Influencers come in many shapes and sizes. Influencers can be mentors, CEOs, teachers. Their influence can be effectively subtle or dynamic; they can influence overtly or otherwise. But they all share one common denominator — they are leaders.
Arkansas Money & Politics presents its third annual class of AMP Influencers of the Year. These leaders in Arkansas industry and politics were nominated by AMP readers and ultimately selected by a board of advisors consisting of former honorees.
One of this year’s Influencers, Darrin Williams of Southern Bancorp, appears on this month’s cover. Learn more about Williams and other Influencers on the pages that follow.
Each member of the 2022 class has influenced his or her field in significant ways. Our thanks to AMP readers for nominating such worthy leaders. We’re proud to showcase them.
Senior Vice President
Senior Relationship Manager –
President of Arkansas Market Bank of America
Heather Albright is a Senior Vice President and Senior Relationship Manager in Middle Market at Bank of America. In this role, Albright leads a team of commercial banking specialists in Arkansas to deliver strategic financial advice and solutions to companies with $50 million to $2 billion in annual revenue. Based in Little Rock, Heather joined Bank of America in 2005 as a senior credit products analyst and was promoted to a portfolio management officer in 2009, supporting the Arkansas Middle Market clients in both roles. In 2015, she was promoted to Vice President and Senior Relationship Manager leading client relationships in Arkansas. She was promoted to Senior Vice President in 2019.
Prior to joining Bank of America, Albright was a portfolio account administrator in the brokerage accounting group at Stephens, Inc. in Little Rock. There she was responsible for maintaining the cost basis system of record for the brokerage accounts and providing support to financial advisors. Albright received her undergraduate degree in Economics and Finance from Arkansas Tech University and her Master of Business Administration from University of Central Arkansas. She also holds FINRA certifications for Series 7 and Series 63 securities licenses.
Little Rock Zoo
Under Director Susan Altrui’s guidance, the Little Rock Zoo continues to be one of the state’s most visited attractions. Its 33 acres now are home to more than 500 animals. More than 200 species are represented, many of which are endangered. The Zoo participates in important conservation breeding programs and also coordinates with partner organizations to help save species in the wild. Additionally, the Little Rock Zoo’s education efforts inspire the next generation of scientists, researchers and conservationists. Altrui’s previous background in politics helped her glean the skills necessary to promote and fundraise for the Little Rock Zoo. Altrui, along with the Arkansas Zoological Foundation, have secured some of the largest gifts and donations in the history of The Zoo.
KABZ, The Buzz 103.7 FM
A former all-Southwest Conference linebacker for the Razorbacks and defensive MVP of the 1984 Liberty Bowl, David Bazzel boasts one of the most recognizable names and faces in Arkansas. Since his playing days on the Hill, the Florida native has done more to promote his adopted state than most lifelong Arkansans. A host for over 20 years on The Buzz radio network’s “Show With No Name” and now “Morning Mayhem,” he’s also logged over two decades covering Razorback football for KATV Channel 7.
Bazzel is the creator of numerous awards and trophies associated with college football, including prominent national awards such as the Broyles Award, given to the nation’s top assistant coach, the Burlsworth Trophy, which recognizes the nation’s best college player who began his career as a walk-on, and the Cliff Harris Award, presented to the country’s top small college defensive player.
Bazzel also is responsible for the Golden Boot and Battle Line trophies, awarded to the winner of Arkansas’ annual games with LSU and Missouri, as well as awards named for Arkansas football legends Dan Hampton, Willie Roaf, Darren McFadden and media hall of famers Steve Sullivan and Paul Eells. Bazzel also launched the Little Rock Touchdown Club and and the TUSK live mascot program for the University of Arkansas
Chief of Staff
For more than 15 years, Sandy Bradley has served as chief of staff for the McLarty Companies, a fourth-generation Arkansas business with interests in automotive, real estate, consulting and private equity. Bradley serves on the Arkansas Cinema Society Board and has served as American Heart Association Sweetheart co-chair for several years. She previously worked for more than 16 years at the Little Rock Regional Chamber of Commerce. A native of Jonesboro, Bradley has called Central Arkansas home since 1986.
| Amber Brewer
Brand Manager/Creative Director
Yellow Rocket Concepts
Amber Brewer is the creative mind behind Yellow Rocket Concepts in Little Rock, the company with restaurants including Big Orange, Local Lime and Heights Taco & Tamale. Brewer attended college at Savannah College of Art and Design in Georgia. She currently serves on the board of the Arkansas Cinema Society and has been an art director for 15 years. She previously held positions at CJRW and Arkansas Business Publishing Group, joining Yellow Rocket full-time as creative director and brand manager after the Big Orange Midtown location opened in Little Rock.
| William Brewer
First National Bank
William Brewer has been with First National Bank in Paragould for more than 45 years, succeeding his father, Larry Brewer, as bank chairman in 1988. He is now the CEO of the $2.3 billion institution, which owns 24 banks in Arkansas and Tennessee. A lifelong resident of Paragould, Brewer earned a sociology degree from Arkansas State University and intended to work with his family-owned gasoline and propane distributorships. However, the family sold them after the 1974 oil embargo reduced energy consumption.
