Hollingsworth says city has “new beginning”

New Pine Bluff Mayor Debe Hollingsworth said Tuesday that the the residents of Pine Bluff are “officially launching a new beginning for our city.”

During a public swearing-in ceremony in City Council Chambers, Hollingsworth said “This new beginning will be seen by all as a city that has clearly bridged the gap between racial and gender lines, uniting for a great cause, our people, our citizens and our children.”

Court of Appeals Judge Waymond Brown administered the oath of office to Hollingsworth for the second time Tuesday. The first was at her residence at 12:05 a.m.

Hollinsworth dominated a nine-candidate field in the November general election that included two-term incumbent Carl A. Redus Jr., winning without a runoff.

As she did during the campaign, Hollingsworth focused Tuesday on a multi-tier platform that included public safety, economic development, the city’s image, education and youth.

Regarding public safety, Hollingsworth said that after listening to the voters during her campaign, one of her first actions would be to introduce legislation to reinstate the Civil Service Commission, which was abolished by a vote of the city council last year.

“This commission will once again provide what you, the people of Pine Bluff have asked for,” she said. “A neutral, non-political environment for hiring, promotions, dealing with grievances and terminations for our police and fire departments. This change will be going before the city council soon and it continues to be one of the key components with regard to economic development, a healthy public service division.”

Hollingsworth said “healthy, safe neighborhoods” are a key to increasing the tax base in the city, and her administration “will work hand in hand with other agencies to get crime under control.”

Noting that a large percentage of the businesses in the city are small businesses, she promised to work with local businesses to “streamline the city’s regulatory process so entrepreneurs who want to create good-paying jobs can count on timely and predictable responses to their requests from the city. We will work with new businesses to help control their fixed costs from the city as they move toward expanding their businesses.

“Starting today, we will become active partners with the Economic Development Alliance, the Pine Bluff Regional Chamber of Commerce and the Southeast Arkansas Economic Development District,” Hollingsworth said. “We will utilize the resources of these agencies and assist them in their efforts of promoting our city’s valuable assets as we continue to market Pine Bluff as a natural hub for manufacturers.”

She promised an administration that will be “transparent” by maintaining an open dialogue, and will establish a weekly radio show, allowing people to call in and ask questions.

“And if I don’t know the answer, I will find out the answer,” Hollingsworth said.

Hollingsworth also plans to establish what she called a “Citizens Advisory Committee,” representing all segments of the community “to help us communicate with you, and to exchange ideas.”

Regarding the image of the city, Hollingsworth said “It’s time to do away with the old attitude ‘this is not my problem’ and replace it with yes we are responsible as a community and yes we can fix the problems. Our community’s image is a direct reflection of our attitudes of today, so the new image and new way of thinking begins with me, our city council, other elected officials, and each of you, the citizens.

“It’s time we place a special emphasis on rebuilding our neighborhoods, understanding the real heart and soul of our city is its neighborhoods,” she said. “Creating stability and revitalizing our community will ultimately translate to educational and economic stability. This will ultimately define Pine Bluff’s character and our residents’ quality of life.

Hollingsworth described education as a “key component to reducing crime, increasing our skilled workforce for economic growth and transforming the image of the city.

“Recently, PIne Bluff rallied to the cause of electing new school board members for the open positions,” she said. “This marked a historic moment with regards to ensuring a quality education for our children. Now, as adults, parents and citizens, we must understand our role with continuing this momentum in helping every child take that next step to their future. As a community, we cannot afford to get a failing grade.”

She also said she would establish a “Youth Advisory Committee.”

“To truly understand the needs and desires of our youth today, we must as a city empower and engage our youth,” Hollingsworth said.

In closing, Hollingsworth said “Pine Bluff is a unique city. We are diverse and unified. We have the momentum with us and now we must ride this wave of excitement.

“We have a long way to go and now our work begins,” Hollingsworth said. “Together we can make it happen.”

Also Tuesday, Hollingsworth announced that the new assistant to the mayor will be Evelyn Horton.