Gruning, Avanzino win council seats

Everyone was on the same page when it came to filling two open seats on the Eureka Springs City Council.

At their regular meeting held Monday, March 25, council members Terry Mc-Clung, Harry Meyer, Autumn Slane and Steve Holifield all voted for Susane Gruning to fill the Ward 1, Position 2 seat while David Avanzino returns to the table as the unanimous selection for the Ward 2, Position 1 position.

Just moments into the meeting, the council voted to go into executive session to discuss “the qualifications of the candidates.”

A little more than 25 minutes later the council resumed the regular meeting and voted on the two positions using paper ballots. The two were then sworn in and took part in the remainder of the meeting.

Gruning, who serves on the planning commission, was selected over three other residents — Marticia Hancook, David Riordan and Michael Welch — who applied for the Ward 1 position that was held by Avanzino until he resigned in February after moving to Ward 2.

“I am deeply honored and humbled to have been selected to join the City Council,” Gruning wrote in a Wednesday, March 27, email to the Times-Echo. “There was a remarkable group of candidates to choose from, and I extend my gratitude to each of them for their willingness to serve the public. Giving back to the community has always been a priority for me, whether through political engagement or volunteering behind the scenes.

“… I have been a part of Eureka Springs since 2001 and hope to contribute positively to its future while proudly representing Ward 1.

I eagerly anticipate the opportunity to serve and collaborate alongside my fellow council members.”

Gruning said by email that she’s not sure if she will continue serving on the planning commission.

“If I do and from what I understand from the Mayor, City Council will need to approve a special request for me to continue on a temporary basis only,” she said. “I will not mind doubling down on both commissions until the seat is filled by another as I do not want to leave them short. I would like to encourage our residents of Eureka Springs to apply if they are interested.”

Avanzino, who ran unopposed for the Ward 1 seat in the November 2022 election, was voted in 4-0 for the Ward 2, Position 1 seat held by longtime city council member Melissa Greene, who resigned in February after moving to Berryville. The other applicant for the Ward 1 position was Anna Smedley, executive director of the Eureka Springs Community Center.

“It’s with great honor and humility that I return to the table, eager to continue serving the residents of Eureka Springs,” Avanzino wrote in an email to the Times-Echo on Tuesday, March 26. “My commitment extends beyond any specific ward or position as I believe in representing the entirety of our city and its diverse population.

“I am dedicated to addressing local and state-level challenges head-on, advocating tirelessly for our community.”

Avanzino was also unanimously selected to return to his seat on the city advertising and promotion commission as one of two representatives from the city council.

“Reappointment to the CAPC is a privilege I deeply value, recognizing the importance of supporting the arts, parks, tourism and preserving the unique Eureka Springs way of life,” Avanzino said.

All council members and Mayor Butch Berry thanked all of the applicants who applied for the two council seats and encouraged them to seek roles on other city commissions.

All of council seats will be on the ballot in the November general election.