The following is a rush transcript and has been lightly edited to correct transcription errors and has been formatted for publication.
NOTE: Aaron Raatz, a commercial pilot, was flying the night of the forum and was unable to attend.
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Well, thank you very much and given that only at Arkansas Baptist, there are only eight of us on the football team in total. It wasn't really difficult to remain a standout but I want to thank Arkansas Newsroom for putting this on and all of you for donating your time because as someone who has a political hopeful, it's encouraging to see this level of interest and this level of engagement because I think anyone who gets up here and says that they know all the answers. Well, that's you're talking to someone who's not engaged and who's not really feeding off the feedback of those that they're called to serve and that's really why I'm here today. As Neal said, my name is Brandon Achor. I'm the owner of Achor Family Pharmacy along with my wife, Kaley, not KC and we have a daughter who will be turning two at the end of this month. It's pretty serendipitous to be standing here. I was a four-year-old myself next door when I started school and so, my lifelong roots are truly our lifelong roots in this community. Um it's been incredibly humbling to see a city idea move into a city powerhouse to be able to pull the level of interest that it has and that's in no short part to the great leadership that the city has fostered and I honored to be considered as someone who can carry that torch to the capitol on behalf of my hometown. You know, the challenges that come across our state are in no small part Um something that you have to be able to adapt to. You have to be able to understand that there isn't a one-size-fit all and as a business owner, that's something I deal with every day. You know, it's very challenging to wake up and be responsible for the payroll for your staff. It's very challenging to be responsible for, you know, the patients that come in there every day and recognize the needs that they need and be able to adapt to the individuality that they themselves carry. Um and it's something that I've been blessed with the opportunity to see day in and day out and take those opportunities to learn and apply those in other settings. In the political realm is one that I hope to be able to apply that level of attention and accessibility and transparency that being an independent pharmacist allows us to do. When people ask me a lot of times they say, why would you want to do this? Don't you get yelled at enough in your day job? And I'm like, yes. Typically, people are not too thrilled to come see me because most of them are sick or they're getting a shot and typically, people are not too thrilled. Um but I say that my job and my staff's job is to make sure people know that they're not alone. I'm not going to be able to fix every single issue. I'm not going to be able to solve every sort of illness but I tell my staff, if you make your customers believe and see that you're on their side, that they're with you, that they don't have to do whatever it is by themselves. Then, you've got not only a customer for life but you're actually making a real impact and that's the type of individual that I am, that's the type of perspective that I bring and that's the filter that I'll be running through every piece of legislation is how can I make sure that my Arkansas know that they're not alone. So, thank you very much. I appreciate your vote.
How's everybody doing? I'm John Pack. Um, I'm not really good at the whole talking part. This January will be 13 years with the Arkansas National Guard like him. I get yelled at enough there. I just can't get enough of it. So, I chose to do this as well. I think I bring a unique perspective to what I can do being in charge of multi-million dollars worth of equipment and assets with a fortune 500 company and the military has also given me a unique perspective on things. That's about all I got. I said, I’d keep it short. So, I think that’s it.
Question: if elected, what will you do to ensure our public school teachers receive pay increases.
Achor: I think that's a question that people are very impassioned about. I don't think there's anyone that believes that any educator is not worth more than what they're currently valued at by the dollar. Um and so as a legislator who has the capacity to work with the governor's office and the different committees. Um my job is to review that and make sure that the state is fiscally sound. If the state is physically sound, then a priority will have to be ensuring that teachers are compensated. Um You look at that and you say, base salaries, you try and build incentives. Um the whole idea that people want is they want equality on the return on their investment. Whether that is in their education system, whether that's in their pharmacy, whether that's in their grocery store, wherever that is, they want to see a return in quality on their investment and I believe that their incentives that can be implemented and I believe that the governor has already governors to be have both listed that that is a number one priority and so, it will be our duty to stand there and make sure that that happens. To say that I have a full proof plan on how I can guarantee that teachers will receive pay increases. Uh that's something that any legislator would not be able to promise. What I can promise is that I won't be a barrier.
