Steve Landers is a family man and a successful businessman in the city of Little Rock. After starting his business career by selling newspapers on a street corner at 5-years-old, he went on to purchase over 70 auto dealerships, making him one of the most respected and dynamic personalities in the automotive world. Steve says that he is ready to put the same hard work and dedication that he’s always had into the role of mayor of Little Rock. He sees the problems the city faces in high crime rates, the need for new roads, and a current rut that keeps industry and businesses away.
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Up In Your Business - Steve Landers Previous UIYB Interview
[00:00:08] GM: Welcome to Up in Your Business with Kerry McCoy, a production of flagandbanner.com. through storytelling and conversational interviews, this weekly biography show and podcast offers listeners an insider's view into the commonalities of successful people and the ups and downs of risk taking. Connect with Kerry through her candid, funny, informative and always encouraging weekly blog. And now it's time for Kerry McCoy to get all up in your business.
[00:00:34] KM: Everyone knows the name of my guest today. His name once known for building one of the largest auto empires in America is now known for the many political yard signs seen about town. Mr. Steve Landers, founder of Landers Automotive Group, is running for mayor of the city of Little Rock, Arkansas.
Steve landers is an interesting man, a self-made man and a lucky man to have found at an early age in life what he loves. Barely out of high school, young Steve married his childhood sweetheart, that he's still married to, and found a career he had a passion for, and was good at, selling cars. It wasn't long into his career before Steve and his father, Bob, took an entrepreneurial leap of faith and struck out on their own.
Together, in 1972, the father-son duo, opened their first Landers Car Lot with a mere 30 used cars. About 10 years later, the Chrysler Corporation took notice and quartered the family for dealership, and the rest is auto industry folklore.
Big Steve, as he's called at work with his big personality and big work ethic, has built businesses, built cities around his businesses and made millions not just for himself, but also for the many other people who have worked for him and around him. Don't ask me why. But we will ask him why.
A man who needs to do no more has decided to come out of retirement, throw his hat into the political ring, and run for what often seems like the thankless job of Mayor of the City of Little Rock.
It is my great pleasure to welcome to the table the straight-talking entrepreneur, philanthropist, overachiever and deal maker, the current candidate for mayor of Little Rock, Arkansas, Mr. Steve Landers. Hi, Steve.
[00:02:18] SL: Hi, Kerry. Thank you so much for having me on, you and Gray. So, glad to be here.
[00:02:22] KM: You know, you better watch out. You might actually get elected to this. You’re neck and neck. So, I have to tell our listeners that when I saw that in the paper – I had you on my radio in 2018. We talked once before in 2018. And everybody needs to go listen to that interview. It's fun. So, I had your cell phone number. And I texted you and said, “Is it true? Are you running for mayor? Have you lost your mind?”
[00:02:46] SL: Yeah. And that's kind of what my wife said.
[00:02:50] KM: That's just what I was going to say. What did Sandy think?
[00:02:52] SL: You know, my wife is – she thought for a long time for several months. I've been doing this now for 12 months. I'm going out on the streets daily. You know, I go out every day. So, I don't have any political aspirations. I'm not wanting to be something else. I've been fortunate that I've worked hard for 50 years and could retire. So, I'm not doing it for anything other than to give back to the city and to a state, the city I was born in. But also, to the people that came to my life and bought cars for me over years and years and allowed me to feed my family, send them to school and everything else.
So, I owe the city. The city doesn’t owe me. And I'm not coming in as a king of the city. I'm coming in as a servant of the city. I'm going to serve the people of the city. And you know, what you talked about in your opening about listening, I've listened for 12 months. I’ve been out there listening to the people in our city. And really, we've got to have a safe city. We do not have a safe city. We're ranked – WalletHub ranks us as the most violent capital city in the country. And homicides this year are up 30% in Little Rock over last year, which was horrible.
And so, I know what it is to lose a child. I've lost a child. And I know what these parents and these families are going through. We've got to slow that down. And I have that plan to do that. Now people say, “Where's your plan?” Well, go online and you'll see it at landerslr.com.
[00:04:28] KM: Landersforlr.com.
[00:04:31] SL: For Little Rock. Forlr.com. And so, our plan is simple. We go out daily. And we rebuild our police department. We get our morale back up in our police department. Nobody wants to work here. No policeman wants to work here. We were 100 policemen down when the current mayor took over. He said, “I'm going to add 100 patrolmen.” Well, now we're almost 200 down.
[00:05:00] KM: Really?
[00:05:01] SL: Yes. And by the end of the year, we will be 200 down.
[00:05:05] KM: Because no one wants to work?
[00:05:07] SL: Nobody wants to work. And we don't need police to harass people. That's not what we need it for. But we need presence. And we need to do data-driven policing.
[00:05:17] KM: What does that mean? Data-driven?
[00:05:18] SL: Data-driven means if you've got – Like, down in the12th Street area, a few months back homicides were up 133%. 133% this year over last year.
[00:05:30] KM: Wow!
[00:05:32] SL: And so, when you got an area that that's the way it is, wherever the area is, you put more patrols in the area. That doesn't mean you're out there stopping people every five minutes. What it means is they're just sitting out in the area, so people realize that, “Hey, there are police in this area. Do we want to come in there shooting and killing and doing all those things?” And so –
[00:05:52] KM: Just make a presence.
[00:05:53] KM: Make a presence. And those patrolmen can get out and play basketball with the kids. They can do things in. See the kids and mentor some of these kids. And we got to train our police to be – which they are trained. Like, we've got a great police department. But we want them to get out into commingle with the kids. And they're doing that they do. All this this year, I've seen them do fishing tournaments with the kids. And they do back to school things. I mean, the police are really good. But they just don't feel like they're back and have been back.
And so, that's what we want to do. We want to bring morale back. We want to get – every business I've ever been, Kerry, it's all about the people. That's your number one commodity in business is people. If you got good people – You know, we were number one in Chrysler, Dodge, Jeep sales in the world.
[00:06:44] KM: Really?
