Fourth District Congressman Bruce Westerman said Tuesday that it’s going to take everybody working together to change things in Pine Bluff.
Speaking at Coffee with the Chiefs, sponsored by Interested Citizens for Voter Registration, Westerman, a native of Hot Springs and a Republican, recalled the time when the Majestic Hotel in that city burned, resulting in a downturn, but said things are now looking up again.
“The owner of the Arlington Hotel has announced he is going to spend several million dollars redoing it, and Senator John Boozman (R-Arkansas) and I recently went to the opening of the 100th new business in Hot Springs since the fire.”
The meeting was held at the Pine Bluff Country Club, which also hosted Coffee with the Chiefs when Westerman spoke last year.
“This is bittersweet,” he said. “The last time this was held downstairs and (the late) Jay Dickey walked down the stairs and sat down on the stairs. He did a great job representing his faith and his community. He did a lot of things to make life better and to make the community better.”
Westerman, who is seeking reelection, said that beginning in the late 1980’s, he began teaching Sunday School at Hot Springs, something he still does, coming home from Washington on the weekends.
“You have to learn to deal with the small things because you don’t get too many Hail Mary’s or grand slams or slam dunks,” he said. “You’ve got to keep marching on.”
Regarding Pine Bluff specifically, Westerman said the city has all the things necessary for good economic conditions, including access to the river, the railroad and highways.
“If you can get the economic side going, you’re going to see a bright future,” he said.
Asked what could be done specifically to bring the city back, Westerman said the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff is a “huge asset. If the college and the city could work together things will get better but if we continue to export all our talent, things are not going to get better.”
Westerman was also asked about public transportation, specifically about the possibility of passenger train service into the city, and the restoration of commercial bus service.
As a member of the U.S. House Transportation Committee, he said he would look into those suggestions.