Pine Bluff Mayor-elect Debe Hollingsworth speaks to the Pine Bluff Rotary Club at the Pine Bluff Country Club Tuesday. (Special to The Commercial/William Harvey)
Pine Bluff Mayor-elect Debe Hollingsworth isn’t wasting any time as she prepares for her Jan. 1 swearing-in ceremony.
Hollingsworth — who defeated two-term incumbent Mayor Carl A. Redus Jr. and seven other opponents in the general election — will take her oath of office in her home at 12:05 a.m. on New Year’s Day.***
Addressing the Pine Bluff Rotary Club on Tuesday, Hollingsworth didn’t offer as many specifics as generalities in her plans.
Hollingsworth said she’s continuing her “amazing j0urney” that commenced with an 18-month campaign. She said that “Pine Bluff won” because the election was “not about a person” but rather “our city.”
“This election showed that we’re united,” she said.
Toward sharpening her readiness to take the mayoral reins, she said she’s continued to focus on her five platform issues — reducing crime, bettering city government, enhancing economic development, improving the city’s image and strengthening local education.
She said she has short- and long-term goals and hinted that one of the first changes she’ll implement will likely involve leadership at the police department.
“But I will not elaborate,” she said. “You can come up with your own conclusions.”
A former member of the now-defunct civil service commission, Hollingsworth has declined to respond to repeated questions on her intentions concerning Police Chief Brenda Davis-Jones, a questionable Redus appointee.
But Hollingsworth hasn’t concealed her hopes to have the civil service commission re-established. She restated that desire on Tuesday, saying she believes Pine Bluff’s public safety leadership “deserves to work in an environment free of city politics.”
She also will ensure that “new criteria” is utilized in the figuring of the police department’s monthly crime reports. Hollingsworth has often questioned the validity of the crime indexes indicating continuing declines in recent months. She said the public will be able to trust that future reports — whether showing increases or decreases — will be “factual.”
Hollingsworth said she will foster a united effort among churches to “reach out to elderly and needy citizens” in extending assistance to some persons who become lost in the shuffle of daily activity. She said 12 pastors have already jumped “on board” and the number is “growing.”
“If just half of the churches here join in this effort, can you imagine what it could be like in our community?” she asked.
She admitted she hasn’t become familiar with all of the numbers in the municipal budget, but projects that the city “must be as efficient as it can be” to maintain its current course in delivering on developments to be financed with “Penny for Progress” tax and bond issue revenues and heighten its pursuit of new employment possibilities.
Hollingsworth said the push for new jobs must include working closely with the Pine Bluff Regional Chamber of Commerce and Economic Development Alliance of Jefferson County. But she stressed that nothing is more important than the city achieving and maintaining a “healthy image” in public safety if it is to grow into a vibrant community.
Hollingsworth said she has secured the favor of a city promoter who will underwrite an education facilitator’s guidance to help the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff, Southeast Arkansas College and Pine Bluff public schools team in “becoming the best they can be.” She especially longs for UAPB and SEARK to devise “flexible curriculum.”
Hollingsworth said she’s eager to begin her administration and counting on the public’s input and support.
“We’re ready to get to work,” she said. “And we’re going to need everyone of you to work with us.”
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*** There has been a clarification to this article. Click here to view it.