As I sit with Andy Barrett inside of Penny University, located in the downtown area of Russellville, this week for an interview, I realize how this day has come full circle. It was almost a year ago, when I met Andy at the cramped seating area for the Bernie Sanders meetings inside Penny University, at its previous location. Now almost a year later, Andy campaigning for Alderman of Ward 1. Encouraged by Bernie Sanders’ call for political revolution and the support from his friends, Andy decided to campaign for the position of Alderman of Ward 1, a district that consists of Arkansas Tech University, along with a large residential area.
Even though Andy has only lived in Russellville for 3 years, he has visited here to inspect the nuclear plant for many more years, since 2003, before moving here. Andy has been working for the Nuclear Regulatory Commission for over 15 years, and moved to Russellville as result of becoming the resident inspector of Arkansas Nuclear One, where he is required to perform inspections of the nuclear plant inside and out. These inspections include exterior and interior inspections for obvious problems, security, operations, training, and then reporting any findings to Entergy and the public.
Aside from his job, Andy wanted to live in Russellville to provide a safe and stable community for his 8-year-old daughter to grow up in. Being a single parent, Andy found many attractions in Russellville, that made it easy for him to want to bring his family here. For Andy, some of those attractions were: “kind people,” social programs, artistic programs and opportunities, “great schools,” and a university.
For ward 1, Andy hopes to acquire an increase in funding for Arkansas Tech University, transitioning Tech into a more research based university, promoting local artists and musicians, and embracing diversity. Andy said, “Tech is the primary focus of ward 1,” but it is not his only focus for this area. Andy hopes to increase funding for Tech, and cause Tech to do more research to bring more money for their research programs as well. Andy believes that this will improve the prestige of Tech, as well as improving the economy for Russellville.
When it comes to Russellville, Andy would like to see an airport that would support travel to and from other states, helping small businesses grow, supporting downtown businesses, bringing in new industries, improving the economy, and making Russellville more inclusive to minorities. Andy said, “the commercial impact of an airport in Russellville is the next stage of growth.” Andy also said, “Russellville is at the right point to bring in industry, not commercial businesses.” When asked about commercial businesses, Andy felt that Russellville has too many corporate based restaurants, stores, and other businesses that take away money from our small businesses. He also believes that an airport is not only possible, but that it is time for Russellville to have one, but it would be located at another location, due to complaint from pilots.
As stated earlier, Andy wants to make Russellville more inclusive for minorities, Andy said, “diversity is not just a part of what America is, but what makes America powerful, it makes us stronger.” Andy then began to explain how people of all races, gender, sexual orientations, and nationalities have contributed inventions, business ideas, and other great works to America. When asked about transgender bathrooms, Andy said, “if someone is going to go into a bathroom to be a pervert, they’re going to do it no matter what.” Then he began to explain that all people should be able to use what bathroom they identify with, but that the argument of perverts was inescapable, because they’re going to do it no matter how the bathroom doors are labeled. Andy understands the fears of some parents in the area, but still wants transgender residents to be able to use the bathroom in peace as well.
After the interview with Andy Barrett, it was clear that he has a vision for ward 1 and Russellville, that he believes to be beneficial and impactful for the Residents of Russellville. Andy’s main goals are to provide better jobs, increase the economy, adding new infrastructure, increasing funding to Arkansas Tech University, convincing Arkansas Tech University to incorporate more research, and making Russellville more inclusive for all minorities.
In the end, Andy wants all voters to know that he is about “bringing people together, and that people should not let their hate for politicians make them hate their neighbor.”