Washington declares another run for mayor

Pine Bluff Mayor Shirley Washington

Pine Bluff Mayor Shirley M. Washington formally announced her candidacy for reelection.

“Seven years ago, I faced a choice. As a person of faith, an educator, and a lifelong citizen of Pine Bluff, I saw our community heading down the wrong path. Because of my sincere beliefs in our community, I decided to do something I had never done before — run for public office. As mayor of Pine Bluff, seven years later, thanks to the faith, outpouring of support, and resilience of this community, I believe tangible change has been delivered,” she said in a news release.

Wash ing ton touted progress made during her time in office.

“Where buildings were once vacant and collapsing, we now have a 21st century library and learning center. We have constructed the best aquatic center in the state. We have a new high performing elementary school. In the heart of Pine Bluff’s central neighborhoods, we have given our youth the facility they deserve by remodeling the Pine Bluff Community Center. We have created a seed-to-table community garden on Cherry Street. We have upgraded the seating, lighting, and fencing at several parks. We have provided hundreds of jobs to young people from around the community by expanding the Summer Youth Employment Program,” she said.

The mayor also pointed to progress in public safety.

“We have raised salaries for first responders to make our police and fire departments more competitive, increasing our ability to fight crime and safeguard residents. Through our partnership with Enterprise, we have expanded our police fleet so that all patrol officers now have take-home police vehicles, increasing law enforcement visibility throughout our neighborhoods to deter criminal activity. We have remodeled the Detective Kevin D. Collins Center to provide the police department a new training facility.

“We have initiated the Group Violence Intervention (GVI) Program, a new and innovative approach to tackling the crisis of violent crime in Pine Bluff. It is an evidence based strategy that has succeeded in other communities and can succeed here too,” Washington said.

The city also secured $32 million in federal funding to reduce flooding throughout Pine Bluff, provided assistance to Underwater Seafood to support the relocation of their restaurant to Main Street, and worked directly with commercial developers to secure a new Chick-Fil-A for Pine Bluff.

“To put it simply, while our city is far from perfect, Pine Bluff is better than it was when I took office. To keep this momentum alive, and to build upon the evolving needs of residents, we still have so much more to do. That’s why after much prayer and reflection, I am proud to formally announce my candidacy for re-election as mayor of the city of Pine Bluff,” Washington said.

“Progress is never perfect. It can bring challenges that tempt us to lose hope. In fact, I believe it’s often when people begin to rise toward new opportunities that they are faced with their greatest challenges. However, we cannot lose faith in each other or our community. We cannot turn back now after we have come so far and when so much is at stake,” she said.

The mayor is running to continue building on the vision that led her to public service.

“Our young people deserve to grow up in a community that is full of opportunities to thrive. That is why I will continue working to develop programs and provide resources to our youth. This would include an effort to make a year-round Youth Employment Program to prepare our young people for future careers. It would also involve working with the police department, juvenile court, county sheriff ’s office, prosecuting attorney, local schools, state law enforcement, and other community partners to implement the GVI Program effectively. Our families also need affordable housing and safe neighborhoods. That’s why I will strive to ensure the completion of the Flats on Sixth and more affordable housing projects across the city,” she said.

Washington also believes the city must take care of the most vulnerable in the community.

“Toward this effort, the city is now remodeling the old First Ward School building and turning the facility into a transitional center, the Opportunity House, for people who are homeless. It will have programs to put them on a path to independence and stability. We have identified an operator, and the center is expected to open in 2024. I’m running to make sure this project is successful and to support other projects that embrace people who are homeless in Pine Bluff,” she said.

She also made other pledges such as working to improve parks and streets.

“I will also work to continue investing in our Parks and Recreation department so more neighborhoods can have places to gather and enjoy, so that outdated equipment can be replaced and upgraded. I will work with the street department and engineers to re-innovate the city’s approach to fixing and maintaining our streets. I will also continue the city’s recruitment efforts to attract new employers and commercial development to Pine Bluff, as we did with Chick-Fil-A, so that residents can have more places to shop, find entertainment, and take their families to sit-down restaurants.

“The years to come will not always be easy. But with your continued faith and support, I know that we can take on our toughest challenges together and continue to see unprecedented success. I ask for your vote in the March 5th primary in 2024, and for your continued support in our work to make Pine Bluff a place we’re all proud to call home,” Washington said.