August 2019 Magazine

In Revamped Cabinet, 7 of 15 Agency Heads Are Women


Gov. Asa Hutchinson’s recent reorganization of state government created 15 new cabinet-level state agencies, down from 42. Of the 15 agency directors who make up the governor’s new cabinet, seven are women, the most ever for cabinet-level positions in Arkansas.

Here’s a breakdown of Hutchinson’s new cabinet which includes Stacy Hurst, director of the freshly minted Department of Parks, Heritage & Tourism:

SECRETARY OF AGRICULTURE: Wes Ward has an agriculture business degree from Arkansas State University as well as a law degree and a master’s in agriculture/food law from the University of Arkansas. He is a former marine who served in Afghanistan and Jordan and served as a congressional field coordinator for several years.

SECRETARY OF COMMERCE: Mike Preston formerly served as executive director of the Arkansas Economic Development Commission, for which he traveled the globe promoting the state and attracting industry to relocate.

SECRETARY OF CORRECTIONS: Wendy Kelley is a lawyer who has led the Department of Corrections for four years and worked there for 13. She now holds the new combined post overseeing that department as well as the Parole Board and Department of Community Correction with responsibility for 80,000 prisoners, probationers and parolees.

SECRETARY OF EDUCATION: Johnny Key, former state legislator and senator, has been the commissioner of the Department of Education and now oversees the newly named Division of Elementary and Secondary Education.

SECRETARY OF ENERGY & ENVIRONMENT: Becky Keogh, who has an electrical engineering degree and worked in technical and managerial roles in government and industry, has headed the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality since 2015 and now heads this new division with an even bigger mandate.

SECRETARY OF FINANCE & ADMINISTRATION: Larry Walther is a former phone company executive who served as director of Economic Development under former Gov. Mike Huckabee as well as on the U.S. Trade Development Agency, which helps link American businesses to export opportunities.

SECRETARY OF HEALTH: Nathaniel Smith, M.D., is a long-distance runner who has been with the Health Department since 2004 and its director since 2014.

SECRETARY OF HUMAN SERVICES: Cindy Gillespie, considered a national leader in thought policy for health care, is a former health-care adviser to Mitt Romney in Massachusetts, where she helped develop the state template for what became the national Affordable Care Act.

SECRETARY OF DEPARTMENT OF THE INSPECTOR GENERAL: Elizabeth Thomas Smith is a lawyer who served as a deputy prosecuting attorney, assistant attorney general in civil litigation and then in employment litigation, health-care compliance and utility regulation for the University of Arkansas.

SECRETARY OF LABOR & LICENSING: Daryl Bassett has been the director of the Department of Workforce Services since 2014 and before that was the first-ever director of the Arkansas Fair Housing Commission.

SECRETARY OF THE MILITARY: Mark H. Berry, a retired Air Force major general, has been the state’s adjutant general for four years overseeing multiple natural disasters and commanding the state’s 10,000 men and women of the Air and Army National Guard.

SECRETARY OF PARKS, HERITAGE & TOURISM: Stacy Hurst held multiple political offices and appointments and has run the Department of Heritage and its multiple museums and land holdings for the last four years.

SECRETARY OF PUBLIC SAFETY: Jami Cook directed the state commission on law enforcement standards and now leads the new Division of Public Safety that includes oversight of the Arkansas State Police, state crime lab and the Department of Emergency Management.

SECRETARY OF TRANSFORMATION & SHARED SERVICES: Amy Fecher has nearly two decades of nonprofit and agency management experience and since 2016 has been the governor’s top aide, developing his transformation-of-services initiative. Her job combines the existing agencies responsible for information technology, geospatial information systems, personnel management, procurement, government buildings, employee benefits and the state budget.

SECRETARY OF VETERANS AFFAIRS: Nate Todd, a retired colonel who spent 37 years in the U.S. Army and Army Reserves, served as chief financial officer of Walter Reed Hospital. He has been director of the state’s Department of Veteran’s Affairs since early 2017. 

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