[00:06:44] SL: Yeah. So, I was –
[00:06:46] KM: Number one.
[00:06:47] SL: Number one in the world.
[00:06:48] KM: In Benton, Arkansas.
[00:06:47] SL: In Benton. Population of 12,000 people. I was a pretty good car guy, but I wasn't good enough to be number one in the world without good people. So, I know how to build teams. I know how to build management teams. I know how to hold people accountable for their jobs, hold them accountable for what they're supposed to be doing. And we got so many people right now that are not being held accountable, and all the way up through city hall.
[00:07:13] KM: You said that code enforcement is not enforcing codes.
[00:07:17] SL: There are a lot of codes being broken two blocks from code enforcement right now. And so, they're there every day. They see these codes, surely. Just enforce some of the code. That doesn't mean harass the people. Just go to them and talk to them. Say, “Look, you got to clean this up.” University of California – a study at University of California said violent crime reduces 10% to 12% if you have clean lots, clean neighborhoods, safe lots. So, we got to do that.
[00:07:48] KM: Well, that's a no-brainer.
[00:07:48] SL: That’s 10% to 12% reduction in violent crime if we do that. But every association meeting that I've been to, every person, black, white, Hispanic, everybody, wants safe neighborhoods, clean neighborhoods. They all want the same thing. Everybody wants the same thing. So, let's try to go for what everybody wants, is clean and safe. And we got panhandling problems. We got homeless problems. I have a heart for that. I have a heart for the homeless. And working now on a plan – got the plan worked out to work on our homeless problem, our panhandling problem. We've let panhandlers takeover all of our streets.
[00:08:32] KM: I can't stand a stop and have to look at that every day. I hate to say that, but it bothers me.
[00:08:37] SL: Well, people want to help.
[00:08:40] KM: Yes.
[00:08:41] SL: People want to help. And there's a way to do this. We can take – ACLU says that they have the right to panhandle. So, as a city, we let them panhandle. But we also have the right as a city to dictate the times that they panhandle. So, instead of having to master at seven in the morning all through 11 o'clock at night. We say, “Look, you can panhandle from five to 10 o'clock at night after the school traffic's gone and the people are at school.” Because I have seen a guy standing on the road with his shirts off. Women with signs holding up, you know, “Will have sex for money.” and all these. Well, little kids are sitting in a car. They can read. Little kids see that. They're in lines to go to school. We don't need to be that way. We don't need to – we need to work away to let them panhandle, but on our terms as a city. On our terms. And those are the things that we'll do.
[00:09:42] KM: So, you've lost a lot of weight. All this glad-handing, and speech-handing, speechmaking right up your alley. How much weight have you lost?
[00:09:50] SL: I've lost about probably about 50 pounds, you know?
[00:09:54] KM: You just look better than you did in 2018. But I got to tell our listeners, in 2018, you are a month away from going to get you a new leg.
[00:10:00] SL: Yeah.
[00:10:01] KM: I think everybody knows the story about how you –
[00:10:04] SL: Tore my leg up.
[00:10:04] KM: Tore your leg up. Got staph infection. How many surgeries?
[00:10:08] SL: 18.
[00:10:09] KM: They kept trying to get him to cut his leg off or get in a wheelchair. This just speaks to who you are. You're like, “No! I'm just going to keep walking on it.”
[00:10:18] SL: I’m just going to keep walking on it. And it took me 10 years to overcome it. It took me 10 years to overcome it and walk again.
[00:10:27] KM: But now you're –
[00:10:28] SL: Now, I’m fine. Now, I'm fine. Because – My leg is still not good. And it still hurts when it gets – weather changes and all that. But I just overcame that. I knew if I got in one of the little scooters, that I'd never get out. I knew if I got in a wheelchair, I would never get out. I knew if they cut my leg off, it would be problems from – And so, now I've kept my leg. And everything's good.
[00:10:52] KM: Wow! That speaks to who you are, I think, a lot. You said in our last interview, you are not the best salesman, but you are the hardest worker. You could outwork everybody on the lot.
[00:11:03] SL: Well, you know, when I was 17, I got married at 17. I had a house payment, a car payment, insurance payment, grocery payments. I had to work. And my wife didn't work, because I told her. She was a stay-at-home, fix me a little bite of supper, and I'll be home sometime. And she didn't work. And so, I had to work. I didn't have anybody to go to. So, I started – I didn't start where my dad worked. I started at reps moving forward on University Avenue. And there were 50 salesmen. And I was 17. And they were grown men. So, there's no way I was the best salesman there.
But I said, “I can outwork all these guys. I know I can outwork all these guys.” And that's what I did. So, within a few months, I learned to sell a little bit. And then in a year so, I was pretty good at it. And then I got – Then I kind of learned how that business operated and then started doing it. We started doing it ourselves.
[00:11:59] KM: You continue to grow your family business. And you’ve continued. And you and your dad went out, started your own business. Then your kids grew up. You put them in business. You did great commercials with your son. You spoke already of your late son, Scott. So, you don't do commercials anymore, I noticed.
[00:12:20] SL: It's funny you said that. I did a commercial this week. But it's different. I'm doing campaign commercials now. And I know I’m out of the car business. I’m 100% out. My oldest son, Steve, is still in it. Has three stores. But I'm out. And I did a long time in that. I did a lot of years.
[00:12:38] KM: 2016, you retired?
[00:12:41] SL: Yes. Yes, but I still own some stuff. But I finally got out after 50 years of doing it, you know? I started doing the car business when I was 13. I started selling when I was 17. I started working washing cars at the dealerships when I was 13.
[00:12:57] KM: How do we teach that kind of work ethic to young people? How come you had that work ethic?
[00:13:01] SL: Well, I don't know. Actually, when I was young, when I was five, I saw newspaper couriers down in Benton on the corner. And back then, nobody would throw you in a car. Nobody run off with you. Your mother didn't worry about you being a couple of blocks over when you're just a small kid, because it was just a lot safer.
