Gov. Asa Hutchinson has appointed a new cabinet member to head up the state’s corrections department. Solomon Graves has been named to serve as the next Arkansas Department of Corrections secretary.
On Thursday, July 23, Hutchinson announced at his daily press conference that he was naming Graves to the role. He cited Graves’ background in corrections as the motivation behind his decision.
“Solomon is an Arkansan – he has a career within corrections, both in community corrections…and then in the Division of Corrections, where he has served in communications [and] as chief of staff. So, a broad background in corrections that he brings. In addition, he has served on my transformation advisory group, working for the transformation of state government. He’s been an instrumental advisor in my administration for the last five years,” Hutchinson said.
According to his LinkedIn profile, Graves has served as the Arkansas Department of Corrections chief of staff since July 2019 and served as a public information officer for the Arkansas Department of Corrections from March 2016 to June 2019.
He served as an analyst and later as an administrator with the Arkansas Parole Board. His analyst role was from October 2007 to July 2010, and the administrator role was from July 2010 to March 2017.
After receiving his cabinet pin from Hutchinson, Graves said he was looking forward to beginning the role once he is confirmed.
“I’m both humbled and honored by the faith shown in me by Gov. Hutchinson this afternoon through his announcement of his recommendation that I serve as the next Secretary of the Arkansas Department of Corrections,” he said. “I look forward to meeting with the Board of Corrections in the coming days as they consider the governor’s recommendation and upon their confirmation, serving in this role.”
Graves told reporters that he will be focusing on improving public safety and efficiency in the department. “My commitment to them is that we will remain focused on public safety, successful offender re-entry, and working together to meet our various challenges and to improve efficiency of our service to every Arkansan.”
“Our focus is going to remain on public safety [and] offender re-entry while also maximizing the resources we are receiving. Corrections is a high-need area within state government. We have to be good stewards of our resources and understand, at times, shifting our focus also means realigning our priorities, taking a step back, determining what we’re doing, is it a best practice, implementing those best practices, and moving away from those things that aren’t necessarily reflective of best practice,” he said later in the press conference.
Hutchinson said that he has charged Graves with evaluating the Department of Corrections and transforming it to increase efficiencies. He chose Graves for the secretary positon partly based on his experiences on the Transformation Transition Team, a group of 16 state officials who oversaw the reduction of cabinet-level state agencies from 42 to 15.
“In terms of the challenge that Secretary Solomon – if I might call him that – will face is the transformation, bringing the community corrections and the corrections together. They have one mission with some separate functions there,” he said. “We want to develop the culture of one department there – Community and Division of Corrections, working together. I believe that will lead to efficiency – it already has.
Graves will be replacing Wendy Kelley as the department’s secretary. Kelley announced abruptly announced her resignation during a Board of Corrections meeting in late June. She had headed the Department of Corrections since 2015 and became the first secretary of corrections in 2019.
“She has been more than a boss to me over the last four-and-a-half years. She has been one of my mentors. She has also remained a dedicated public servant throughout her 32-year state career. I wish her nothing but the best in her much-deserved retirement,” Graves said of Kelley.
Graves will be working alongside Kelley in the coming week as the new “secretary designate” to effect a “swift and smooth transition” of the department’s leadership, he said.