He served as the chairman of the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission from 1984 to 1991 and was on the Paragould Light, Water and Cable commission for 22 years. He also was awarded the Trooper Ermon Cox Award from the Arkansas State Police Foundation in 2017 for his work with the state police. It is one the highest civilian recognitions awarded by the state police and is named for a trooper who was fatally shot in 1958. Brewer was awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award by the Paragould Chamber of Commerce in September 2021 for “exceptional service and dedication to Paragould.” His son, Will Brewer, serves as the bank’s vice chairman.
| Marvin Childers
The Poultry Federation
Marvin Childers has served as the president of The Poultry Federation, a trade organization representing the poultry and egg industry in Arkansas, Oklahoma and Missouri since 2007. Childers considers it an honor to lead an organization where the industry provides billions of dollars to the state’s economy.
Childers is a board member of the Arkansas State Chamber and co-chair of the Chamber’s Tax Committee. He also serves as a board member of the Arkansas 4-H Foundation. In 2020 – 2021, Childers served on the Governor’s Economic Recovery Task Force with a focus on agriculture issues. Childers served as an Arkansas state representative from 2001 through 2006 and has practiced law with Friday, Eldredge & Clark LLP since 2000.
| William Clark
William Clark is the founder and CEO of Little Rock’s Clark Contractors, a full-service general contractor and construction-management firm headquartered in Little Rock. Founded in 2009, the company has grown to annual revenues of $180 million with offices in Little Rock, Rogers and Dallas. It anticipates a record year in 2021 with more than $200 million in revenue, which it expects to surpass that in 2022.
Clark is a third-generation resident of Little Rock and a 1987 graduate of Central High. In 1991, he earned a bachelor’s degree in business management from the University of Arkansas. Clark and his wife, Christy, a CPA who serves as controller for the company, have been heavily involved in philanthropic and community activities. He serves as a corporate director for Simmons Bank and board member for CARTI, where he serves as vice chair of the Strategic Committee. Clark also is a member of Arkansas Executive Forum and the Sam M. Walton College of Business Dean’s Executive Advisory Board at the UA.
Shayla Copas Lifestyle
Scott Copas has been in the construction, architecture and design world since 1974.
Most recently, Copas took his experience and talent as a business developer to Shayla Copas Lifestyle as COO, where he will oversee the company’s multidivision operations, such as the interior design company headed by his wife, Shayla, as well as its comprehensive lifestyle brands, including Shayla Copas Interiors, Shayla Copas Travel, Shayla Copas Collections, Copas + Co. Construction Consulting and The Hive Marketing & Public Relations.
Copas studied architecture and business administration at the University of Arkansas. He began his career at Baldwin & Shell Construction as an estimator before ascending to president and CEO in 2014. Under his leadership, the company’s sales grew from $80 million to more than $300 million. Among many other community accolades and positions, Copas is a past chairman and board member for the Arkansas Contractors Licensing Board, a lifetime national director of the Associated General Contractors of America, past member of the advisory board for the University of Arkansas School of Architecture, current member of the UALR Construction Management Advisory Board and an ex-officio board member of the ADPSAFT since its establishment in 2005.
| Adora Curry
Director of Advancement
A Colorado native, Adora Curry came to Thaden from the University of Arkansas-Pulaski Technical College, where she served as Advancement Marketing and Alumni Relations Manager. Curry brings 18 years of experience in the nonprofit sector, both in higher education and private foundations, to her role at Thaden School. Her areas of expertise include major gift cultivation, grant-writing and stewardship, diversity and inclusion, donor relations, annual giving, marketing, communications, special events and alumni engagement.
She holds a bachelor’s degree in radio, television and film from Howard University and a master’s degree in rhetoric and professional writing from the University of Arkansas at Little Rock.
| Jessica Flake Dearnley
Flake & Company
Jessica Flake Dearnley has over 20 years of experience in commercial real estate. She is a Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA), a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) and a Certified Commercial Investment Member (CCIM.) She is licensed in Arkansas, Oklahoma, Missouri and Texas. She graduated from Carnegie Mellon University with a double major in cognitive psychology and creative writing, from the University of Miami with an MBA in finance and investments, from the University of Arkansas with a master’s in accountancy and is currently in the master’s program (finance) at Johns Hopkins University.
She sits on the boards of the Little Rock Tech Park Board, the Little Rock Chamber of Commerce Board, Fifty for the Future, Arkansas Women’s Leadership Forum, Ozark Catholic Academy Board and has been involved with Jericho’s Way. Her professional experience has ranged from asset management, as a financial and credit analyst and landlord representation.
Anne Marie Doramus
Vice President, Arkansas Bolt
Arkansas Game and Fish Commissioner
Anne Marie Doramus has realized quite a few accomplishments that belie her young age. She’s currently a member of the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission and serves on the board of directors for the Arkansas State Fair and Livestock Show. She is one of the youngest ever appointed to a full seven-year term on the AGFC and is the first female commissioner. She’s also a founding member of the Arkansas Outdoor Society, a group for young adults passionate about conservation and the outdoors in Arkansas.
Anne Marie has seen firsthand the impact that the AGFC has on Arkansas. Growing up, her father passed on his love for the outdoors, and that is what she intends to do in her role as a commissioner. She believes passing the torch of conservation is essential to uphold the Natural State’s reputation of being an outdoors paradise — not just for the sports involving hooks and bullets, but also for the hikers, bikers, paddlers and bird watchers.
