Marco McClendon was elected mayor of West Memphis in 2018 and sworn in the following year as the youngest mayor in the city’s history. He won reelection in 2022. Recently, he has focused on rebuilding city infrastructure and revitalizing the area along East Broadway. Before becoming mayor, he served 16 years on the City Council.
McClendon is a graduate of West Memphis High School and Arkansas State University Mid-South.
What attracted you city government?
In public office, I saw the opportunity to address local issues and work with my people to bring about meaningful change in my hometown. Although the age difference between the other council members and me was obvious, I considered it a positive to be able to give voice to my generation by weighing in on such relevant issues as what community policing should look like, how we decide our budget priorities, how we make government work for the people and how we make our city a world-class city. As the youngest member of the City Council at the time, I tried to make sure that no one was left behind.
What’s the best advice you ever received?
The best advice I ever received was to always stay true to my values and principles and be honest with people, even in the face of challenges. It’s important to lead with integrity and a strong moral compass.
Dollar Tree is reopening its West Memphis distribution center. How did that come together?
The plan for Dollar Tree/Family Dollar remodeling and reopening of its distribution center in West Memphis came together through a collaboration between the city and the company. The city is working with the contractors to provide support to ensure a smooth process. Dollar Tree is a company with a great history of success. We welcome them and the 500 jobs back to our community.
What are the biggest challenges facing West Memphis?
I have always viewed challenges as opportunities, and West Memphis has several of them. They include economic development, housing and quality of life. These are areas where we are actively working to improve the lives of our residents. On the economic development front, after years of slow to no growth, we have been blessed to be considered by firms from across the globe, and in the process, we have landed blue-chip firms like Carvana, Coca-Cola and a $320 million expansion along with the hundreds of jobs that came with it at the mid-South’s premier gaming destination, Southland Casino, just to name a few. Additionally, we are home to one of the region’s few mega sites. On housing, we have been able to attract some regional developers that have already begun the process of transforming some of the city’s storied neighborhoods, where we have made significant investments in our schools, neighborhood parks and emergency services. Finally, on quality of life, we are making a multimillion-dollar investment in all of our city parks, we have built a state-of-the-art library and innovation center, and we have experienced more restaurant and hotel starts than at any time in recent history. All of these things add to the quality of life for our residents and make us more attractive to tourists and investors.
What do you enjoy most about your job?
What I enjoy most about my job is the ability to connect with our youth in our community, listen to their concerns and work together to find solutions that benefit our city. I feel like serving the people of West Memphis is my calling and God-given purpose. I love going into the great communities of our city, whether it’s at the churches, civic organizations or just at one of the numerous community events, like our National Night Out, to hear the thoughts, concerns and ideas of our citizens. I also take my role as city cheerleader-in-chief seriously. It’s a humbling experience when I travel across the state, region and nation to hear people say good things about our city and to seize the opportunity to highlight the accomplishments that we are experiencing.
Who are your mentors, people who made a difference in your life?
I’ve been fortunate to have several mentors throughout my life, including the first elected African-American mayor of West Memphis, Leo Chitman, who stopped by City Hall on my first day in office to offer words of congratulations, encouragement and counsel. Because of his trailblazing journey, I was able to go further than I ever could have dreamed. I’ve had so many community leaders and educators who have shaped my approach to leadership and public service. Their guidance and wisdom have been invaluable in my journey as mayor.