Editor’s note: This is the fifth in a series of articles on candidates for Pine Bluff mayor.
Steven Mays believes Pine Bluff’s future is brighter than its past and that he can help return the city to what he considers its “rightful spot.”
“We ought to be among the three largest cities in the state,” said the 51-year-old Pine Bluff Arsenal automation office clerk, who is serving his first term as a 4th Ward alderman. “The city has been falling behind since the 1980s, but we ought to be thriving, and we can be. You’ve got to want to succeed. You’ve got to believe in something for it to come true, and I believe in Pine Bluff.
“Some people believe that our best days are behind us, but they’re not,” he said. “Our best days are ahead. I believe that the day’s coming when our kids won’t be looking to go somewhere else when they complete their education, but wanting to stay here and make our town even better. That day isn’t far away. All it takes is the right leadership and people sharing in the right vision.”
Mays is so confident in his leadership abilities that he predicted if he’s elected, Pine Bluff — now the state’s ninth largest city with a 2010 population of 49,083 — would rapidly regain the 917 residents needed for it to return to a 50,000 plateau.
“We’ll do that within three years,” he said, “and we’ll keep on growing from there. We can work, play, live and prosper together with a growing tax base.”
“Within three years, we’ll be among the top three cities in public safety, image and jobs,” he replied. “Those three go hand in hand. Look, we’ve got lots of good people here, and they know we can’t let the bad about Pine Bluff outshine the good if we’re going to get back to where we ought to be.We’re going to turn things around the right way.”
Mays — opposed by Kent Broughton, Peter Daniels Jr., Clarence Davis, Debe Hollingsworth, John James Jr., incumbent Carl A. Redus Jr., Alderwoman Thelma Walker and Tim Whisenhunt — said he has a five-point action plan that will help ensure the progress.
“First, I’m going to reorganize city hall, and there will be some personnel changes made,” he said. “My second point is public safety, third is job creation, fourth is working with all people within the city and fifth is what I call a fix-it-now plan to get things done.
“We need the right personnel in place to make things go as they should,” he said, “and then we need to get the crime under control, which will automatically help with our image and give us a boost with new jobs. Everybody deserves the same access to elected officials and services, and my fix-it-now plan will help with that. If a problem is brought to our attention, we need to get it corrected now, not later when it’s grown even bigger. That saves trouble, time and money, and I believe I can get all of that in place within four years.”
Mays said that simply by giving police a “green light” and actively supporting officers in “cleaning the city” with a “zero-tolerance effort” existing businesses and industries would be expanding and new companies would be “competing to come to Pine Bluff.”
“We’ve got two colleges that can feed businesses and industries with trained, educated workers,” he said. “We can have people — white and black — wanting to move to Pine Bluff instead of moving away. City government and the police department and not the crooks ought to be running the city. The police can and will do their job if they’re supported. People need to feel safe in their homes again and when they’re out, too, and they ought to be able to be comfortable that their homes are safe when they’re away. If that happens, everything else will come together again.”
Mays said he is especially keen on enhancing school safety.
“I want to increase the number of resource officers at schools and have bicycle officers around each campus,” he said. “Kids need to focus on learning, not worrying about their safety. And I want parents to feel that their children are safe at school. Our first safe haven should always be our schools, and that includes classroom time, extra-curricular activities and after-school programs.”
Also, Mays wants to enhance public transportation and other programs to benefit the elderly and intends to direct “drastic downtown development.”
“Downtown Pine Bluff is a good investment opportunity for someone,” he said. “We need to make some improvements that will lead to new businesses and jobs and increase automobile and pedestrian traffic downtown. We’ve got some people with energy working on getting downtown up and going again, and if shoppers feel safe, they’ll come back.”
Mays lost six elections before winning his council post.
“But losing prepared me to win,” he said. “When I lost, I reasoned why I lost and put those lessons to work in looking forward to solving problems and helping others. I wanted the citizens to get to know and trust me, and they do now.”
If he had to summarize himself in a single word, it would be “opportunistic,” Mays said.
“I read something when I was just 16 years old and it’s stuck with me ever since,” he said. “I’ve memorized it — ‘Don’t search for opportunity in a distant place, realize and embrace it where you are.’ That’s who I am. That’s how I live my life.”