A graduate of the University of Arkansas, Doramus is vice president of special projects and sales for Arkansas Bolt Company, a fastener distributor and OEM supplier based in Little Rock. Doramus grew up an avid duck hunter and bass angler on her family’s farm in southeast Arkansas.
| George Dunklin
Five Oaks Duck Lodge
George Dunklin Jr. grew up in Pine Bluff, not far from Stuttgart — the “Rice and Duck Capital of the World.” He began accompanying his father on hunting trips at the age of 8 and shot his first gun at 10, sparking a lifelong passion for the sport of waterfowl hunting. Dunklin’s maternal grandfather, Lester A. Black, owned farmland in Arkansas County, which Dunklin visited throughout his youth. After college in Memphis, he moved to Arkansas County to farm that land, and he never left. His abiding passion for and dedicated service to conservation led him to become a member of the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission from 2005 to 2012. He served as its chairman from 2011-2012. Additionally, after volunteering since the age of 16, he became president of Ducks Unlimited from 2013-2015. When Dunklin was named in 2009 “Budweiser Conservationist of the Year,” he used the accompanying $50,000 grant money to support the Bayou Meto Wildlife Management Area, the public lands adjacent to Five Oaks, because he believes in the sanctity of public areas.
| Bob East
East Harding/Advanced Cabling Systems
Bob East has been active in commercial construction as a general contractor, owner and developer for more than 40 years and is a partner in numerous real-estate projects. He was the founder of East Harding Inc., a Little Rock-based construction company, where he served as chairman and CEO until 2019. From 1999 to 2019, East was the majority owner and managing member of Advanced Cabling Systems LLC, a full-service technology integrator that grew under his leadership from three employees to more than 200.
A lifelong Arkansas resident, East is actively involved in the community and has served on the board of many organizations, including the Little Rock Airport Commission, The Nature Conservancy, Arkansas Cancer Research Center, Dean’s Advisory Board of the University of Arkansas Walton School of Business and the Associated Builders and Contractors national board. He also served on the board of the former Pulaski Bank and Trust in Little Rock for nine years. East holds a degree in finance and administration from the University of Arkansas, where he was awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award by the Walton School in 2019.
| Michael Fothergill
Executive and Artistic Director
Michael Fothergill began his relationship with Ballet Arkansas as a finalist in the Ballet Arkansas Visions Choreographic Competition in the winter of 2017 and, following a seven-year stint as principal dancer and choreographer with the Alabama Ballet, he was appointed Executive and Artistic Director of Ballet Arkansas in July of the same year.
Since that time, he has revitalized the organization’s programming and operations, allowing for the doubling of its gross operating budget and an exponential expansion of its programming. Fothergill has diversified and emboldened the organizations repertory by adding the signature works of distinguished choreographers such as George Balanchine, Gerald Arpino, Agnes De Mille, Alice Klock, Florian Lochner, Yoshito Sakaraba, Ma Cong, Christopher Wheeldon and Madison Hicks. Ballet Arkansas is now ranked as one of the Top 100 Professional Ballet Companies in the United States by that Dance Data Project. Within the last 15 years, his choreography has been performed across the United States, Japan, Iceland, Australia, France, Romania, Dubai, Spain, Puerto Rico and Mexico, and his work was highlighted on film within the international documentary, Dance the Dream at 50, produced by acclaimed filmmaker Richard Karz.
| Jeston George
Founder and CEO
The K-12 education landscape is changing, and so is the role of the superintendent. Superintendents are now competing for students and funding, so they need to market themselves just like private businesses do.
Jeston George launched Apptegy in 2015 to help superintendents to do just that. Apptegy’s software-as-a-service platform Thrillshare offers school leaders a way to deliver a better school experience to parents and students alike. Now, in 2022, Little Rock based Apptegy is the single largest provider of marketing and communication tools to schools in the country.
Apptegy has raised Series A and Series B investment rounds from Five Elms Capital, a major capital firm out of Kansas City, and in just six years has grown to over 260 full-time employees working with more than 2,500 school districts across the U.S.
| Natalie Ghidotti
Natalie Ghidotti, APR, is principal of Ghidotti, a Little Rock public relations and content marketing agency she founded in 2007 that has since grown to serve a wide range of clients, including some of the region’s best-known brands. The firm serves clients that span all industries, including law firms, retail, health care, technology, nonprofits and more. Natalie is also co-founder/co-owner of The Nest, Little Rock’s first coworking community and social club designed by women, for women located in the growing SOMA neighborhood.
She serves on the executive committee for the Public Relations Society of America’s national Counselors Academy, is a past president of the PRSA Arkansas Chapter and has been a speaker for numerous PRSA International Conferences. Ghidotti is an active community volunteer, serving as president-elect nominee of Rotary Club of Little Rock, president of Arkansas Women’s Leadership Forum, troop leader for Girl Scouts Troop 6109 and a board member of the Arkansas Prostate Cancer Foundation.
| Sarah Catherine Gutierrez
Sarah Catherine Gutierrez is the CEO of Aptus Financial in Little Rock. She holds a master’s of public policy degree from Harvard University, as well as Certified Financial Planner and Chartered Retirement Plans Specialist designations. Her firm serves as advisor to workplace retirement plans and provides flat-fee financial planning services and guided DIY investing support for individual clients.
She was named to Investment News’ 2020 40 under 40 class of investment advisors and is author of But First, Save10: The One Simple Money Move That Will Change Your Life. Gutierrez also writes a weekly financial column called, “Save Yourself,” for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.
| Scott Hamilton
Urban League of Arkansas
Scott Hamilton is native of Little Rock, where he grew up and ultimately started his professional work career in the energy industry. He has lived in several cities throughout the country, including Kansas City, Detroit, Houston and Atlanta. Hamilton returned to Little Rock in 2011 and assumed leadership of the Arkansas Department of Energy.
