Losing a friend…

I got a call last night, that a friend had died peacefully in his home sometime earlier in the week. Another dear friend went by to check on him Saturday afternoon and found him.

On the front page of today’s Times Record, weekend reporter Hicham Raache’s first three graphs tell the story:

The former Fort Smith city administrator who ushered his city forward with downtown area renovations and water supply improvements was found dead at his residence on Saturday.

Bill Harding, in his mid-50s, was found dead at his home late Saturday afternoon when a family friend stopped to check on him, according to Sgt. Chris Harris.

The cause of the former administrator’s death is currently unknown, Harris said.

The story continues with quotes from current city administrator Randy Reed — my boss, and a man Bill considered a dear friend. On the jump, Randy praised Bill’s work with renovating the downtown convention center and his abilities as a public servant.

Raache’s story was very well researched. He found a number of quotes praising Bill from past Times Record stories.

The jump on the back page is also juxtaposed with a Brian D. Sanderford photo of a man fishing in the flooded Riverfront Amphitheater. In the background above the man is the gorgeous Riverfront Events Building — a very nice editorial touch. Bill had a hand in making that facility a reality, too.

Thank you, Times Record. For honoring my friend’s work. He would truly appreciate that.

At one time, Bill considered construction projects as his greatest accomplishments. The last development project he helped shepherd was the Marriott Hotel downtown. A couple of Saturdays ago, the place was jammed with families. Last week, the place was jammed with Great Race crowds.

By the time Bill left city government, though, he knew his greatest professional accomplishment had been the Great BRAC War of 2005. Bill’s well-timed fist-pounding was crucial, as was his command of resources available through the military, the airport, our chamber, the city, the state, and the federal government. He knew where to go to get what done.

Here’s the result of his effort. The Warthogs are coming to town.


I still can’t believe Bill’s gone. He’s the one who believed I could help my city. Without his vision, I’d have been reading about BRAC in the newspaper, instead of establishing life-long friendships with the men and women at the 188th and members of our congressional delegation and their staffs.

I’d be reading about our efforts to win the marshals museum, instead of being part of a movement that somehow brought our community together with one common goal. Watching 1,000 people protesting to representatives from Washington — not once, but twice — in favor of history, in favor of preserving the story of law and order…well, that’s been pretty special.

Thank you, Bill. Rest in peace, my friend.

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