Turrell Mayor Dorothy Cooper never dreamed of serving in public office and through the first 46 years of her life she didn’t. She ran and won the mayor’s job in Turrell in 2014, and now she is seeking a higher office. She will challenge incumbent State Sen. Keith Ingram, D-West Memphis, in the Democratic primary next year.
“I would have never imagined I would go into politics,” she told Talk Business & Politics. “This is a God-given assignment.”
Cooper, 51, previously worked at the now shutdown Turrell school district for 20 years. She worked as the city clerk in Gilmore prior to her election in the Crittenden County town of about 660 residents.
During her tenure, she has able to acquire almost $1 million in grant funds for her hometown, she said. A library has been built, streets have been repaired, the water system has been stabilized, and she was able to procure a grant from the Arkansas Parks and Tourism Department to build a basketball court at the city park.
“I just love driving by the park and seeing those young people playing basketball … it gives them something to do,” she said. “It warms my heart.”
Cooper is well-known in her hometown for walking the streets picking up liter and trash in an attempt to beautify the town. Often she can be found in the city’s ditches removing refuse.
“People will stop and ask ‘Is that the mayor down in that ditch?’” she said. “I tell them ‘Yes it is.’ I work hard and I don’t take no for an answer.”
If she wins the nomination, and takes the seat, Cooper said she will work to improve the education and economic systems in the impoverished Delta. She has driven through many dying towns in the region, and says the situation for some communities is bleak.
Water systems are in severe disrepair, school consolidation forces many students in the region to ride buses for hours a day, and in areas job creation is non-existent. These issues have to be addressed, she said.
Cooper said she doesn’t have anything against Ingram and she wishes him well. This run for the seat isn’t “against anyone,” it’s just something she felt compelled to do.
“I really do think this is a calling from God,” she said.