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OPINION: State Cabinet picks make few ‘nervous,’ others ‘insightful’

by Graham Thomas | January 11, 2023 at 4:00 a.m.

Although I may later regret this first outpouring of positivity towards Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders' cabinet level appointments, I'll stay with her to see how these individuals -- a few from out of state -- work out.

It is totally amazing to me the legion of women (at or now in the political stratum) that seem to want to rent and tear their clothing that she chose some folks "outside Arkansas" to come help her manage state government.

"Give the new governor a chance," is my first admonition to everyone.

The second caution I give, "it is not that people who are outside the state cannot and will not be beneficial to fixing the problems of Arkansas."

Sometimes it is best to bring in people who have a proven 'track record,' even those outside Arkansas, to assess and energize our often slow and staggering problems that seem to be stymieing all those locals we elevate to fix the problems.

To me, seeking a professional outside Arkansas with commiserate experiences is not a bad thing.

Even, and I will repeat this again and again, even if these individuals carried out reforms in other states, which we do not really want or think we do not want to happen in Arkansas, it doesn't mean they are here with an agenda.

Maybe all the appointee did was carry out the directive of his or her boss and the political climate of lawmakers of that particular state at the time they served.

Kicking against a cabinet appointee just because he or she is not from Arkansas is NOT (my emphasis) the best way to value and see their abilities in our state.

Yes, is it true there were many who were 'on the way up' in the education and prison system management circles (an odd comparison of these two starkly different agencies) who might have been considered.

But even as a director under a cabinet secretary, one's value to the state should be assessed, not in future potential, but in actual ideas to elevate the agencies of their command.

For instance, the current director of prisons is a seasoned fellow. Solomon Graves has withstood pressures both inside and outside of the prison system but does not seem to have been able to shake the inability to move the system forward. Mistakes are made and at times people's personal freedoms have been impeded by this past administration. Also, it must be pointed out such jobs are thankless, always underpaid and second guessed at every level.

The same goes for public education. There are many, many different ways to tackle this ever-growing problem in our state. We cannot "write code," and "educate for industry," all of our children.

Arkansas so desperately needs services for all children -- all across this state -- from ages 4 and up.

We also, based on the recent Report Card grading system of our state, need improvement in our schools and quit rewarding athletic success with millions of dollars for facilities improvements while basic education needs go lacking.

Do we need more local control? Yes, but a local control that isn't all about Friday Night Lights and more about Thursday afternoon's spelling quizzes.

We need our children to learn to read at a proper grade level.

If the new governor-elect is to lead this state she needs a team that will work for the future of Arkansas and not be laden down with term limited solons looking to pad the state retirement with another couple of quarters of contributions at an inflated salary.

The only appointment that puzzles me is the appointment of Joseph Wood, the former Washington County judge. Wood was never happy as Washington County Judge. His record as judge here has been lackluster as he truly was a man taking a job for the paycheck it afforded him, without a clue on how to really succeed and drive one of the premier counties in our state forward.

Again, I ask all the howling critics of our new Governor's cabinet picks to give her a 'cooling off period."

She just started the job Jan. 10.

-- Maylon Rice is a former journalist who worked for several northwest Arkansas publications. He can be reached via email at [email protected] The opinions expressed are those of the author.

Print Headline: State Cabinet picks make few ‘nervous,’ others ‘insightful’

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