And right now, that's when I – I don't think we could ever get back to that type safety in the city. But I still remember that. And I still remember how fun it was to be able to run around with other kids and played football and baseball out in the yards. And when your dad got home and daddy's whistling, you’d go home. And that's how we were trained.
[00:13:47] KM: So, your dad, was he a car salesman?
[00:13:48] SL: He was. He was in the car –
[00:13:50] KM: Your grandfather?
[00:13:51] SL: My grandfather did sell some cars. So, it's kind of I grew up in it.
[00:13:55] KM: Yeah. Okay. And your mother was –
[00:13:58] SL: My mother worked for radio station. So, in advertising. So, she worked in advertising. In order to market, or in order to sell something, which I know about selling. I know how to buy, sell, swap and trade. I know how to negotiate deals for our city. But in order to do that, you've got to have a product, okay? And the product that we have in Little Rock is not a good product.
In 2013, Kiplinger came out and said the number one place to live in the South was Little Rock. And we put those signs up around the city. Now, they're up. And it says, “Kiplinger’s number one place to live.” But it doesn't say it was 2013. Well, now we're number one. WalletHub, number one 2022, and the most violent capital city in the nation. We've gone from good number one to this.
[00:14:54] KM: All right. We're going to find out how you're going to fix it. When we come back, we'll continue our conversation with Mr. Steve Landers, founder of the Landers Automotive Group and current candidate for mayor of the city of Little Rock, Arkansas. Still to come, how Mr. Landers plans to put his business acumens to work for the city of Little Rock. That's just what we've been talking about. Branding and advertising on our city's assets. And listening. I want to know what you think they are. And get his take on solutions for city issues like safety, beautification, growth, community, finance, infrastructure and education. All of that's on his website. We'll be right back after the break.
[00:15:27] GM: You're listening to up in your business with Kerry McCoy, a production of flagandbanner.com. Over 40 years ago, with only $400, Kerry founded Arkansas Flag and Banner. During the last four decades, the business has grown and changed along with Kerry's experience and leadership knowledge. In 1995, she embraced the Internet and rebranded her company as simply flagandbanner.com. In 2004, she became an early blogger. Since then, she has founded the nonprofit Friends of Dreamland Ballroom. Began publishing her magazine, Brave. And in 2016, branched out into this very radio show, YouTube channel and podcast. In 2020, Kerry McCoy enterprises acquired ourcornermarket.com, an online company specializing in American-made plaques, signage and memorials for over 20 years. And more recently, opened a satellite office in Miami, Florida. Telling American-made stories, selling American-made flags, the flagandbanner.com. Back to you, Kerry.
[00:16:28] KM: Thank you, Gray. You're listening to Up in Your Business with me, Kerry McCoy. And I'm speaking today with Mr. Steve Landers, entrepreneur, philanthropist and current candidate for the November 8th election for mayor of the city of Little Rock. Before the break, we talked about him growing up in Arkansas. Him giving back to the state that he wants to be of service. That this is not a career for him. I called him crazy, but that's okay.
[00:16:49] GM: Three times.
[00:16:51] KM: Three times. But let's speak to your business acumen and your qualifications as leader. Some history about you that I'm not sure everybody knows. You started your business in 1972 with your father. In 1989, Chrysler Corporation came to you, because you were just knocking it out of the ballpark. Said to you, “We've got three guys we want to give a dealership to. Corporate wants them all to have college educations.” You said, “Well, I don't have that.” So, okay. I guess I'm not it.” They came back and said, “We don't care. You're so great. We want you anyway.” So, they offered you the Jeep dealership.
You sold the Landers Auto Group in 1995 for $40 million dollars to the United Auto Group, Roger Penske. Then, three years later, Roger Penske hires you back to work for the South Central Region in Puerto Rico. Then in 2003, you stepped down, and Penske sells you a Toyota dealership. Then in 2005, you joined with Mack McLarty and purchased another 20 dealerships. You have bought and sold 70 car dealerships. You love making deals. You love growing businesses.
There's a book about you called The Master Deal Maker. It's a book about you and how good you are at buying, selling and swapping. So, that brings me to my question, what does Little Rock have to buy, sell and swap?
[00:18:19] SL: Well, Kerry, we got to have a product. If you don't have a product to sell, then it’s helpless.
[00:18:25] KM: Is the city our product?
[00:18:28] SL: It's not the product we need. The city can be a product. But we got to rebuild and get it as a quality place. Because if you're in Dallas, Texas, and the companies comes to you and said, “We're going to a place in Little Rock, Arkansas or Raleigh, North Carolina?” And those guys go tell their wives or those wives go tell their husbands, like, “We're going to move to Raleigh or Little Rock.” They go online and they look at our current condition of safety. They don't want to bring their families here. So, they go straight to Raleigh.
So, we've got to make it a place where we have a product to sell. And I can go sell the city to anybody that will listen if we have a product. So, our job, one, will be safe. Making it a safe city. Safe for you, your kids, your grandkids, me, my kids, grandkids to go the movie at night, or to go out and eat at night.
[00:19:19] KM: I’ll tell you, people don't want to go out at night.
[00:19:22] SL: People in surrounding counties –
[00:19:24] KM: Don't want to come to Little Rock.
[00:19:25] SL: They don't want to come to Little Rock, especially at night.
[00:19:26] KM: I know. They're scared.
[00:19:28] SL: They're scared. And people that live in the city here are scared. All people.
[00:19:33] KM: I do not want to go to the river market at night. Do you?
[00:19:35] SL: All people. No. All people are scared.
[00:19:36] KM: Do you, Gray? Do you want to go the river market at night?
[00:19:39] GM: I mean –
[00:19:39] KM: Do you go?
[00:19:40] GM: Yes. But you just have to be smart about it. But I mean, I can understand how – I have experienced the same thing with people who live in other cities that have this impression of Little Rock. It doesn't matter how I feel about it having lived here my entire life if you know all the back streets or whatever. It's about selling it. You can't get past that.