Pack: Teachers are definitely don't get the recognition they deserve. Especially if they have kids like I was in school. they're, in my opinion, very underpaid and because I don't know everything that goes into that. It would, I would take on the responsibility of pouring into everything available to see how we could go about getting teachers pay raises because they definitely deserve it and I can't say enough about teachers, okay? So, yeah.
Q: How will you work with other elected officials in Pulaski County and the state to make sure that this region that you represent is best served.
Achor: So, I believe that the beauty of our legislative system is that it requires teamwork for anyone to be effective, that no person can rule it with iron fist, and that you have to be willing to integrate and to network. Um, I saw this firsthand. I serve as a board member for the Arkansas Pharmacist Association and in that capacity, it is my job to represent the needs of the entire state's independent pharmacist and if you're going to represent you have to know needs and to know needs, you have to engage, you have to engage in Piggott, Arkansas, you have to engage in Stuttgart, Arkansas, you have to engage in Clarendon, and Des Arc, and Texarkana, and that experience of trauma into those different areas, and engaging with people of my peers, collating a list of priorities, and then finding a way to educate legislators and present that to them in a digestible format, that actually produced real tangible results, and why which are most of you probably don't know this but Arkansas is the largest independently dominated pharmacy state in the nation. Um we outnumber chain stores three to one and that is in no small part due to the activism of the Arkansas Pharmacist Association and the constituents that they serve. Um so, that experience allows me to not just have the tools to do so but recognize the value of what it takes to network and work with legislators. We have been blessed to help open 13 pharmacies across the state and so I have 13 real touchpoints. Um some of those I mentioned whether it's Piggott or Nashville or Texarkana or Maumelle or Cabot. Um and meeting the needs of those communities are not one and the same. And that experience shows me that the real results are out there. That there are people who want to be heard and that fortunately one of the byproducts of just doing what I love and serving people in the pharmacy world is that I now have these touchpoints to pull resources for and so I plan to pull on those resources from real people in real communities that we serve.
Pack: Other elected officials in Pulaski County and the state to make sure that this region is best served. So, I believe it's very important to work with the mayor and all the elected officials to get their ideas on what can better the community but also believe it's important to get ideas from the people of the community which is why I'm running anyway because I don't think the people are first in politics anymore. but working with all them, coming up with ideas, getting budgets set aside, and It's about all I got on that one because I have to do a little more research on the that answer
Q: What's the first thing you want to do as a legislator?
Achor: So, my number one priority and it's kind of basis for how I filter politics is to put the dollar
back in the end user which is the community which is the individual, the family. Um I believe that being more competitive with the states around us when it comes to state income taxes is something that has to be a priority. And people often say, well, where are you going to make that money up for? And I say that there are other states that have found a way and I'm willing to put the dollar back in the hand and give them the authority to decide how that's spent rather than take it beforehand and I think that in order to invest in a community, you have to truly invest in a community and give the dollar back to the individual. So, lowering the state income tax will be my number one priority. Assuming that as a freshman legislator with no private experience, gets to have an agenda.
Pack: So. we're going to agree on this one. State income taxes need to be lowered. Uh Arkansas came out with a 1. 6 billion dollar surplus I think it was. And with that amount of surplus, I mean that should tell everybody that, you know, taxes are incredibly too high. So, my goal will be digging into everything that taxes are coming in from, figuring out where we can make cuts. And get the tax rate dropped. That would be mine.
Achor: Well, I just want to say that I've want to reiterate how encouraging it is to see the number of people in this room. Um like I said, that's a writer who would want feedback. We, I believe everyone up here is here to serve regardless of what side of the aisle they stand on. They stand there for you and I just want to encourage all of you to reach out to us. The level of accessibility and transparency that we offer at our low pharmacy is the same level of access and transparency that I want to offer as your representative Um and while you may not have a prescription to bring to me like you do at the pharmacy, you do have a concern and you do have a voice And I am here to fill it.
Pack: So as I said earlier, I think the people have become an afterthought and politics in general. I want to bring a level of integrity, same transparency, to the capitol where people can actually learn to actually start trusting their legislators again and just get everything going right in this state again. I just want to put the people back where they belong.