A compromise on residency requirements for Pine Bluff’s city department heads was finally achieved June 3, putting to rest often-heated disagreement that ignited Jan. 1 when Mayor Debe Hollingsworth — shortly after being sworn in — fired former Police Chief Brenda Davis-Jones and appointed retired PBPD Lt. Jeff Hubanks to the post on an interim basis.
After months of bickering and objections to recommended new legislation on the matter among the mayor and council members, the issue came to a head with a compromise ordinance offered by Alderman Steven Mays at the June session. Supporting Mays’ measure were Aldermen Bill Brumett, Wayne Easterly and Lloyd Holcomb Jr. Aldermen Charles Boyd, Glen Brown and George Stepps and Alderwoman Thelma Walker were opposed.
The mayor broke the 4-4 tie with an affirming nod.
The ongoing hullabaloo and its eventual settlement was voted the No. 8 news story of the year by The Commercial’s editorial staff.
Mays’ compromise repealed previous ordinances and resolutions and stipulated that new administrators must reside within 12 miles of the city limit. Meanwhile, existing permanent and interim department heads were grandfathered from any restrictions.
Hubanks lives in neighboring Cleveland County, but within the required 12-miles.
Mays’ ordinance also defined an interim appointee as one whose service cannot exceed one calendar year in duration and stated that interim administrators can be hired to permanent positions.
Hollingsworth immediately initiated a national recruiting effort to find applicants for the permanent police chief’s job, which she had said she would not do until the residency issue had been clarified.
Hubanks was elevated to permanent status on Oct. 4.