[00:20:02] SL: And, you know, I've been to all parts of the city. I go to all of the parts of the city and talk to all people. They all want the same thing; safe, clean neighborhoods.
[00:20:11] KM: But I think the policemen feel like their hands are tied.
[00:20:12] SL: Well, and they probably are a lot of times, you know? Because we got a great police department. We've hired – we've made some bad hires in our police department for leadership. We don't have to go out of state to find a leader for our police department. We got some great guys inside this police department.
[00:20:31] KM: Always promote from within.
[00:20:33] SL: Promote for people that’s been here. They know the city. They know the people. And we've got some great guys in there. And that's what we're going to do. Getting our safety under control is the first thing we got to do. It's going to take some time. And it's going to take new people. But we got to have adequate staff.
If you have an accident out here today in a car, they'll tell you to go home and put your accident online. They don't have enough staff. I had a lady call me that she said, “I called 911. And 35 minutes later, the police showed up.” And she said, “The policeman apologized to me. Because he said, “Ma'am, we have six patrolmen for this whole city working the night.”
[00:21:11] KM: So, are we just so short-handed?
[00:21:14] SL: We are shorthanded.
[00:21:15] KM: Or is it the processes?
[00:21:16] SL: Well, we're short-handed. You know, we're short-handed. We're not too short-handed to spend $2.2 million over his time in office for his personal security.
[00:21:29] KM: How much?
[00:21:30] SL: 2.2.
[00:21:30] KM: No.
[00:21:31] SL: Yes. It'll be 2 to 2.2 over his time in office on personal security for him. But yet he says we have a safe city. You’re trying to talk about how safe the city is, our current mayor. And we don't have a safe city. Instead of smoking mirrors and making sure that we got people – I want people to understand that our city is unsafe. And go online and look at these different companies, it will tell you how unsafe our city is. And we've had 57 homicides as of right now as we speak this year. So, we're tracking an all-time high on homicides. You have a one in 50 chance of being a victim of a violent crime in Little Rock, Arkansas. One out of 50
[00:22:21] KM: Well, I see 50 people today.
[00:22:23] SL: Okay. Now – So, when I say that, you know what their answer is? Crime is all over the country. Well, I'm not worried about other parts of the country. I'm worried about Little Rock, Arkansas. But when you go to Plano, Texas or Frisco, Texas, right across – That’s the next state, they have cramps like one in 1069 chances are being – And one in 800 chances.
[00:22:43] KM: So, you think everybody ought to be packing? Or do you think we ought to be putting up guns? What's your view on guns? I know you left yours in –
[00:22:50] SL: I left mine in a restroom. I left mine in a restroom. And I put it on the back of the toilet bowl, which I always do. But it was early in the morning. There weren’t any crowd there. I left it in there. And I call back in five minutes. I call back in five minutes after I left. I said, “Would you please go check in the restroom. I think I left my handgun in there.” But I have to have a handgun. I've got a carried license. I carry – because I've had to threats, certified threats against us. Yes.
And my staff, or one of my young staff got threatened to be killed. And by the way, the lady that’s threatened to – said, she’s going to kill him. They put her on the HOPE council down here. The mayor did.
[00:23:32] KM: No.
[00:23:32] SL: Yes. So, she was on his HOPE Council. But I've had threats.
[00:23:39] KM: Well, she’s seriously threatening him.
[00:23:40] SL: Yes. Set out to kill you. So, in fact, told him that twice. And we left the meeting that we were in.
[00:23:47] KM: But anyway, that’s funny. There's a big joke going around on Twitter about how you must not have washed your hands if you left –
[00:23:51] SL: Well, I did wash my hands. I won't tell him, “Hey –” I won't tell him. I did wash my hands because I left it on the back of the toilet. Not the back of the sync. Okay? So, on the base of the toilet, I left it on there. So, I didn't wash my hand.
[00:24:03] KM: What do you think we have to do about guns? I mean, should everybody have a concealed? Should we put – I mean, my husband, he's got a concealed license. We’re downtown. He goes down there and works late. He carries his gun. But he thinks we need some gun control.
[00:24:18] SL: Well, there's no way to control bad people with guns. Because if you got easy money, which some of the bad people do have, easy money, they’re going to pay whatever it takes to get the right weapon.
[00:24:34] KM: Don't police hate it when everybody – One of the reasons they're so crazy is everybody they go up to they know has got a gun too also.
[00:24:42] KM: And a bigger gun.
[00:24:43] SL: And a bigger one. 20 years ago, it wasn't that way. My father worked downtown. He never carried a gun. And he's a Purple Heart World War II veteran. He never felt like you had to have a gun. Now we work downtown. My husband won't go down there without a gun on in hip.
[00:24:58] SL: No. And you've got pastors in pulpits with guns on.
[00:25:04] KM: So, that's not – We got to stop everybody having to carry a gun.
[00:25:09] SL: Stop to madness. We got to stop the madness. It's madness what's going on? You know what I mean?
[00:25:13] KM: Okay. So, you’re not going to answer what do you want to do about gun control.
[00:25:16] SL: What do I want to do about gun control? I've never thought –
[00:25:20] KM: I don't even know if America can do anything about that.
[00:25:21] SL: I don't know that – Yeah, the mayor can't control the guns. But we can do – They do buybacks, which they do gun buybacks, which really doesn't work. They bought 200 or 600 or 800 guns back.
[00:25:35] KM: Actually, they ought to, because people are always trying to give – And maybe you two are trying to give my husband guns. It's like, “Oh, Grandpa died. You want his guns?” And my husband was like, “No, I don't want his guns.” And they don't know what to do with them. So, it's the good people that are buying them back for sure. But they ought to keep doing it. Because they’re just going to get stolen out of those people's houses eventually.
[00:25:52] SL: They get stolen out of cars.
[00:25:54] KM: Yeah.
[00:25:54] SL: Okay? That's what's happening. Handguns are getting – they're getting them in cars, getting the guns, and then they get on the street, you know?