An avid nonprofit supporter and participant, Hamilton recently was selected to lead the Urban League of the State of Arkansas, where he is focused on structuring the organization to be an effective connector between human need and solution providers. He is active in several local nonprofits, including the Urban League of Arkansas, City Year Little Rock, The Boys and Girls Club of Central Arkansas, The American Association of Blacks in Energy, the Little Rock Planning Commission and Little Rock City Sustainability Commission.
Senior Vice President
Arkansas Children’s Northwest
Shannon Hendrix, MS, RD, LD, serves as senior vice president and administrator for Arkansas Children’s Northwest in Springdale. Hendrix has a deep understanding of the special considerations required to run a children’s hospital as well as extensive knowledge of overall child health in Arkansas. Her experience at Arkansas Children’s includes leadership responsibilities with teams ranging from clinical operations, such as radiology and laboratory to the social support services at the heart of delivering family-centered care, including social work and pastoral care. She previously served as vice president of clinical and diagnostic services for Arkansas Children’s Hospital. A registered dietitian, she holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees in nutrition from the University of Central Arkansas. She sits on community boards and is active in her sorority, Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Inc. Hendrix also is a member of the American College of Healthcare Executives and the Arkansas Academy of Nutrition & Dietetics.
Eat My Catfish
Travis Hester is the president of Eat My Catfish. A 2006 graduate of Northwood University, Hester obtained a bachelor’s degree in banking, finance and management. He returned to Central Arkansas, where his love of cooking became the driving force behind opening his first Eat My Catfish location in Benton. Eat My Catfish now has seven locations across Central and Northwest Arkansas. As his team of employees grew — and as he became more involved in his community — Hester realized that he and Eat My Catfish could have a positive influence on individuals and the community. Since that realization, his desire to positively impact others has become his purpose and motivation in all that he does. That is why Eat My Catfish’s mission statement declares the company’s goal of “exceeding expectations” in the store and in the community. Hester knows this can only be accomplished “by partnering with local suppliers” and focusing on “developing the future leaders of our communities.”
Tipton & Hurst
In 1886, Joseph B. Hurst and David Tipton started a floral business in downtown Little Rock. Almost 136 years later, the company continues to flourish under the leadership of Hurst’s grandson, Howard. After spending his childhood in the store and later graduating from the University of Arkansas with high honors in 1980, Howard was made vice president of Tipton & Hurst. Four years later at the age of 26, he assumed the position of president from his father, Joe Hurst. Since then, Howard has seen the company expand to Conway and Pine Bluff with the help of the company’s talented staff. Outside of the company, Howard is most proud of his wife and children’s accomplishments in their careers.
President and CEO
The Design Group
Myron Jackson is the president and CEO of The Design Group, Arkansas’ leading multicultural communications company. He not only directs day-to-day activity but also serves as the strategic thought leader. He brings more than 20 years of extensive marketing experience to his team and blends unique marketing insights with arresting communications for urban, African American, Latinx and youth consumer audiences.
His marketing prowess has been evidenced in campaigns for the National Basketball Association, Memphis Grizzlies, National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, Arkansas Department of Health, University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff, GlaxoSmithKline, Arista Records and LaFace Records recording artists Usher Raymond and Toni Braxton. Jackson holds marketing and advertising /public relations degrees from the University of Arkansas at Little Rock. He has long-standing associations with the National Association of African-American Advertising Agencies, the National Association of Black Journalists, the National Art Directors Club, the Public Relations Society of America, the American Advertising Federation and Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity Inc.
| Joe Jacobs
Arkansas State Parks
Since 2005, Joe Jacobs has served as the revenue manager for the State Parks Division of the Arkansas Department of Parks, Heritage and Tourism. In this role, he develops and implements revenue-producing strategies ($29 million annually) for Arkansas State Parks, including the oversight of camping and lodge reservation bookings, gift shop sales and rental fees.
During this time, Jacobs has supported outdoor recreation efforts through the state parks and tourism divisions and through personal involvement with event management and promotion. He provided technical assistance in the creation of the original Bicycling in Arkansas brochure. He also played a key role in the creation of the Arkansas Mountain Bicycling Guide, Road Cycling Guide, all editions of the Arkansas Cycling Guide, and wrote the Arkansas Bicycle Safety Manual. Jacobs represents the agency as the chairman of the Governor’s Advisory Council on Cycling, a group created by Governor Hutchinson with the goal of improving the bicycle friendliness of Arkansas through state agency and business cooperation.
Sissy’s Log Cabin
Bill Jones is the CEO of Sissy’s Log Cabin, a family-owned and operated jewelry store with locations in Pine Bluff, Little Rock, Jonesboro, Conway and Memphis. With five locations overall, Sissy’s is Arkansas’ largest independently owned jewelry store. Starting in 1984, as the only jeweler at Sissy’s original antique store in Pine Bluff, Bill worked in sales by day and would design and build jewelry pieces at night. He quickly found his knack for design and sales, and it was then he pursued his graduate gemologist degree at the Gemological Institute of America. Bill is widely recognized for his design and industry leadership. He is a National Jewelry Design award winner, and retail member of the American Gem Trade Association. Bill shares a passion for his community and serves in a leadership capacity for several charitable organizations, including the Baptist Health Foundation (trustee), the Arkansas Game and Fish Foundation (vice chair), the Jefferson Regional Medical Center Foundation (board member) and the Pine Bluff chapter of Ducks Unlimited (past president).
