Those who figure he might be bitter after voters on Tuesday rejected his bid for a third term are wrong, Pine Bluff Mayor Carl A. Redus Jr. said Friday.
But he admits he’s disappointed that he “won’t be able to see to completion” a number of “initiatives that I’ve started.”
“I anticipated a runoff, but the citizens wanted to make a change,” said Redus, who finished a distant second to political novice Debe Hollingsworth. “I was surprised in as much as I didn’t expect the outcome. But the fact that I had eight opponents is indicative of the divide-and-conquer strategy that has been used in this community for quite some time.”
Redus, who said he suspects Hollingsworth spent “at least $75,000 and probably over $100,000” in her campaign, will leave office in January after completing a second four-year term. A third term would have qualified him for the city’s 10-year retirement plan for elected officials.
Redus said he believes “misunderstanding” concerning his recent failed lawsuit probably contributed to his downfall. Redus had sought a two-year extension on his current term with a new election schedule based on the city’s declining population.
“But I want to thank the citizens for the opportunity to serve them for eight years,” he said, saying their confidence in his “ability, skills and vision” has allowed him to “fulfill my dream of returning to and leading my hometown.”
“Eight years is a long time in public service here,” he added, sounding somewhat tired as his voice began to fade.
Redus also thinks many voters were possibly displeased with him because of his unwavering support of controversial Police Chief Brenda Davis-Jones.
“That may have played a part in the election results, but I haven’t had time to analyze everything,” he said.
“But I will say that she is as much if not more committed to fighting and reducing crime as any chief or officer I’ve ever worked with,” he said. “She is dedicated to the youth of this community and even though my opponents and other critics don’t seem to understand how to read statistics, crime was down here for 10 consecutive months. She deserves a lot of credit for that achievement.
“A mayor’s job is to foster the environment of the city he serves,” Redus said. “I focused on fighting crime.”
The mayor was critical of The Commercial, which has been critical of him and Davis-Jones in editorials.
“I can’t say that The Commercial’s coverage has been fair,” he said. “I don’t think it practices the type of journalism that is fair and just to elected officials and many of their appointees. I’ve never read anything positive in The Commercial about the Redus administration or our city council.
“I think that kind of disservice has a lot to do with the negative image from which this community has suffered,” he continued. “I’ve never seen another newspaper that reported the news like The Commercial does.
“But I worked around that. In politics, you have to let things come and go. I’m a man of action. I get things done. I didn’t dwell on the newspaper’s negativity. I remained focused on bringing about solutions.”
Redus said if he could change anything about his failed re-election campaign, it would be to have started it earlier.
“But when you’re busy serving in the job you were elected to do, you don’t always have campaign opportunities,” he said.
And he wishes he hadn’t had to experience his mother’s death. Bessie Mae Brown Redus died Aug. 19 at the age of 87.
“I know there’s nothing I could have done to change that,” he said, “but that was a difficult time for my family and me. The death of a family member is a personal loss, but as far as my campaign was concerned, the timing was even more tragic. Her transition lifted a load off of her family’s shoulders, but it was nevertheless a sad time for my family and me and took time away from the campaign.”
So, with his reign as mayor drawing to a close, what’s ahead for Redus and his family?
“I haven’t given my future much thought lately,” he said. “I’ve been too busy. First, I’ll see my term through, but then I’m going to take some time for me and my family. My wife (city parks and recreation department employee Trudy Redus) has made it plain that she’s ready for us to spend more time together.
“I expect Trudy will stay in her job,” he continued. “She enjoys it and serves the community well. I’ve got some real estate holdings and I’ll get involved in that, and I’ll be working on liquidating my mother’s estate. I’ll continue to serve the city however I can, and I’ll be following the (University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff) Golden Lions.”
He predicts he’ll be exiting the mayor’s office “on a high note.”
“I believe I’ll be leaving the city in a better condition than it was when I took over,” he said. “You never heard me say anything negative about Pine Bluff. You never will. I love this city and all the good people who are as proud as I am that it’s their home. I chose to come back and help move our city forward, and that’s the course I’ll remain on.”