When you strip away all the political drama in Pine Bluff, the race really boils down to nine people from the same town who all say they want to move Pine Bluff forward, but how they plan to do that is as different as they are.
Incumbent Mayor Carl Redus says he runs on his record. During his eight years in office, Redus says he may be most proud of his work to get the tax initiative 'Penny for Progress' implemented which he credits for improving the city's financial stability. If elected again, the community and aquatics center would be a priority in his term.
Another familiar face is Alderwoman Thelma Walker. She says her first 30 days would be dedicated to going in and evaluating departments. Walker would establish clear timelines so as not to lose grant funding for projects. She also wants to make use of the web site to highlight the city and businesses .
Fourth Ward Alderman Steven Mays says he would begin his term by meeting with all city department heads. He believes reorganizing city hall and putting the best people in the right places will help the city's image, an image he wants to change within his first two years in office.
In sharp contrast to those recognizable names of Pine Bluff politics is Tim Whisenhunt. Pursuing a political science degree at UAPB, Whisenhunt says his vision varies significantly from the current mayor. During his first 30 days Whisenhunt would hire an economic development consultant to bring businesses to the city. He'd also ask local business leaders for more input in city hall. Finally, Whisenhunt would bring back the Civil Service Commission.
Former Marine Sgt. John James sees his lack of political connection as an advantage. James believes fresh ideas are what the city needs. Commanding men during Operation Iraqi Freedom, he says prepared him for any challenge this office might bring. During his first 30 days James plans to focus on involving youth in civil services and working with landlords to bring folks into abandoned houses.
Though Kent Broughton is new to politics, he's not new to government. Broughton was formerly the president of UAPB's Student Government Association. Broughton places emphasis on the youth issues in the community. He draws from his experience as a youth advocate for the Child Defense Fund.
Debe Hollingsworth, a familiar face in the pine bluff business community would begin her term by taking stock of each city department and learning about its structure. For some departments that could include hiring a forensic accountant, if budget allows. Hollingsworth says the first priority of a new mayor is to understand the ins and outs of the city, after that, to make decisions.
Clarence Davis also comes to the political arena from a business background. He believes his experience building a company will help him build Pine Bluff's business community. Davis says his first agenda in office would be re-shaping the city's image. After evaluating the departments, Davis says he would find a way to hire new city employees and begin a positive image campaign to attract business.
Peter Daniels, a native of Pine Bluff is best known as editor of 'The Banner.' Covering the city as a journalist has made his primary interest as mayor one of public safety. Daniels says during his first 30 days he would find a way to increase the salaries of the police and fire departments to competitive levels, which he believes would lower the attrition rates. He would also work with the city council and school board on youth development, because he says the majority of crime in the city is committed by 16-28 year olds.
It's pretty clear by looking at the backgrounds of this diverse bunch that Pine Bluff voters are well represented with these candidates. There will have to be a choice, but it's the options that make this election an example of democracy at it's finest.