On a chilly night four years ago, we rushed inside the Harbor Oaks Country Club to a jubilant scene: Debe Hollingsworth, a political novice, had just won the Pine Bluff mayoral seat. She beat former Mayor Carl A. Redus Jr., along with several other opponents, handily.
There were tears, hugs and laughter as the newly-elected mayor grabbed the microphone and pledged to give her all to our city.
And she did.
Mayor Hollingsworth began her work well before the election, campaigning hard for about a year leading up to the vote. She went door to door and developed a grass roots following the likes of which this city had never seen before. We can’t say what happened over the past four years that caused her to lose the most recent election — perhaps not enough of her supporters turned up to the polls — but from where we sit, it shouldn’t have been because of her job performance.
But what’s done is done. Right now, we want to take this opportunity to give a word of thanks to Mayor Hollingsworth for her service. Last night marked the final time she will preside over a City Council meeting. During her tenure, we believe our city has fared well. Crime is down, thanks to her hiring Jeff Hubanks to lead our police department, and our streets are a bit cleaner, thanks to programs she implemented with the police department. Additionally, our outlook for the days ahead is brighter than before she took office.
We know your job hasn’t been easy, Mayor Hollingsworth, what with a boisterous City Council and an uphill climb to bring Pine Bluff out of its decades-long doldrums, including high unemployment and poverty. There were times at City Council meetings when we wanted to stand up for you and say, “Hey, leave this woman alone. You aren’t showing her any respect.”
We won’t name names, but at least two aldermen have always been disrespectful toward you. But you always handled it with dignity and class. Mayor Hollingsworth, we will miss those stern gavel pounds you were forced to make several times when said aldermen would not stop being rude. We will also miss how readily available you have been to the media. That’s a rarity among many politicians these days.
We hope you will still be involved in our city as a resident. We need someone like you to help stand up for what’s right. And, most important, we need your ideas on how to make Pine Bluff a better place for all.
So as you clear out your office and head home before our new mayor takes control of the city, remember that what you did as this city’s leader mattered. You will be missed.