Former director of the Arkansas
Regional Innovation Hub
2022 Arkansas Gubernatorial Candidate
Arkansas has been home to Dr. Chris Jones’ family for more than 200 years. His parents, both ministers, raised Jones in Pine Bluff with a strong sense of faith. He says, however, that his faith never collided with his love for science — it only made it grow stronger. Jones attended Morehouse College in Atlanta on a NASA Scholarship for physics and mathematics before earning a master’s in nuclear engineering and a Ph.D. in urban planning from MIT. Then, after becoming an ordained minister, he returned home with a commitment to unlocking Arkansas’ potential by leading the Arkansas Regional Innovation Hub in North Little Rock. Jones believes Arkansas is primed for economic growth with improved public education, more support for small businesses and strengthened infrastructure, roads and broadband service. He is running for governor and will appear on the Democratic primary ballot in May.
Keet O’Gary Construction
Tommy Keet graduated from Hendrix College in 1998 and William H. Bowen Law school in 2003. In 2008, Keet quit practicing law and opened the first Tazikis Mediterranean Cafe in Arkansas with his partners, Jim and Jake Keet.
Currently, Tommy Keet is president of JTJ Restaurants, LLC that owns and operates eight Taziki’s restaurants in Arkansas and three in Oklahoma. Keet is a partner in Petit and Keet, Bar and Grill, and Cypress Social LLC. Keet is also a partner in Waldo’s Chicken and Beer with one location in Tulsa and one opening in March of 2021 in North Little Rock. Keet has also partnered with Count Porkula (Kelly Lovell and Walt Todd) to open two locations in 2022 in Central Arkansas.
Keet is active in the community and supports numerous charitable endeavors and is the past president of The Hat Club which was formed to support a variety of local charities in 2010 and has raised over $800,000 for local charities.
| Hank Kelley
Kelley Commercial Partners
In 1984, Hank Kelley joined the commercial real estate firm that would later become Kelley Commercial Partners, where he currently serves as chief executive officer, executive broker and partner. He attributes his success in the business to the strong client relationships he developed over his 37-year career. Kelley has earned distinction from several professional organizations for his knowledge, commitment and professionalism in his field, including Counselor of Real Estate (CRE) and Certified Property Manager (CPM) from the Institute of Real Estate Management. He is also a member of the Society of Industrial and Office Realtors — the leading global professional office and industrial real estate association representing today’s most knowledgeable, experienced and successful commercial real estate brokerage specialists. He led his firm to earn the state of Arkansas’s only membership in ChainLinks, the No. 1 retail advisors and brokerage network in North America serving premier retailers, landlords and investors since 1979.
| Chris Ladner
Chris Ladner is one of the founding partners of Entegrity, an energy services, sustainability, and solar development company. He has expertise in Net-Zero buildings, solar power, HVAC systems, performance contracting, controls as well as knowledge of industrial controls.
In 2008, Ladner was a member of the Arkansas Governor’s Commission on Global Warming. Since then, he has also served as chair of the Chapter Steering Committee and member of the Energy and Atmosphere Technical Advisory Group for the U.S. Green Building Council and in many other capacities at the state and national level. He is also a past consultant for the Clinton Climate Initiative (CCI).
Ladner has participated in various types of LEED projects including LEED Zero, LEED-Neighborhood Development, LEED-Commercial Interiors, LEED-New Construction, LEED for Existing Buildings and LEED Homes. He has presented on sustainable design and construction to various groups including Master Speaker at the USGBC Greenbuild Conference, American Planning Association, National Environmental Balancing Bureau (NEBB), the American Society of Heating Refrigeration and Air Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE), graduate architecture programs and various sustainability conferences.
Landers Auto Group
Steve Landers is known all across the Natural State for his role in Landers Auto Group and a host of car dealerships. Landers is CEO of the Steve Landers Auto Group, which includes all dealerships under the Landers name in Arkansas. He also has a partial interest in McClarty Automotive. Landers is well-known for his role in the horse-racing community as well and was appointed to the Arkansas Racing Commission in 2016.
Landers is also a well-known philanthropist. Every week during football season, KATV’s sports staff selects a student athlete to receive the Landers Award and accompanying scholarship, which is given to a high school athlete. The Steve Landers Family Foundation also funds various charitable works throughout Arkansas. Landers announced at the end of 2021 that he plans to use his business management skills in his run for the Little Rock mayor’s seat.
President and CEO
Laura Landreaux ensures that Entergy Arkansas meets the power needs of more than 722,000 customers every day. She is also responsible for driving the company’s financial and operational business results, customer service, safety, resource planning, economic development, employee development and regulatory and governmental affairs. Landreaux became president and CEO on July 1, 2018. Her career with Entergy Arkansas began in 2007 in the legal department. She then became manager of Regulatory Affairs for Entergy Arkansas in 2012. She went on to hold other leadership positions, including finance director and vice president of regulatory affairs, where she was responsible for interactions between Entergy Arkansas and the Arkansas Public Service Commission. Activities and achievements include serving as vice chairman of the Arkansas State Chamber of Commerce board of directors and board positions for EasterSeals Arkansas, the University of Arkansas at Little Rock College of Business and the Arkansas Research Alliance. A native of Little Rock, Landreaux earned her juris doctor from the University of Arkansas School of Law in Fayetteville, where she was on the Arkansas Law Review, as well as a Bachelor of Arts degree from the UA.
Chairman, Arkansas Game and Fish Commission
Executive Chairman, Gap Inc.
Operating Partner, The Stephens Group
Former Chief Executive Officer, Walmart International
Having worked for three of Arkansas’ titans of industry, Bobby Martin has a unique history and dedication to the state. Martin continues to build on a tenure among some of the most elite leadership roles in business at home and abroad. Still, perhaps his greatest legacy will be how he influences and elevates conservation in Arkansas.
