Pine Bluff Mayor Debe Hollingsworth maintained that her administration has made significant strides in improving the lives of residents in her State of the City Address on Monday night at the Pine Bluff Convention Center.
“As I reflect back on the past 13 months as your mayor and look forward to the next three years there is a common thread that ties all of our community efforts together,” Hollingsworth said. “We are investing in our people, especially our children, and in our place. Cities that invest in themselves will succeed and move forward.”
Hollingsworth said that Pine Bluff is strong and will get stronger.
“Sometimes I have to pinch myself to be sure I’m not dreaming,” Hollingsworth said. “I am the mayor of one of the most amazing cities in the state of Arkansas. We have a city with endless possibilities. The state of our city is very strong and we are thankful for that.”
Hollingsworth listed her administration’s accomplishments on the issues of improving the image of the city; developing a business-friendly atmosphere that attracts new jobs; assisting with the development of an improved education system; public safety; and building a positive culture for youth.
“When it comes to economic development the old rules such as obtaining a piece of land with a 50,000-square-foot building and enhanced tax incentives is not enough anymore,” Hollingsworth said. “In order to attract our next major industry we must be able to show the prospective investor that we are a unified body that can make sound civic decisions. We must have signs of growth in our neighborhoods and a vibrant downtown that lets all investors know that those of us who live here feel that our city is worthy of their investment.”
Hollingsworth said her administration is working to restore much of Pine Bluff’s lost manufacturing capacity.
“Our main focus is and will continue to be on economic development, public safety, education and quality of life for all citizens of Pine Bluff,” Hollingsworth said. “This focus is our GPS by which we can continue our process toward the ultimate goal of building our city to once again be the commercial hub for southeast Arkansas.”
Hollingsworth highlighted the partnership between the City of Pine Bluff and the Pine Bluff School District in the summer of 2013 that provided more than 300 students with a summer school program that provided both traditional courses and cultural experiences.
“In 2014 Pine Bluff can also look forward to continuing partnerships with our three local school districts, UAPB and SEARK to support the development of our educational system,” Holllingsworth said.
In the area of public safety, Hollingsworth touted an 18 percent decrease in crime attributed in part to the Problem Oriented Policing program introduced in 2013.
“Citizens on Patrol had a banner year in 2013,” Hollingsworth said. “The last class of this year consisted of 18 women volunteering their time to be trained to become the eyes and ears for the PBPD. In 2013 we also saw the rebirth of our Support Abatement with Fines and Enforcement, or SAFE, team which saw the police department literally go out into the neighborhoods and conduct SAFE team sweeps.”
Hollingsworth said the SAFE teams had three primary purposes: to inform citizens of city rules and regulations; to clean up the streets and ditches and to promote the development of neighborhood watch programs in these areas.
“One of the greatest accomplishments for the Pine Bluff Fire & Emergency Services was the upgrade to a Class 2 ISO rating,” Hollingsworth said. “This is the result of a multi-year effort by Fire Chief Shauwn Howell and our entire fire department. It is having a positive effect on insurance premiums for all of our citizens.”
Finally, in terms of building a positive culture for young people in Pine Bluff, Hollingsworth noted the success in 2013 of the Mayor for a Day program.
“We received a total of 25 applicants and four were selected for the month of May,” Hollingsworth said. “They had a great time. They shadowed us and sat in on meetings. The Human Resources Department supported our youth with their annual Summer Youth Program, which employed and trained 180 youth to serve at our social agencies, daycare centers, Parks and Recreation centers, PBPD day camp, county departments and city departments.”