[00:26:01] KM: All right. We're on the guns. All right, you are so good at branding. When you sell cars, you don't talk about price in your ads. You sell brand. So, are you familiar with the Little Rock agency, advertising agency for Little Rock? Do you know who it is? I don't know who it is?
[00:26:15] SL: No.
[00:26:17] KM: Would you have to work closely with them? Because I want you to be if you get elected. I want you to come in there and say, “All right, I've got 40 years’ experience with big ad agencies. I know how to do this.”
[00:26:28] SL: You know, I don't even know what the mayor can or cannot do yet. Until I get in, I don't know. But anything that I can do that will help our city, that's what I'm wanting to do.
[00:26:38] KM: This is really interesting, I learned. The role of mayor in Little Rock has changed since Mayor Scott was elected. You probably know this. But I did not know this. Prior to Mayor Scott, adopted in 1970, the position of Little Rock mayor has been a part time job, a figurehead for ceremonies. That's all he did. The city of Little Rock has been primarily run by the city manager and the city board. And when Scott came in, he changed all of that
[00:27:06] GM: Yeah. He actually turned it into like an executive position, right? Yeah.
[00:27:08] KM: He did. And it's one of the reasons he's had so much strife in his city board. And because he's – Did you know that?
[00:27:17] SL: Yes. And, Kerry, I'm glad you brought that up. Because, A, I'm not going to sit in City Hall. I'm not going to be in City Hall. I'll go down there and get caught up. But I won't be out on the streets talking to income and businesses, businesses that are in looking at people's problems, trying to solve the problems that we've got. And I'll be accessible. I'm not going to be a guy that you can't get into for six weeks, or have to set an appointment, call and set – I'm going to be accessible. They’ll probably get my phone number, because I've been passing my cell number out the whole time for the last 12 months. So, they can call me if they want to call me. And I'll stop by and see you and talk about what's going on.
[00:27:58] KM: Do you want to get the city manager back some control? Or do you want to be the and all again?
[00:28:02] SL: No. No. I don’t necessarily want to be the and all. I want to collaborate with all the directors, and the citizens, and the city manager to come up with the best plan, and then put the best plan. That's what I want to do. I don't want it to be my play only. And I don't want to make the sole decisions without collaboration with all these other people that are important. Because the city directors, their constituents talk to them. So, I want to hear what they've got to say. What are your people saying? Because the city is who we work for. The people are who we work for. And if we waste tax dollars, I feel like, in my mind, is taking money out of people’s pockets.
[00:28:42] KM: I’ve read a quote on landersforlr.com. It said, “Steve sees the problems Little Rock faces; high crime rates, the need for new roads, and a current rut that keeps industry and business away.” What is that current rut?
[00:28:59] SL: Well, the current rut is what we just talked about, is the crime. And the industry doesn't want to come here. And you have to court.
[00:29:06] KM: Yes, you did.
[00:29:07] SL: The industry to get them to come here, which I've done and know how to do. And I don't know that we've done a really good job of that in the last three and a half years. Our current mayor city created 8000 jobs. Well, that's not exactly right. The last 20 years, Arkansas labor, sit on a number. And we had 92,440 jobs 20 years ago. We still have 92,670, which is about a 240-job increase.
[00:29:38] KM: Over how many years?
[00:29:40] SL: In the last 20 years. It's never – It stayed about the same. We had COVID. We lost a lot of people who COVID. And so, when they went back to work, they called it is a rehire. But it really wasn’t a rehire. It’s just getting a job back after COVID. But right now, it's just not – it's not that number. He has not created 8000 jobs.
[00:30:00] KM: It's a rehire.
[00:30:00] SL: It’s a rehire. A lot of it is rehire. Yes.
[00:30:04] KM: So, you are not a big social media guy.
[00:30:06] SL: No.
[00:30:07] KM: How are you going to do all that? You got a secretary who’s going to tweet, and Facebook, and put everything out there, and follow you around?
[00:30:13] SL: Yeah.
[00:30:15] KM: That's what I do. That's exactly what I do in the office.
[00:30:17] SL: Well. And I'm going to be accessible to this phone that’s on my side.
[00:30:21] KM: You are. They can text you anytime, anywhere. I'm telling you, you are a man on the phone. Well, that's exactly what I do. I'm with you on that. I don't spend my time doing the minutiae of Twitter, and Facebook, and social media. I have a staff that does that for me. But they're always around letting people know what Arkansas Flag and Banner is doing and what we're up to.
[00:30:45] SL: So, Kerry, we talked about 911 a while ago. 911 is a real problem in Little Rock, Arkansas. Really a problem. And people call me every day and say, “We call 911. They didn't answer. We call 911. It rang 15 times before somebody answered.” And those are simple things. But somebody's got to solve it. That's easy to solve. And that'll be things that I’ll solve right off the bat. We got to have recreation and things for people to do families. We got a treasure sitting right behind us over there for the most part. And it's just wasted. It's just been wasted. It just sits there. We need food trucks. We need pickleball courts. We need basketball courts. We need golf. We need amphitheater. We need things that that people can do. We need dog – things where they can run their dog, and bicycle trails. I'm for all of that.
[00:31:34] KM: So, that's funny you mentioned that. Because when I was on your website, I ended up going down a link and then down a trail. And off your website, I can't remember the name of it was, but it ranked capital cities. And it ranked us 41st out of 50 for the most desirable capital cities to live in for all the reasons you're talking about. Affordability was pretty good. Mediocre. We were 21 out of 50. Economic well-being, 28 out of 50. But education and health, we were 40. And the one you were talking about, the quality of living, we ranked 49th out of 50 because of crime, lack of attractions, and no newcomers are coming to the city. But when I interview people on this radio show, they talk about the symphony, the ballet, that rep. And we have a lot of restaurants, I think.
