The historic flood of 2019 exposed the weakness of Arkansas’s levee system, an issue that required immediate and focused attention, so I created the Arkansas Levee Task Force.
Today, I’d like to talk about some of the task forces that I have relied on during my administration. My model comes from Governor Winthrop Rockefeller’s successful use of task forces as he reshaped Arkansas during his two terms as governor in the 1960s.
Arkansas state government is composed of dozens of departments, divisions, agencies, boards, and commissions that handle the day-to-day matters of governing. When an unexpected issue arises – such as our crumbling levees – we have to look for solutions quickly before the problem grows worse. I’m not an expert on every challenge, and state agencies may not always have the time or personnel to undertake the intense and thorough study that the unexpected issues demand. When I create a task force, I seek a range of experts and ask the members to study the problem and report back with recommendations.
When I recognized the need for the levee task force, I appointed 27 members including representatives from the departments of Public Safety, Agriculture, Emergency Management, and Finance and Administration; as well as the Arkansas Natural Resources Commission and Arkansas Waterways Commission. The task force’s report included seventeen recommendations that will ensure we shore up our levees as well as our management and oversight. In fact, The Arkansas General Assembly is considering legislation recommended by the task force.
In 2018, two weeks after the horrific shooting of students at the high school in Parkland, Florida, I created another task force called the Arkansas School Safety Commission. My appointees included the director of the Criminal Justice Institute, a retired FBI agent, a school safety manager, a superintendent, several educators, a counselor, and a parent. There were many issues for them to consider, but their bottom-line mission was to find ways to ensure that our young people return home from school every day. Many of their recommendations have been adopted by local school districts and have led to changes that keep our school children safer.
The task force whose work led to a great deal of national recognition was the Arkansas Computer Science Task Force. The work by the members of that task force led to changes and to the recognition of Arkansas as a national leader in computer science education.
Other task forces I have created include ones to recommend ways to reduce red tape, guide economic recovery as we navigate COVID-19, and chart the next path in computer science and cybersecurity education. After last summer’s nationwide unrest, I created the Task Force to Advance the State of Law Enforcement in Arkansas, and those recommendations were signed into law this last week.
Most recently, after our historic winter storm in February, I created the Energy Resources Planning Task Force to review the adequacy of our supply of critical energy sources during extreme weather events.
And so you can see the way task forces work. They allow us to move quickly and to utilize the best minds in Arkansas to solve specific problems. The people I have appointed serve on a voluntary basis, donating hours and energy, sometimes traveling around the state in pursuit of solutions. The quality of life in Arkansas is richer, our educational system is stronger, and we are safer because of their willingness to volunteer their time for our benefit.