“Interim” can be dropped from Jeff Hubanks’ job title.
Hubanks, who had been the Pine Bluff Police Department’s interim chief since Jan. 1, was named the permanent chief by Mayor Debe Hollingsworth during a Friday afternoon news conference outside the civic center. Hubanks was sworn in by Circuit Judge Earnest Brown before an audience of about 100, including a good number of approving police officers.
Calling her promotion of Hubanks to the permanent post “a landmark decision for the city,” the mayor praised the chief’s leadership style. She also expressed relief that a selection process that she felt may have seemed “lengthy and daunting” to some has ended. Hollingsworth created a five-member review panel to narrow down a field of 43 applicants.
Hubanks said that despite his new designation, the department and city can expect “more of the same.”
He pledged that crime will continue to decrease and the public’s “sense of security” will grow even stronger, adding that he’s pleased by citizens’ increased confidence in the department. Known for being defensive of his employees, he said officers can now feel more secure in their careers.
Hubanks, who had previously retired as a PBPD lieutenant after a 27-year career, was appointed as interim chief within minutes of the mayor’s dismissal of former Chief Brenda Davis-Jones hours after Hollingsworth took office on Jan. 1.
With Hubanks’ house located in neighboring Cleveland County, the city council then engaged in a lengthy controversy over residency requirements for the city’s department heads, during which time Hollingsworth vowed that a permanent police chief would not be named until the issue was settled. Finally — at a June 3 council meeting — a compromise ordinance that enabled Hubanks to serve as either an interim or permanent chief despite his place of residency was endorsed by a 5-4 count.
The mayor’s vote broke a council deadlock.
The ordinance was sponsored by Alderman Steven Mays, who was supported by Aldermen Bill Brumett, Wayne Easterly and Lloyd Holcomb Jr. Opposing the measure were Aldermen Charles Boyd, Glen Brown and George Stepps and Alderwoman Thelma Walker.
Mays, who attended Friday’s event, described Hubanks’ promotion as “long overdue.”
“I think this is a great day for Pine Bluff citizens,” said Mays, who noted there were many “qualified, outstanding candidates” among the 43 applicants.
“To keep the police department in order, we needed someone familiar with the city and the department’s needs, and we needed someone with experience, someone who has shown leadership abilities,” Mays said. “Chief Hubanks is a good choice for the job. For everyone’s sake, I hope we can all rally around our police chief and fire chief (Shauwn Howell) now and help in continuing to move our city forward.”
Brumett, the senior alderman, was out of town during the news conference, but expressed his pleasure with the development in a telephone interview.
“I’ve been totally impressed with Jeff Hubanks,” Brumett said, citing the chief’s “ability and demeanor” in communicating with the public, media and his officers. “I like his strategies, how he utilizes information technology to better equip the department’s personnel and the citizenry in partnering to help reduce crime. The data he uses is understandable. Pine Bluff is becoming a safer place to work and live, and that contributes greatly to the cause of improving our potential for growth and more and better jobs.”
Hollingsworth echoed Brumett.
“Chief Hubanks and the police department and Chief Howell and the fire department are enhancing our quality of life and quality of place,” the mayor said after Hubanks’ swearing-in ceremony. “Public safety was the primary plank in my platform throughout my campaign. Improved public safety was and is the No. 1 concern with the vast majority of Pine Bluffians.
“I feel so strongly that we’re moving in the right direction,” she added. “As I’ve said before, I sincerely believe that there’s absolutely nothing this city can’t achieve if we join our hearts and minds on whatever task is before us. Nothing can stop us if we work together.”
Stepps attended the news conference but declined to comment.