[00:32:25] SL: We've had a lot of closings too. Restaurant closings. We've got to be able to go and say, “Look. Hey, our cities on the way back. We're safe. It's a safer city.” It's not ranked number one in the nation for capital cities for violent crime. We've had a 59% increase in homicide just in Little Rock, in the city of Little Rock, in the last five years. The numbers that they skew, they skew these numbers, because during COVID, two years a COVID people were sitting in their homes. So, we don't have as many burglaries or break-ins, because people are sitting in their chair.
[00:33:05] KM: Right. It's a great place to take a break. When we come back, we'll continue our conversation with Mr. Steve Landers, founder of the Landers Automotive Group and current candidate for mayor of the city of Little Rock, Arkansas. Still to come, the issues and his solutions. We've talked about safety. We need to talk about beautification growth, community finance, infrastructure, and education. All important. We'll be right back after the break.
[00:33:26] ANNOUNCER: There is another great sale going on at flagandbanner.com. We call it the summer’s end sale. And you can save 30% off all in stock items by using the coupon code SES30. Summers end sale 30. Browse through the wide selection of decorative flags we have for your house, your porch, even your garden. And we've got the garden flag stands and poles to fit small flags and even large decorative banners. We've got it all at flagandbanner.com right now, and the summer's end sale can really save you some money. Remember that coupon code, SES30 to save 30%. Flagandbanner.com.
[00:34:04] KM: You're listening to Up in Your Business with me, Kerry McCoy. I'm speaking today with Mr. Steve Landers, entrepreneur, a philanthropist and current candidate for mayor of the city of Little Rock, Arkansas and the upcoming election on November the 8th. I think his main concern with the city of Little Rock is crime. Right off the bat, you're going to go in and do things like fix 911, so that the citizens feel connected. You're going to go in and prop up the police department and promote some policemen, you said, from within to run it. And I think that's a great way. You and I are both business owners. It's always better if you can promote from within, because they've got a proven track record.
[00:34:41] SL: Right.
[00:34:41] KM: And then some of the things you said was you were going to be out on the streets and be accessible. But right now, let's talk about some other issues. Communities. The communities that are suffering are always the ones that don't have any – being a business person, the ones that don't have any new startup businesses in their neighborhoods. How do we get startup businesses to start in these downtrodden neighborhoods? Because then they can give jobs within their neighborhoods. And people can walk to their jobs. I mean, the best way to fight crime is to have a job.
[00:35:16] SL: Kerry, I meant to tell you a while ago, and I’m going right back to your question. If you want a politician, don't vote for me, because I'm not one. But he's a great speaker, and he's a pastor, and he can speak. But if you want somebody that will do something, I will do something every day to make our city better. I've got 200 jobs right now. 200 jobs starting at $23 an hour for young kids.
[00:35:43] KM: In the city of Little Rock?
[00:35:44] SL: In the city of Little Rock. I got 200 jobs that I've already found. I worked diligently on the apartment closing down at the end of Ascher
[inaudible 00:35:53]. Because I worked to help on those things to try to get – those people we're fixing to have their water shut off and all this stuff, and their sewer, and their – And it's got problems. I'm working on things for the city right now, and I'm not the mayor. John Broman said I got more done as not being the mayor, just as a candidate, than sometimes our mayor's get done.
So, it's a different type work. You know, he's a good guy. But he just doesn't – I've been battle tested. I've been a leader. I’ve signed payroll checks, which if you've never signed a payroll check or employed a person, which he hasn't, other than city people. When you're writing check with somebody else's money, a person seems to be freer with that money than when he's done it for himself, you know? And so, you make bad calls. You make bad decisions with money.
I want to make good decisions. I want to spend the taxpayers’ money wisely. I can put $2.2 million immediately back in the police department because I'm not going to have personal security. I'm not going to have 20 plus people in my executive staff, when no other mayor has ever had that. Nor the mayors ever had over three to five in their executive staff, Stodola, Daily. None of those guys ever had three to five. He's got over 20. He's got as many as 27. So do we –
[00:37:17] KM: And we’re not getting some of those things done. I don't understand. Sometimes it's harder when – sometimes when you have a lot of staff, all you're doing is managing staff.
[00:37:26] SL: It’s called job creation. It's called job creation. It’s creating jobs. We're going to have jobs. And we're going to create jobs. Do we need that many people in his executive staff? No.
[00:37:41] KM: So, these jobs that you created, 200 jobs, what are they doing?
[00:37:45] SL: Well, plumbing, pipe fitting, welding, electrical. Some of them are in auto dealerships. Some of them are chicken poultry factories. I've got 200 jobs right now ready for Kids that start at $23 an hour. Some of them will be $23 an hour in six months and be $30 an hour.
[00:38:07] KM: So, are they apprenticeship type jobs?
[00:38:09] SL: There's apprenticeship. There’re fulltime jobs. I’ve got a whole gamut of those things. And that's what I will say. And as mayor, I'll be out on the streets finding these opportunities for young people.
[00:38:21] KM: How many people you made a millionaire?
[00:38:23] SL: Well, I don't know. I mean, there have been some guys who’s done well that’s worked for me. So, I don't know.
[00:38:28] KM: You go down to your shop to buy a car. And those guys love you. Because they're making bank.
[00:38:33] SL: Yeah. Well, they've worked hard. They've done the work. I was their coach. I coached him up.
[00:38:41] KM: I think they think of you as a coach.
[00:38:42] SL: Yeah. And that's what I want to do for our city, is build teams. It's all about people. It's all about people. And I'll build a good team. And I won't have to ask someone. And we've spent – we gave him 2 million or $3 million away from this city to show people how to prevent violent crime.
[00:39:04] KM: I like this quote, “People try to paint me as a wealthy, white, old guy. I'm not going to apologize for working my butt off my whole life. I work every holiday because that's when people come to the auto dealership, every weekend, 12 to 14-hour days. But I learned so much on how to be a leader and hold people accountable. And I don't think people in the city are being held accountable.” You said that.
[00:39:30] SL: And we’ve got so many good people that work for our city department. I went to the Union, the local – where the trash haulers – guys haul trash in. I’ve been there five times and talked to the guys. Our mayor has never been there sitting down with them. I sat down with him. I said, “Tell me what's going on guys.” “We're slandered. We make $11 an hour. And it's hard for us to feed our families.” Well, I understand that. And I would agree to that. And I tell them that.
