MALVERN, Ark. – Jason Lambel Sr. has lived in Malvern for 10 years, and he is one of three candidates for Malvern Mayor. He has six sons and 13 grandchildren, and has lived in several different states before settling in the “Brick Capital of the World.”
Lambel is running on a “Malvern first” platform. His two opponents are incumbent Mayor Brenda Weldon and Jack Upchurch. All candidates in this year’s mayoral race are running as independents.
“Everybody always says ‘we need to do something,’” said Lambel. “I’m tired of just saying it. I want to be so engaged that I want to know if the FBI is sitting on someone’s house.”
Lambel expressed his desire to be more involved in the everyday lives of the citizens of Malvern than most typical mayors. He hopes to make an impact on the lives of those who suffer from addiction and poverty.
“I understand the people more,” said Lambel. “I know we have a crime problem. We need to help those who are doing it out of necessity. They just want to put everyone in jail. I want to be hands-on before it gets to that point.”
In Lambel’s view, those who commit crimes because of an addiction or poverty are acting out of necessity, and have been failed by the system at large. He hopes to do more to prevent these types of crimes by supporting those people with various social programs.
While he has no governmental experience, he hopes to become “the peoples’ mayor” by working to bridge the gap between citizens and government, and between political parties.
“There’s really nothing that trains you to be the mayor,” said Lambel. “Everyone blames the mayor, but not everything is his or her fault.”
His ambitions for the town may be big, but he still realizes that being mayor is not a one-man show. He knows that he cannot make it all happen by himself, but plans to work with the City Council, Quorum Court and other governmental bodies to maximize his effectiveness for the citizens of Malvern.
We’re missing something,” said Lambel. “Everything’s going away from here. We don’t have enough places for our children to go other than their cell phones.”
According to census.gov, Malvern’s population in 2020 was 10,624 – an increase of only 306 people since 2010. 24.7% of Malvernites live in poverty, which is significantly higher than the state’s 16.3%.
Lambel also presented more out-of-the-box ideas that have been implemented elsewhere in the nation.
Arizona and Idaho generally allow ATVs for legal street use, if they meet certain requirements. In Arizona, the vehicle must be registered for on-highway use, the driver must have liability insurance and the vehicle must be equipped with mirrors, lights, a horn, a license plate and several other pieces of equipment.
In 2018, Arkansas Legislature passed HB 1003, allowing ATV use on a public street or highway “outside the city limits of any municipality or incorporated town in Arkansas.” The bill also creates stipulations for traveling on a public road from one off-road trail to another off-road trail or from private property to an off-road trail.
A subsequent bill, HB 1838, was shot down early last year, and stated that “local authorities may by ordinance designate a public street of highway within their jurisdiction for the operation of all-terrain vehicles.”
All traffic laws apply to ATVs in Arkansas, and drivers can still receive a DUI while operating an ATV.
“Other communities have done it,” said Lambel. “A lot of people around here walk to town.”
Lambel highlighted the fact that Malvern recently started allowing personal scooters as transportation on city streets and park trails, following the same rules as bicycles. The scooters, however, are not allowed on main highways. The municipal codes for bicycles can be found at malvernar.gov.
Lambel suggests that the ATVs follow similar rules, only being allowed on side streets, and not the main highways. He proposed the idea of a safety class, akin to a boating safety course, for legal use in town.
With his “Malvern first” platform, Lambel looks to do things differently and get involved on the state level in any way he can. He hopes to create more options for those who are struggling in the town and to connect to citizens from all walks of life.
Early voting in Arkansas runs Monday, Oct. 24 through Monday, Oct. 31, Monday through Friday 8 a.m.-6 p.m. and Saturday, Oct. 29, 10 a.m.-4 p.m.