Pine Bluff and Jefferson County leaders are counting their Thanksgiving blessings this year, with many being thankful for family and health.
Watson Chapel School District Superintendent Connie Hathorn said he is thankful for doing work that matters and for his family and health.
“I am thankful for the things in my past, which helped bring me where I am today,” Hathorn said via email. “Lastly, and most importantly, I am thankful for grace. I constantly remind myself ‘If it wasn’t for the grace of God, there go I.’”
White Hall School District Interim Superintendent Doug Dorris said he is thankful for his family, wife, children, grandchildren, the White Hall School District and his community.
“I am thankful for our country and the men and women who have fought and continue to fight to keep us free,” Dorris said.
Dollarway School District Superintendent Barbara Warren is grateful for so much.
“I am most thankful for my relationship with The Lord, my dear husband and children, and the opportunity to serve others through my work and in other areas in my life,” Warren said via email.”
Pine Bluff Alderman Bill Brumett is thankful for his family.
“I recently lost my mother,” Brumett said. “It was nice having all my family gather around to support each other.”
Pine Bluff Mayor Shirley Washington said she is always thankful for health, home, family, friends and good food.
“At this season as I look at where I sit in Pine Bluff, I am thankful that the citizens of Pine Bluff are coming together with a spirit of unity and positive gratitude for the changes that are on the horizon for our city: Pine Bluff, Arkansas,” Washington said.
Jefferson County Judge Henry “Hank” Wilkins IV said he is “most grateful for his faith in Jesus Christ, my family and the opportunity to serve the people of Jefferson County.”
He said that he plans more improvements in the coming months that will benefit not only county employees but also all county residents.
Pine Bluff Police Chief Ivan Whitfield is thankful that God has allowed life to be as well as it is in times like the present in Pine Bluff.
“When we look at the conditions of the world, we are blessed,” Whitfield said. “I am thankful for opportunities and I am thankful for our strength, health and right mind. I am thankful to God who has allowed me to be in a position to help people. I am thankful for family, friends and the entire community.”
White Hall Mayor Noel Foster said he is thankful for his health and his family’s health and the people of White Hall.
“We live in a small community,” Foster said. “People here care about each other in our community.”
Pine Bluff Fire and Emergency Services Chief Shauwn Howell said he is thankful for his health, family, and supporters of his endeavors on a personal and professional level.
“I receive overwhelming support on a daily basis,” Howell said. “I am thankful for the opportunity that was bestowed upon me to be the fire chief. It is a collective effort among all the members of the Pine Bluff Fire and Emergency Services Department. It is not a one-man show. I am thankful for our men and women who come to work each day and perform at a high level.”
Pine Bluff High School art teacher Shalisha Thomas said she is thankful for her support system.
“As a teacher, it’s not always easy,” Thomas said. “But I always have my family and my friends to back me up. And even my students are a great support to me.”
Former Alderman Glen Brown Sr., who remains active in the local political scene, said that he is “thankful every day for the breath of life and I pray the world will turn into a better place. On Thanksgiving, I usually work in the morning. On my way home, I pull to the side of the road and give thanks for family, friends and the breath of life. I do this every Thanksgiving. I make a special thanks for being alive. I wish everybody could be very peaceful. We eat special foods on Thanksgiving and Christmas. I think we do a good job as a city and country. Every day we need to give thanks for the breath of life.”
Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office Major Lafayette Woods Jr. said he is thankful for life.
“There is so much going on in 2017 and in earlier years,” Woods said. “We live in perilous times. Tomorrow is not promised to anyone. I am thankful for the ability to have been able to do the things I wanted in life. During times like this, I have been close to several organizations and been able to give back to others who are less fortunate. I spent time with a nonprofit organization Koal to Diamond, a graduate chapter of Kappa Alpha Psi, to collect money to buy a Thanksgiving meal for less fortunate people.
“I have learned that to live life with meaning means living life with gratitude. Thanksgiving is a time to be grateful we receive every day. I feel like we take it for granted when you do not wonder where your next meal will come from. I do not have that problem. I am pleased to be in a position to give back to someone who is less fortunate. All my family is here. My siblings who live out of town will be coming in.”
Pine Bluff Treasurer Greg Gustek is thankful for Pine Bluff voters approving Go Forward Pine Bluff, a five-eighths cent sales tax increase to spur economic revitalization. He is also thankful for Pine Bluff Rising and the nonprofit Lake Saracen Project Association, of which he is the treasurer. The Lake Saracen Project Association was one of the organizations that oversaw the construction of the Lake Saracen Trail.
“All these things that are happening are positive,” Gustek said. “We are turning the town around. We’re going in the right direction. Being a hometown boy, it’s very special for me.”
Go Forward Pine Bluff is a public-private partnership. Its supporters say it will improve Pine Bluff through quality of life, education, economic development and government infrastructure.
Joy Blankenship is the executive director of Pine Bluff Downtown Development and chairman of the Lake Saracen Project Association. She said she is thankful for the growth that is occurring in downtown Pine Bluff.
“I am very thankful for all the citizens who voted for Go Forward Pine Bluff, to help us do things for the city,” Blankenship said. “And I am very thankful for family.”
Pine Bluff Commercial reporter Ray King contributed to this report.