Through his time at Walmart and Dillard Department Stores, Martin in his career has been defined by some of the most notable leadership and technological advancements in the history of the retail and manufacturing industries. His exacting style has earned him considerable influence beyond the companies he served. His time as CEO of Walmart International, coupled with expertise in the use of technology, keeps him an active contributor across a diverse set of interests.
Today, Martin is executive chairman of Gap Inc, operating partner of The Stephens Group, lead independent director for Conns Inc., and brings his strong reputation as a visionary, results-oriented executive to private boards and select nonprofits. While business has been a life-long passion, his dedication to conservation is his grandest opportunity to serve and give back. As a commissioner and current chairman of the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission, Martin combines a lifelong passion for the outdoors, a dedication to habitat management, decades of wildlife advocacy, and his business acumen to help keep the Natural State the best place on the planet to live, work and play.
Executive Vice President
Stephens Capital Management
Larry Middleton is Executive Vice President at Stephens Capital Management in Little Rock. He graduated in 1984 from the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville with a bachelor’s degree in finance and banking and began his career in 1985 at Merrill Lynch as a financial consultant. In May 1990, he joined Stephens Capital Management, a division of Stephens Inc. He currently serves in an advisory capacity to pensions, trusts, endowments, foundations and municipal special purpose funds.
Middleton is a FINRA Registered Representative (Series 7 & 63) and a Registered Investment Advisor Representative (Series 65). In addition, he has also completed the National Commodity Futures Exam (Series 31).
Adam Mitchell has been serving Citizens Bank as CEO since early 2021 and has more than 20 years of experience in the banking industry. Before joining Citizens Bank, he served as executive vice president and chief retail officer responsible for overseeing branch performance, staffing and service as well as sales delivery for more than 190 locations across seven states at another Arkansas bank.
Mitchell has dedicated a significant portion of his career to giving back to the community. He is an advisory board member of the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation and, together with his wife, Kristie, was honored with its Living & Giving Award in 2017. He also served as co-chair of the Central Arkansas Heart Ball in 2014. Mitchell currently serves as a board member for USAble Life Corporation and Arkansas Health Group. He has also held various roles with Hendrix College, the Arkansas Bankers Association, Baptist Health Foundation and Junior Achievement of Arkansas.
Pastor, New Life Church
Founder, Home Again Pine Bluff
After a career as a TV meteorologist and news anchor at KATV and KARK in Little Rock, Matt Mosler and his wife, Camille, joined the pastoral team at the Greater Little Rock campus of New Life Church in 2014. Mosler now is the pastor of New Life’s Pine Bluff campus and founder of Home Again Pine Bluff, a nonprofit whose mission is to revitalize the community. Home Again Pine Bluff’s mission is to renovate homes and rent them to individuals and families in need at below market rental rate for three to five years, after which they will be able to purchase the property for half of the appraised value. Mosler and Home Again have completed and delivered their first two homes on East Eighth Avenue to two Pine Bluff families. Renovation on a third home began in January and is scheduled to be completed in May. The organization is working with the city and other local agencies to acquire additional property to develop into neighborhoods.
| Jake Nabholz
Recently named Nabholz’ CEO, Jake Nabholz began his 23-year tenure with the company working as a summer laborer while in high school. After graduating with his construction management degree from the University of Louisiana at Monroe, his career advanced within Nabholz. He later served in business development and leadership roles in Tulsa and Central Arkansas. In 2018, he was promoted to the position of regional president, overseeing construction operations in northeast Arkansas, Central Arkansas, Tennessee, Mississippi and Oklahoma.
Nabholz currently serves on the boards for Arkansas Children’s Foundation, Philander Smith College Board of Trustees, Conway Corp, Conway Area Chamber of Commerce, First Security Bank and the Associated General Contractors of Arkansas. He is part of the third generation of the Nabholz family to work at the company, following the path of his grandfather, company founder Bob Nabholz, and father, current Executive Vice President David Nabholz.
Arkansas Trucking Association
Shannon Newton is president of the Arkansas Trucking Association. Since 2003, she has been a leader in implementing ATA’s strategic initiatives including planning, finance, member services, governance, regulatory and legislative affairs. In 2018, she was recognized by American Trucking Associations with the President’s Trucking Association Executives Council Leadership Award for regional and national advocacy.
Newton has held industry leadership positions; she served on Gov. Asa Hutchinson’s Working Group on Highway Funding and spearheaded the efforts to pass the largest highway funding package in Arkansas legislature history. She also chaired the Vote for Roads committee that successfully campaigned for voters to pass a half-cent sales tax to fund infrastructure. In 2020, Newton was appointed to Arkansas’s Economic Recovery Task Force to make recommendations for the state’s COVID-19 economic recovery. She is a member of the Trucking Association’s Insurance Council, Arkansas Society of Association Executives and Arkansas Society of Professional Lobbyists. Newton has also served on the American Transportation Research Institute’s Research Advisory Committee and currently sits on the board for Project Zero.
| Capi Peck
Trio’s and Capi’s
Capi Peck is an Arkansas native with deep roots. She represents the fourth generation of her family in the hospitality business in Little Rock. Peck and her partner opened Trio’s Restaurant in 1986. In addition to owning and operating an award-winning restaurant, she is a community advocate and is involved in many civic organizations.
