57 percent of the vote. At that moment, the scene turned to one of total pandemonium. It was reminiscent of the jubilation that took place in the Fayetteville Town Center when Barak Obama defeated John McCain; there were jubilant screams, tears of joy, high fives, hugs, and plenty of congratulations. Not being one that enjoys crowds, especially those that are loud and celebratory, I stayed at Uncle Gaylord's only long enough to listen to Lioneld's victory speech. Then, I headed back toward the Square, not only to retrieve my vehicle, but also to share the election results with anyone who might have been interested at Tim's Pizza/West Mountain Brewing Company .
As I approached my destination I could see a silhouetted figure standing on the dimly-lit sidewalk outside of Tim's. It was Mayor Dan. He was standing by himself -almost sadly; at least, that was the impression I had at the time. This was a bittersweet moment for me. On the one hand, I, like the others who had supported the Jordan campaign, was feeling quite jubilant. Still, I could not help but have some remorse over Dan Coody's loss. There had been a time some years ago during which I had put a lot of my hopes and support into Dan Coody's efforts to win a mayoral election against the then incumbent Fred Hannah. When I saw Mayor Dan standing there by himself, it was easy to imagine what he must have been thinking - all those years of hard work for Fayetteville only to be turned down by the voters. He congratulated me for Lioneld's win. We shook hands; I thanked him and all I could think of at the moment was to give him a tap on the shoulder and to mumble something about not really deserving the congratulations myself since I hadn't done "all that much" in the Jordan campaign.
At that moment I forgot my political disagreements with him and only felt our common humanity - our common love for Fayetteville. There was a loss for words. I wanted to say more to him, but the right words only came to me when I was inside the building and he was back with his supporters. A van had pulled up from one of the local TV stations, and I realized that I had lost the opportunity for any heart to heart discussion that I might have wanted to initiate.
I know that Dan Coody has done a lot of good things for Fayetteville and during that bittersweet moment my thoughts suddenly hearkened back to an interesting encounter that occurred for me last week when one late afternoon, I walked into the brewing company and was introduced to a man that turned out to be the mayor of another Northwest Arkansas city, who I'll simply refer to as Mayor M (for mystery).
As it turned out, Mayor M and I talked for hours that night; yet, the time absolutely flew by for me as I found myself challenged with hypothetical political scenarios in order to see how I, as an imaginary member of his city council, would react. We also spoke about Fayetteville's mayoral runoff election. His opinion was that in the end, Mayor Dan would win a third term. During this particular discussion he related a story concerning some sort regional conference - perhaps a solid-waste conference, that he attended. His tale revolved around Dan Coody's participation in that particular event and how impressed he was that our city's highest-elected official stuck to his guns and pushed for implementation of the greenest program possible. "Although you may be supporting the other candidate," he told me, "remember the things that Dan Coody has done for Fayetteville." A bit later, we said our goodbyes and we both headed for home.
Yesterday afternoon, as I went into West Mountain, one of the wait staff came up to me while opening a folder. Inside the folder were a note and a ten-dollar bill. Both were from Mayor M, who had apparently come in looking for me. With the bill came the instructions to have a couple of drinks and to leave whatever was left with the bartender for a tip. The contents of the note are as follows:
"Congrats on election - don't forget all the good things Dan did. I wanted to drink with you but cannot stay. You'll have to drink them both." - Mayor M
On this Thanksgiving morning I have a lot to think about and a lot to be thankful for. While I am rejoicing in Lioneld Jordan's victory this week, I have had a very poignant reminder that, despite my reasons for no longer supporting him, Dan Coody has done a lot for Fayetteville over these past eight years. It didn't hurt to have this perspective reinforced by someone who lives outside our community - from someone who understands the challenges that all mayors and community leaders face.
The last two evenings have been very bittersweet for me. The particulars of the election are behind us now and hopefully, I can put my disagreements with the outgoing mayor aside. So perhaps, I can resolve the conflicting feelings that reside within me by saying, "Congratulations on your big win Lioneld, and Dan, thanks for the good you've done in helping to keep Fayettevile a good place to live."