So, I start harping on our mayor. I said, “Look, these guys make $11 an hour. They haven't had a raise in years. And we got to get them more money.” And when I get in, I will give them more money. Because I'll find the money. Because I find the money that we're wasting and put it back on the people that need it the most.
[00:40:15] KM: Yes. What is your biggest strength?
[00:40:18] SL: Never wanting to fail. I just never want to fail. And I don't want to let people down. I went to bed a lot of nights worrying about the amount of employees I had, and if they were able to pay their bills this month, or if they were going to do that. So, I worry more about my employees than I did myself. I would borrow money or whatever to pay my employees and do without checks myself just to make sure that their families were safe. And so, therefore, I had an employee base that would do anything at all for. They would work whatever hours they had to do. They would do whatever it took. And we have that do whatever it takes attitude. And all those stores that I told you about and sold were broken stores. They were broken stores. And we took them, mended them, got them back up on their feet. Got some laugh back in them. And all of a sudden, got them doing real good. And we would sell them to a group. So, I've taken a lot of broken things and fixed it. And right now, the city of Little Rock is broken.
[00:41:18] KM: You've been a philanthropist for years. Do you have a favorite cause? I know you hire prisoners. Or ex-cons. Not prisoners.
[00:41:24] SL: Yes. Yes. We were doing second chance programs 35 years ago. I've got a lot of them that still work at the dealerships that I owned, that they'd been there 25, 30 years, that we got out of prison and started them at washing cars. And eventually they showed us that they were rehabilitated, and they were good. And we'd move them to selling. And then now they manage. And then they general manage. We’ve had them all the way to owners of stores.
[00:41:52] KM: Just getting a second chance.
[00:41:53] SL: Getting a second chance. In fact, I hired four people this week. I didn't hire because I don't have business anymore. But I got them jobs this week, four people, four young man that were 22, 23 24-years-old.
If I go into business and I see it’s got some problems. I went to Sonic on – I stop there every morning at the Sonic on Ronnie Perelman and a young lady had a little sign up in the corner that says – Treasure was her name, “Managing partner.”
So, they get in, they take these young kids. Put them in a managing partner position. Maybe give them a percent or 2% on the business. And then they let them run it. And then they give them a bigger piece. And they work their way up. So, this young girl was so proud she had her name – and nobody else looks at that when they go through Sonic. But I looked at that, and I saw Treasure’s name. And I said, “Treasure.” I called her back, I said look, “Look.” I said, “I'm going to tell you something.” I said, “It might hurt your feelings. And you might hang up on me. But that's okay. But if you want to listen, I'm going to make you a better business.” I said, “Right now, you're setting yourself up for failure. That's it. You got trash all over this place. Your speakers don't work. It takes 20 minutes to get a Diet Coke or a cup of coffee.” I said, “You've got people standing inside there that won't do anything. They won't go out and pick up trash or whatever. But I said, “I wanted a Diet Coke. You didn't have – you're out of Diet Coke. I wanted a Diet Dr. Pepper. You were out of Diet Dr. Pepper. Never run out of that. Go to Kroger's. Buy some Diet Coke, so you can give the people what they want. They don't mind paying for it. They want it.”
Anyway, so she – in 30 days, she turned it totally around.
[00:43:29] KM: She listened?
[00:43:30] SL: She listened to everything I said. And now every time I go to the line, she'll come out and talk to me, “How do you like things? Are things better?” I said, “You're doing perfect.” And so I said –
[00:43:39] KM: Cleaned it up.
[00:43:41] SL: Cleaned it up.
[00:43:41] KM: Go to the store if you're out of it.
[00:43:43] SL: Fix the problem.
[00:43:44] KM: Fix the things that are broken.
[00:43:46] SL: Told the young lady in the line. And so, I told her. I said, “You’re going to make it.” She never had entrepreneur training from anybody. And she listened.
[00:43:54] KM: Alright, this is our last break. Before we come back and I'll tell you about how you can give to Mr. Steve Landers’ campaign. And in case you didn't know, he was on the horse racing commission. So, we'll get to it –
[00:44:07] SL: Still on it.
[00:44:08] KM: Oh, I was going to ask if he were still on it. We're going to get tips on the track. What's the best bet? And then we're going to tell you about how to get involved with Mr. Steve Landers’ campaign for the mayor of city of Little Rock. We'll be right back.
[00:44:21] ANNOUNCER: Thanks for listening to Up in Your Business with Kerry McCoy. Some of our recent guests have really been impressive. And you can go to flagandbanner.com and check them out in podcast form if you'd like. We've recently had John Burkhalter from Burkhalter Technologies. Sister Deborah Troillett, the Executive Director of the Arkansas house of prayer. Charles Morgan, CEO and chairman of First Orion. And Jennet Huckabee, former First Lady of Arkansas.
Currently, we're in the middle of a few shows in a row featuring mayoral candidates for Little Rock, Arkansas. It's Up in Your Business with Kerry McCoy. All past episodes available at flagandbanner.com. Just click on radio show. And coming in October, Kerry McCoy herself is going to be interviewed on this program.
[00:45:03] KM: You're listening to Up in Your Business with me, Kerry McCoy. And I'm speaking today with Mr. Steve Landers, founder of the once largest dealership in America and maybe the world, Landers Automotive Group, who is retired from the car business and now running in the November 8th election for the Mayor of the City of Little Rock. So, Governor Hutchinson appointed you to the racing commission. So, what's the best bet?
[00:45:28] SL: Well, stay away in the fifth.
[00:45:29] KM: What?
[00:45:30] SL: Stay away in the fifth. In other words, they're not a good bet. It's just I was just saying that to be funny with you. But really, you're trying to pick one out of 12 to win the race. So, odds are not good.
[00:45:42] KM: Nope.