In Peck’s opinion, her most meaningful work is with the Arkansas Hunger Relief Alliance addressing food insecurity in her community. She is a volunteer chef in the Cooking Matters program, teaching low-income families how to cook tasty and nutritious food on a budget. She taught the first Spanish language class in Little Rock. Peck is proud of the longevity of Trio’s, now 35 years old. Her staff is her family, and she has mentored countless young people who have worked with her over the years. She often tells people that in spite of the long hours and challenges of the restaurant business, she has the best job imaginable because she gets to welcome, nourish and nurture people daily.
| Eric Pianalto
Mercy Hospital NWA
Eric Pianalto, a Tontitown native, has served as president of Mercy Hospital Northwest Arkansas since December 2013. He joined Mercy in 1994 and has served in a variety of roles across Mercy’s footprint, including chief operating officer for regional operations for Mercy Clinic in Arkansas and Oklahoma.
Under Pianalto’s leadership, the hospital has been named to the Fortune/IBM Watson Health Top 100 Hospitals list, earned A Leapfrog Hospital Safety Grades recognition for achievement in protecting patients and achieved a Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services 5-star rating. He also oversaw a $277 million expansion of Mercy in Northwest Arkansas that added a seven-story patient tower and seven new clinics.
Pianalto has an undergraduate degree in business administration from the University of Arkansas and a master’s in business administration from Webster University. Pianalto is a member of multiple boards and chairs the Northwest Arkansas Council Health Transformation Committee.
| Greg Ramon
Little Rock Water Reclamation Authority
Greg Ramon, CEO of Little Rock Water Reclamation Authority, has more than 35 years of experience in the wastewater and water industry. In 2014, he joined the LRWRA team and brought with him a successful track record of leading large complex utilities. At LRWRA, the largest wastewater utility in the state, he is responsible for the operation and maintenance of three water reclamation facilities and more than 1,400 miles of collection system. Ramon is a member of Arkansas Water and Wastewater Managers Association, National Association of Clean Water Agencies, Water Environment Federation and American Water Works Association.
He serves on the board of Just Communities of Arkansas, as an advisory board member of the UAMS College of Public Health, as an ex officio member of the Little Rock Regional Chamber of Commerce and is a member of Rotary Club 99. Ramon earned a bachelor’s degree from National Louis University in Chicago and an MBA from the University of Phoenix.
| Bo Ryall
President and CEO
Arkansas Hospital Association
Bo Ryall is president and CEO of the Arkansas Hospital Association. He has been with the Association since 2005 and was named president in 2010. He holds a bachelor’s degree from the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville and a master’s degree in public administration from the University of Arkansas at Little Rock.
Ryall has served most recently on Gov. Asa Hutchinson’s COVID-19 Winter Task Force and Economic Recovery Task Force. He also is a member of the Health Care Industry Council of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, the Medicaid Committee of the American Hospital Association and is an advisory board member of the Arkansas Regional Organ Recovery Agency.
| Austin Samuelson
Co-founder and CEO
Tacos 4 Life
Austin Samuelson and his wife, Ashton, launched Tacos 4 Life in Conway in 2014. Tacos 4 Life franchises now spread across 10 states in the South and Midwest. But what makes the Samuelsons’ venture different is its mission to help end childhood starvation and “change the world with every meal.” Through its Meal 4 Meal program, Tacos 4 Life donates 24 cents to the nonprofit Feed My Starving Children for every taco, bowl, salad, quesadilla or nachos purchased. Tacos 4 Life restaurants have donated more than 20 million meals to feed the hungry since 2014.
| Sarah Sanders
Former White House Press Secretary
2022 Arkansas Gubernatorial Candidate
Sarah Huckabee Sanders served as White House Press Secretary for President Donald J. Trump from 2017 to 2019. A trusted confidant of the former President, Sarah advised him on everything from press and communications strategy to personnel and policy. Sanders is only the
third woman and first mom to hold the job of White House Press Secretary.
She has also served as senior advisor to Sen. Tom Cotton and campaign manager for Sen. John Boozman. Sanders, the daughter of former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, has been recognized in Fortune and TIME magazine’s “40 under 40,” is the author of the New York Times bestseller, Speaking for Myself, and serves on the Fulbright Foreign Scholarship Board. She grew up in Pine Bluff and Texarkana and is a graduate of Little Rock Central High and Ouachita Baptist University. Sanders will appear on the Republican primary ballot for governor in May.
| Wayne Smith
A native of Narragansett, Rhode Island, and graduate of Northeastern University in Boston, Wayne Smith began his career in corporate accounting and finance with ITT Sheraton, where he focused on hospitality. Smith served in senior management positions at MGM Mirage, MGM Grand Las Vegas, MGM Grand Detroit and Caesars Entertainment before moving into operations with Empire City Racing and Gaming in New York and Penn National in Illinois, where he brought more than 18 years of successful and diverse gaming industry experience.
In March 2017, Smith was named the general manager of Oaklawn, only the sixth person to hold that title in Oaklawn’s 115-year history. Since that time, he has overseen a multi-million expansion that included the addition of an expanded casino, hotel, spa and event center. For more than two decades, Smith has been an active volunteer with multiple community and charitable organizations. He is currently chairman of the Hot Springs Advertising and Promotion Commission, a board member of the Greater Hot Springs Chamber of Commerce and an executive board member of Fifty for the Future.
| Lance Taylor
Arkansas Activities Association
Lance Taylor is the executive director of the Arkansas Activities Association (AAA), the primary sanctioning body for high school sports in the state. Taylor has led the organization since 2000. The mission of the AAA is to promote the value of participation in interscholastic activities in the AAA member schools and to provide services to the schools in a fair and impartial manner while assisting and supporting their efforts to develop thinking, productive and prepared individuals as they become positive, contributing citizens modeling the democratic principles of our state and nation.
| Kirkley A. Thomas
Vice President of Governmental Affairs
Electric Cooperatives of Arkansas
Kirkley Thomas joined the Electric Cooperatives of Arkansas in January of 1998 and has worked in various capacities, including community and economic development before taking over the Governmental Affairs Division in February of 2014.
