It is no secret that the last decade has been a difficult one for Pine Bluff. While we have witnessed some retail growth, the overall economic climate is much worse than it should be. We have simultaneously watched the specter of crime blanket the city with an epidemic of violence and destruction. All the while, the municipal leadership has grown increasingly entrenched, closed and seemingly removed from the problems. As such, we cannot continue the present course or condone the dominant philosophy of government.
In the spirit of making a positive change, we enthusiastically endorse the candidacy of Debe Hollingsworth for mayor of Pine Bluff.
With such a crowded field of contenders, the process of selecting the most fit candidate has not been easy. This endorsement comes as the result of multiple reporter interviews and observations of the respective candidates. Many of those seeking the mayoral office possess characteristics and experience that would well-serve our executive.
Even so, it is apparent that Hollingsworth, on balance, has the most material professional background, combined with an apparent steadfastness of character and evenness of temperament. Moreover, Hollingsworth has demonstrated a command of the critical local issues and an awareness of their interconnectedness.
In looking back over her performance at recent debates, we see that she showed a deep engagement with the realities of the community. Her grasp of the crime problem in particular bears mention. She clearly understands that neighborhood stability, education and economic opportunity are conjoined with crime. To the extent that any part of this equation suffers, the rest also suffer.
We would be remiss if we failed to mention the metaphorical elephant in the room of race. Some individuals have attempted to sell the idea that Pine Bluff as a minority-majority community must have an African-American mayor. This position obviates Hollingsworth’s candidacy. This position also emanates from a naïve racism that only serves to retard the development and evolution of our community. The supporters of the “black mayor” campaign would howl in horror were it suggested that a predominantly white community must have a white mayor. Yet, they see no folly in their own malformed view.
We do not need a black mayor, nor do we need a white mayor. We need an enlightened, informed and engaged mayor. We need a mayor that does not attract scandal. We need a mayor with the capacity to unite. We need a mayor with a demonstrated ability to disagree — calmly. We need a mayor who brings all parties to the table and who operates transparently, someone who doesn’t invite controversy through arrogance and lack of professionalism. By all indications, Hollingsworth appears to have the requisite mettle to meet these requirements.
To be sure, Hollingsworth will have her challenges. As a woman of some standing in the community, she will have to make the case that she is the mayor of the entire community, not just the business and moneyed interests of the old guard. On occasion, she may be called upon to demonstrate a willingness to “bite” the hand that “fed her” should old alliances bar the way to progress.
As someone of obvious conservatism, she will have to demonstrate a tolerance of liberals and other voices of dissent. Hollingsworth will have to show that a political outsider can function inside the often insular confines of a heretofore provincial city hall. She will have to force open the closed door of public government. She will have to select department heads and other subordinates that instill confidence in city hall.
While she won’t have to walk on water, she will have to float — and not because she’s using the rest of us as ballast. The current malaise of Pine Bluff will present a herculean challenge for whomever is our next mayor. Given the current options for that seat, Hollingsworth is clearly right choice.