[00:45:43] SL: Odds are not good. And so, you got to pick one out of 12.
[00:45:46] KM: It’s less than – what is that? A 7% chance?
[00:45:49] SL: So, you'd be better off going into their casino and playing Red or Black? You know what I mean? That’s 50-50. They've got a beautiful park in Oaklawn. They've done a lot.
[inaudible 00:45:59] has done a lot of innovative stuff over there. So, we got great parks all over. We got Saracen and Casino in and Pine Bluff. We've got the West Memphis, the dog tracks, which are going away. The dogs are going away. But they have a casino. It's really a nice place. And then we have the one in – all the controversy up in Polk County that's going to be built eventually.
[00:46:23] KM: What? I didn't know there was one in Polk County.
[00:46:25] GM: It’s new.
[00:46:26] SL: New casino.
[00:46:26] KM: People love to gamble, I think. I mean, it's fun for a minute. But – You have racehorses.
[00:46:33] SL: I racehorse. And we've won some great one races, which are the best you can win to owners like a Super Bowl.
[00:46:41] KM: Really?
[00:46:43] SL: So, we’ve won some great ones and had some really good horses over the last few years.
[00:46:50] KM: You did say on the last interview we had, I keep talking about old interview we had, the past interview. Best bets the W. Bet on the win. Pays the best. But that's the show pays more now than it ever used to. Does it still?
[00:47:02] SL: Yes. Yes, it does. But you got to be at Oaklawn. You got to be at the track. So, it’s on-track betting.
[00:47:08] KM: Alright, let's recap. Landersforlr.com. In a bipartisan race. Or are you running on a ticket?
[00:47:15] SL: Bipartisan.
[00:47:16] KM: It’s a bipartisan.
[00:47:17] SL: And that’s something I’m glad you brought up. I'm not a Democrat. I'm not a Republican. I just vote for the person. The right person. Whoever's the best for the job. Who else – Who can take us out of where we're at? How happy are you for the last four years with our city? How happy are you? I'm asking people that question. If you're happy, go ahead. But if you're not happy with the way things are going, give them the courage to change. Make a change. We got them try something different. And let's try something different. Let's try a business guy that’s led people in understands what it is to make payrolls and hit budgets. Our community centers right now had been under budget this year. And so, it's hurts our committee. They're not open fulltime, or community centers.
[00:48:08] KM: Really?
[00:48:09] SL: And so, we have to have – we have to have places for all these kids to come after school. Give them a sandwich. Give them a Coke. Give them a candy bar. And say, “Hey, while you're here, we're going to do 35-minute reading class. Or we're going to do a 45-minute math class.”
[00:48:24] KM: Or play basketball to get some energy out.
[00:48:25] SL: Yes. But we're not fully staffed. We're not fully open or staffed.
[00:48:31] KM: There's some more jobs you can fill.
[00:48:33] SL: Well, yeah, exactly. I mean, we need that. We need a change. There’s got – holistic approach. We don't have time for a holistic approach. A holistic approach means you change a kid but with me seven or eight years old till he gets 17 and hope he's got a different mindset in his life.
[00:48:50] KM: I want children to be back at head start at an early age again developing. So, sitting in front of the TV. I want head start to be back for kindergarten kids to where a mother can go to put her child in head start for free and go get a job. I need those women working for me in my sewing department. And nobody can come to work from because they can’t afford child care till their child starts first grade. And these kids’ minds are just being wasted. I want those babies not being wasted during those early five years of development. I want them so that they’ll be great contributing citizens.
[00:49:28] SL: When I was in school, they told us to read, write, add, subtract, multiply, divide. And that was the basics. And that's basically all I got when I got to school. But after school, I used to laugh, because I got those basics. I could read, I could write, I could cursive, I could add, subtract, multiply, divide. And that's the basic skill. But those basic skills will get you a long way. And we're not – I don't know that we're all getting that now. We got kids that are in the – I don't know about education. I'm going to learn. I'm going to learn more about it. And I'm going to listen to educators and find out what these kids need and try to do everything I –
[00:50:11] KM: They should be read – They should be starting to read at three years old.
[00:50:14] SL: Absolutely.
[00:50:15] KM: They should be. Alright. I've got a gift for you. And I gave you this last time you came on. Oh you probably lost it.
[00:50:21] SL: I know. And I still have it. I still have it.
[00:50:23] KM: Oh, you did. Well, now you can put one at the governor’s – Now, you can put one at the mayor’s office if you get elected.
[00:50:28] SL: That sits in my house.
[00:50:30] KM: Oh, that’s nice.
[00:50:31] SL: And I put it there just like that. Sits just like that on one of my desks.
[00:50:34] KM: Now, you can give it to Steve. Your other son.
[00:50:36] SL: Yes. No, I'll put that in the mayor’s office. That’d be a good place.
[00:50:39] KM: There you go. Let me tell our listeners, if you're not watching, I gave him a US and Arkansas desk set for his desk. Thanks again, Steve. Good luck.
[00:50:47] SL: Thank you, Kerry. It's always good to come see you.
[00:50:48] KM: It’s fun to see you.
[00:50:49] SL: Great. Thank you. And tell Grady I said hi.
[00:50:51] KM: I will. All right.
[00:50:52] SL: Okay.
[00:50:53] KM: In closing, to our listeners, thank you for spending time with us. We hope you've heard or learned something that's been inspiring or enlightening. And that it, whatever it is, we'll help you up your independence, your life or your business. I'm Kerry McCoy, and I'll see you next time on Up in Your Business. Until then, be brave and keep it up.
[00:51:11] GM: You've been listening to Up in Your Business with Kerry McCoy. For links to resources you heard discussed on today's show, go to flagandbanner.com, select radio show, and choose today's guest. If you'd like to sponsor this show or any show, email me, Gray, firstname.lastname@example.org. All interviews are recorded and posted the following week. Stay informed of exciting upcoming guests by subscribing to our YouTube channel or podcast wherever you'd like to listen. Kerry's goal is simple, to help you live the American Dream.