Democrats Ken Ferguson and Win Trafford will face off against one another once again as they vie for the House District 16 seat Tuesday in a runoff election.
The two both received 38 percent of the vote in May’s three-way primary race — leaving third-wheel opponent Efrem Elliott defeated with 24 percent of the total vote.
The final vote tabulation had Ferguson ahead by a mere 19 votes, winning 1,660 votes, while Trafford earned 1,641 votes.
Heading into Tuesday’s runoff, Trafford said he has some major concerns about the city of Pine Bluff.
“Our biggest problem is that we collectively don’t believe in our own community anymore,” Trafford said. “We’re our own worst enemy. We have to all come together and work toward common goals.”
Goals that Trafford said should be attainable with an interstate system, port, railroads and overall infrastructure “that is second to none in the state of Arkansas.”
“We have businesses in Pine Bluff that want to stay and continue to grow,” Trafford said. “The problem is that our kids are not getting the proper education and training needed.”
Trafford pointed to retention problems he said are prevalent in education, the workforce and among local businesses.
“We have to talk to businesses and see what they need specifically in employee training to be able to perform the jobs employers provide,” Trafford said. “We have a true lack of proper workforce development. We have to get all parties on the same page. When we do that, we’ll see a huge difference in the community.”
Trafford said he wants to implement vast changes in the local high schools, two-year colleges, and universities for the better future of both the kids and the community they will inhabit.
“Our kids’ futures should be taken care of,” Trafford said.
He said he plans to work toward offering better after-school activities and summer programs, spreading these activities out so they’re available to a wider area and greater number of kids, not just one confined location.
Trafford also talked about the steadily declining population and an inundated housing market as a risk to make Pine Bluff appear an unattractive destination to outsiders.
“Through my businesses, I have seen our supply of commercial property and housing increase and demand decrease,” Trafford said. “I’ve spent my entire life in the trenches of this community, and I know what it takes to make a business run.”
Trafford is the president of Win’s Inc., which owns Trafford Real Estate, three building distributors and an online auction sales service.
Ferguson is concerned with some of the same issues as Trafford, building his campaign platform on job creation in Pine Bluff through economic development, while supporting education and workforce training.
“He earned a reputation of being a man of the people working in Pine Bull city government for 27 years,” according to his press release.
He was the citizen participation and equal opportunity officer in 1981, and he became director of human resources in 1982 and held the position until 2007.
Since then he has been the executive director for the Arkansas Workforce Board and is currently the Arkansas workforce investment director.
As the investment director, according to a press release, “He is responsible for providing orientation/training and technical assistance to chief elected officials to ensure compliance with federal and state Workforce Investment Act laws and collaborating with state-supported community colleges to ensure workforce development programs align with the needs of business and industry.”
Ferguson is currently a member of the Governor’s Workforce Cabinet and formerly served as a board member on the Martin Luther King Jr. Commission and the board of trustees for Southeast Arkansas College.
He has extensive knowledge in public policy, regulatory compliance and the workforce needs of Arkansas, as well as experience in print and audio media, sales and consulting, according to a press release.
“He is committed to the constituents of District 16,” according to a press release. “He will represent his constituents’ interest without personal agendas and work on behalf of their issues and concerns.”
In 1973 Ferguson graduated from the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff, earning a Bachelor of Science in social science. He is also a 1969 graduate of the former Merrill High School in Pine Bluff.
Ferguson has been a member of Saint Bethel Missionary Baptist Church for the entirety of his life.
He and his wife Cassandra McFadden Ferguson have four children and four grandchildren.
Ferguson could not be reached by telephone, nor did he return any phone messages to be interviewed for this article.