Political newcomer Joni Alexander claimed an easy victory Tuesday and picked up the Democratic Party’s nomination for the Ward One seat on the Pine Bluff City Council, soundly defeating incumbent Thelma Walker.
Complete but unofficial results were:
Alexander 398 or 82.57 percent
Walker 84 or 17.43 percent
The winner will face Republican Jesse Turner in November. Alexander, who worked for former Pine Bluff Mayor Debe Hollingsworth, collected 577 votes during the primary. Walker received 404 votes. The third candidate in the race, Milton Jenkins, picked up 371 votes.
Alexander took the lead early, picking up 145 votes that were cast early to just 44 for Walker, and getting 16 absentee votes, twice as many as Walker.
A native of Pine Bluff and a graduate of Watson Chapel High School, Alexander received a degree from Virginia Commonwealth and taught English in Korea before returning to the city, where she created the Youth Engagement Service program and more recently has served as director of Student Achievement and Responsibility, which is modeled after the successful PARK program started by former professional football player Keith Jackson in Little Rock.
Alexander is also a graduate of the Candidates Development Institute conducted by the Pine Bluff Chamber of Commerce last year. Alexander said that when she came back to Pine Bluff after being away for several years, she found the city was “at a standstill.”
“God led me to this place,” she said of her return to Pine Bluff, adding that her experience working in the Hollingsworth administration has prepared her for a seat on the City Council.
“I learned how each department functioned,” Alexander said.
“The people have spoken,” said Glenda Daniels, mother of Alexander.
Walker said she was running on her record of being a “committed person to the elderly and to children, and I think things should be done fairly. The only way to make it work is to work together.”
While she said she was committed to children, a look at her voting record shows that she opposed Hollingsworth’s plans to renovate the Merrill Center.
“Our children deserve better,” Walker said. “If it’s renovated, it is what is it. I would rather have a new building.”
She has also opposed the Go Forward Pine Bluff initiative and the tax associated with it, saying their “plan for the future was not the way it was presented. It was presented as a five-eighths-cent sales tax, and the council would have the authority (to decide how the money was spent).”
Alexander is a staunch supporter of GFPB.
Walker said that instead of using the funds for projects proposed by Go Forward, “they should have had to apply just like any other entity that wanted money. There’s no money for children and the money is not being spent equally.”