Leadership Buffalo Island and special guests gathered at one of their seven "Welcome to Buffalo Island" signs to recognize their Arkansas Community of Excellence (ACE) acceptance.
Renee M. Doty, consultant with the Arkansas Department of Economic Development, notified the mayors of Monette, Leachville, Manila, Caraway and Black Oak on Dec. 6 that their Buffalo Island Partnership application had met all of the qualifications set by the ADED to be certified as an ACE Regional Partnership.
"ACEcertification will enable the five communities to be viewed in a better light by the state's economic leaders," Leadership Buffalo Island President Kaye Hultquist said. "As a group, the Buffalo Island partnership of towns is eligible for some of the same programs that the larger cities have access to. We can do a lot more if we work together."
Three years ago, under LBIPresident Ernestine Harrell's leadership, the group voted to undertake the process of applying for ACE certification.
"I read an article in the newspaper about the ACE program and how the requirements had undergone changes," Harrell said. "The article explained that a single town or a collection of several towns could apply. This would make it possible for us to qualify. I wrote to the ADED for more information and turned it over to the incoming president, Byron Sparkman."
Sparkman led the Leadership Buffalo Island group into seriously seeking the ACEaccreditation.
Barbara Suber and Kima Stewart spearheaded the application process and compiled a master data form and procedure. Each city was contacted in order to add their individual data and information.
Kaye Hultquist serves as the current LBI president and has had input into the application from the beginning. She involved an ASU intern to help work on the application.
When the work was completed and typed according to specifications, Leadership Buffalo Island submitted it to the Arkansas Department of Economic Development in Little Rock.
"When the partnership began working to the ACE certification, members of LBI had to assess the needs of each of the five communities," Craighead County Judge Dale Haas said. "The group realized it needed to find ways to make more housing available. The group is close-knit and they all know each other, which makes them unique. They are kind of like a county of their own, as they are used to working together."
"This is a tremendous example of cooperation and what cooperation can produce," Mississippi County Judge Steve McGuire said. "It levels the playing field."
All mayors of the five Buffalo Island cities have helped gain ACE accreditation. They include David Fletcher, Monette; Norman Williams, Black Oak; Danny Dunigan, Caraway; Ralph Wells, Leachville; and Melvin Browning, Manila. Leadership Buffalo Island is the second cooperative group in the state to gain ACE certification.
Leadership Buffalo Island members in attendance included Eddie Dunigan, Steve Suber, Melvin Browning, Harold Browning, Norman Williams, Wava Martin, Steve McGuire, Kima Stewart, Barbara Suber, Dale Haas, Ernestine Harrell, Marilyn Looney, Bill Gipson, Marsha Davis, Gilda Kaye Hultquist, Bill Hetler, Byron Sparkman, Joe Hultquist, and Earl Read.
"An official ceremony is planned, with Gov. Mike Huckabee expected, to take place this spring," said LBI Secretary Barbara Suber. "Each community will also receive a ACE community sign for posting.
The LBI was formed in 1992 and has been instrumental in many area improvements. Their officers are elected form throughout the five communities. They hold monthly meetings, rotating from town to town.
"This is not a "me" project, this is an "us" project," said Sparkman. "The victory and celebration belongs to everyone on Buffalo Island."