Debe Hollingsworth: The New Mayor In a Troubled Town

by George Waldon  on Monday, Feb. 25, 2013 12:00 am  

Debe Hollingsworth (Photo by Michael Pirnique)

Debe Hollingsworth decided to make a bold move and broaden her mission work to include the political arena in 2011.

Frustrated with the direction her city was going, the grandmother of four made the leap from civic-church volunteer and businesswoman to Pine Bluff mayoral candidate.

Recent unfavorable rankings have listed Pine Bluff among the most im-poverished cities in America. The Pine Bluff Metropolitan Statistical Area, which encompasses Jefferson, Cleveland and Drew counties, was named among the most dangerous in the nation and the fastest-declining MSA population in Arkansas.

“I realized that I was at a point in my life where I wanted to be part of a solution,” said Hollingsworth, 60. “Our city was not advancing the way I thought it should. When I offered suggestions, it fell on deaf ears.”

Though a political novice, she understood the art of constituency building and set about winning over fellow citizens with her love for Pine Bluff and her zeal to make things better for its 48,000-plus residents.

Her grassroots campaign was founded on 18 months of meet-and-greets that helped her build support and connect with neighborhood leaders.

The campaign interaction also helped Hollingsworth develop a five-point platform that resonated with voters: reduce crime and improve economic development, city government, the image of Pine Bluff and education.

“Neighborhood revitalizing and stability equate to educational stability,” she said in explaining the city’s role in improving education. “I have a huge passion for children.”

Hollingsworth was swept into office Nov. 6 with such a strong electoral wave that no runoff vote was required, despite a ballot of nine candidates.

That competitive field included two-term incumbent Carl Redus Jr., the city’s first black mayor.

She is the first woman to serve as Pine Bluff’s mayor since Carolyn Robinson was elected in 1984.

Holding what she considers a mandate for radical change, Hollingsworth started her first day in office with a bang by firing the chief of police.

 

 

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