Editor’s note: This is the eighth in a series of articles on candidates for Pine Bluff mayor.
Debe Hollingsworth believes Pine Bluff needs to be steered into a new direction, and figures her business background could best fuel the venture.
The mother of four and grandmother of four has no political experience, but doesn’t see that lacking as a problem should she be elected mayor. She said she may have to familiarize herself with some governmental regulations, but thinks she’s already well-versed on the basic concepts of the mayor’s job because of her business knowledge.
“A mayor has to budget and manage, but most importantly a mayor has to lead,” she said. “Those are learned skills. I’ve budgeted, managed and led businesses, and I would run the city as if it’s a business because in large part that’s what it is. It’s income and expenses. I’ll run it in an accountable, transparent, efficient manner.”
The Jonesboro native declined to give her age, but voting records indicate she is 60. She is a graduate of Jonesboro High School and Melton School of Business in Jonesboro. She attended Arkansas State University there.
In addition to being a leader in her family’s Hoover Oil Company, which had multiple wholesale and retail stores here and in Texas and employed up to 300 associates during a 32-year period, Hollingsworth said she also has experience in banking and investments. After moving to Pine Bluff in 1975, she worked in the investment department of Simmons First National Bank. After serving as a state bank examiner, she worked as an investment adviser and stockbroker at Stephens Investment Group and Worthern Bank and Trust Company.
Hollingsworth said that while she’s proud of her business history, her personal faith has also been a source of strength.
“The reason I’m running is my faith — my walk and my journey as a Christian,” said the First United Methodist Church missions director. “I’ve been led by God to run for mayor. It’s hard to explain, but that’s the way I feel.”
Hollingsworth – whose opponentsare Kent Broughton, Peter F. Daniels Jr., Clarence Davis, John James Jr., Alderman Steven Mays, incumbent Carl A. Redus Jr., Alderwoman Thelmas Walker and Tim Whisenhunt — said her primary focus as mayor would be on crime, economic development, city government and services, Pine Bluff’s image and education.
She has short- and long-term plans on fighting crime and said she doesn’t believe the police department’s current crime reports, which have indicated declines in the overall crime rate for 11 consecutive months.
“I believe you can make those numbers look like anything you want them to,” she said. “The only numbers I look at are in homicides. You can see by the number of homicides we have what our other problems are.”
A former member of the disbanded civil service commission, she said “the very first thing I would do is to reinstitute” the panel.
“You need the civil service commission for the fire and police departments to be free of political influence,” she said.
On the subject of economic development, Hollingsworth thinks “the three key components” in netting new jobs and bringing in new industries and businesses are reducing crime, enhancing public education and stabilizing neighborhoods.
“Those would be my primary assignments as mayor, and they would also help with our image,” she said.
Hollingsworth said she would energize the public schools, Southeast Arkansas College and the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff by providing support through a partnership with the city.
”I believe our children deserve the best education available because they’re the future,” she said. “Children are a passion of mine, and I will be the voice of 39.5 percent of our children who are currently living below the extreme poverty level.”
She proposes that a smart play in economic enhancement would be aiding existing small businesses and believes helping in the revitalization of the downtown district would lend to that cause.
“We need a strong downtown,” she said.
Hollingsworth, who resided in Memphis for three years but has otherwise lived here since 1975, said she has developed a management style during her professional life and would employ it as mayor. If elected, she would “critique” the various city departments to determine if they were being properly led and serving as they should.
“There could be some personnel changes,” she said.