Thomas has spent his tenure working in Washington, D.C., and Little Rock on behalf of the electric cooperatives to ensure the delivery of affordable and reliable power to nearly 1 million co-op members. Thomas currently serves on the Arkansas Steering Committee for the Johnny Cash Boyhood Home Project (which he initiated in 2009) and the Arkansas State University Chancellor’s Cabinet. Thomas has been named the Tourism Person of the Year by the Arkansas Delta Byways and an Honorary Life Member of the Southern Economic Development Council.
He is a native of Lepanto (Poinsett County) and a graduate of Arkansas State University with a degree in journalism/public relations. He is also a graduate of the Economic Development Institute of the University of Oklahoma.
President and CEO
Conway Regional Health System
Matt Troup has more than 20 years of executive leadership experience in the health care industry, serving in various administrative roles in hospitals in Texas, Oklahoma and Florida. He came to Arkansas in 2014 as vice president of ancillary and support services at CHI St. Vincent and was named president and CEO of Conway Regional Health System within one year. Troup is an energetic leader whose five-year tenure has seen historic growth in net revenue and substantial increases in employee and physician engagement. He utilizes his own extensive experience and focused attitude as a tool to guide the company to new heights.
In his first 90 days as CEO, Troup met with more than 100 physicians on the medical staff and held one-on-one sessions with key leaders. He also brought employees to the leadership table and initiated a wave of improvements including a new medical office building, new CCU construction, expansion of Greenbrier Family Medicine Clinic, expansion into Russellville and management of Dardanelle Regional Medical Center.
| Kathryn Tucker
Arkansas Cinema Society
Kathryn Francis Tucker is an Emmy Award-winning film director, mother of two, proud Little Rock native and sixth-generation Arkansan. She has spent the last two decades working in the film industry in New York, Los Angeles, Louisiana, North Carolina, Hawaii, Iceland and Arkansas as a director, producer and assistant director.
In 2017, Tucker founded the Arkansas Cinema Society. Founding board members included Mike Beebe, Frank Scott, Mary Steenburgen, Jeff Nichols, Jayme Lemons and Graham Gordy. She serves as the executive director of the nonprofit organization that works to nurture new and existing film talent within Arkansas through educational programs like the Filmmaking Lab for Teen Girls, year-round screenings and ACS’s annual film event, FILMLAND.
| Scott Varady
Executive Director/General Counsel
Scott Varady joined the Razorback Foundation as executive director and general counsel in December 2015 after serving more than 19 years with the University of Arkansas Office of the General Counsel. In his previous role, Varady provided legal advice and representation to the university including the Department of Intercollegiate Athletics. He also consulted with the Razorback Foundation’s outside legal counsel. Previously, he worked as an associate at Mitchell, Williams, Selig, Gates & Woodyard in Little Rock and with the firm of Swidler & Berlin in Washington, D.C.
Varady also served as a staff member for the late Sen. Dale Bumpers and former Rep. Bill Alexander. Varady received his law degree from Georgetown University in 1993, graduating magna cum laude. He was inducted into The Order of the Coif and was a member of The Tax Lawyer law journal. Prior to attending law school, Varady received a Master of Science in foreign service from Georgetown, where he also earned the Dean’s Award for Academic Excellence. A Little Rock native, Varady earned a B.A. with honors in political science from the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville, in 1985.
| Ryan Watley
Go Forward Pine Bluff
Dr. Ryan Watley joined Go Forward Pine Bluff as CEO-elect in May of 2017 and became CEO after the successful passage of the Go Forward Pine Bluff tax initiative on June 2017.
Prior to the passage of the sales tax, Watley served in development and fundraising positions for two universities in Oklahoma. He is past Assistant Director of Development/Assistant Professor of Chemistry at the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff.
Active in many organizations, including Pine Bluff/Jefferson County Chamber of Commerce, Watley is graduate of Leadership Pine Bluff, a volunteer and trustee for Arts and Science Center for Southeast Arkansas, a past United Way Campaign Chair, and a member of the Rotary Club and the Jefferson Hospital Foundation Board. Watley also is a member of the UAPB/AM&N Alumni Chapter and the University of Oklahoma Alumni Chapter. Watley is an alumnus of Leadership Arkansas and has been recognized as a Rubinger Fellow by Rural LISC Inc.
Darrin Williams is a banker, securities and consumer protection attorney, former legislator and passionate advocate for financial inclusion. Currently serving as the CEO of Southern Bancorp Inc., Williams oversees the strategic direction and operations of each of Southern Bancorp’s three Community Development Financial Institutions: Southern Bancorp Inc., a bank holding company; Southern Bancorp Bank, one of America’s largest rural-development banks; and Southern Bancorp Community Partners, a 501(c)(3) development finance and lending organization – collectively known as “Southern.”
With more than $2 billion in assets, more than 65,000 customers and 51 locations, Southern Bancorp’s markets extend throughout the Mid-South with a focus on being wealth builders for everyone. A former state representative, Williams received his Bachelor of Arts degree from Hendrix College in Conway, his juris doctor from Vanderbilt University School of Law in Nashville, Tenn., and his Master of Laws degree in securities and financial regulation from Georgetown University Law Center in Washington, D.C.