Mayor Rick Hales’ dedication to Arkansas City is richer than the Delta soil on which it stands.
Hailed as a local hero of sorts, Hales is Arkansas City’s resident jack of all trades, regularly juggling his duties as mayor with local historic preservation and resurrection efforts, inn-keeping and serving as Director of Community Partnerships for Aristotle Communications.
Born and raised in Monticello, Hales has strong ties to the Delta region and considers himself a “life-long member of the southeast Arkansas community.” His passion for preserving the rich history and landscape of the region is what brought Hales to Arkansas City in the first place.
But history wasn’t Hales’ first love. As a child, Hales was fascinated with electronics — CB radios, antennas — and communications in general. That, combined with the fact that he served in the U.S. military, confirms that he has a true appreciation for details. He began working with satellite dishes back in 1979, when they were “big dishes.” Then, in an effort to join together his passions for a greater purpose, while working as a technology consultant, Hales assisted in the deployment of a fixed wireless network to provide internet service to unserved businesses and homes in south Arkansas. From there, he began working to develop a broadband network design that would cover the footprint of the Delta Regional Authority.
In 2018, Hales embarked on a historic preservation effort focused on owning and preserving several once-prominent establishments located in the heart of the town, known as the Arkansas City Commercial District. The district, which was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1999, includes two of the oldest surviving commercial buildings in Arkansas City, Cotham Drug Store and Red Star Grocery. Both charming, two-story brick buildings were built in the early 1900s, and face the levee to the southeast which is an important part of the town’s history.
It wasn’t long after Hales began devoting much of his time and effort to Arkansas City that his dedication to the advancement of the area hit a milestone.
In November of 2018, Hales was elected mayor. Although humbled by the accolade, he did not rest on his laurels. Instead, Hales used the gifted authority to his advantage. His position helped him lead the way to bring cell phone coverage (via AT&T) and broadband to Arkansas City, the Desha County seat.
Hales joined Aristotle Unified Communications in April 2020. The Little Rock-based broadband internet service provider is committed to bringing broadband connectivity to unserved and underserved communities. Hales was in good company.
Aristotle is one of Arkansas’ largest privately-owned broadband network, which currently spans more than 6,100 square miles of Arkansas, with a major emphasis in the Arkansas Delta. Hales and Aristotle have joined forces and get closer every day to bridging the Delta’s digital divide. And Hales’ commitment to Arkansas City and the Delta region won’t stop there. He has big dreams, not only to build up the region to a prosperous state, but to go beyond and turn the area into a statewide leader in the technology, entertainment and hospitality industries as well. One thing is for certain, however — through it all, Hales is sure to remain humble and grateful. He is a man whose actions speak for him. And he comes by it honestly.
“When I look at all of this on paper, it looks pretty hard to believe,” he said. “I consider myself as nothing more than a servant to the needs of my fellow man in honor of Jesus Christ. I was raised by a great Christian mother and father, who were a perfect example of hard-working, blue-collar Americans.
“They raised me to love my neighbor, be faithful to my word and above all, never have an enemy. I love my mother’s words, ‘If you have time to talk about someone, you have time to pray for them.’ Then she’d take my hand, and we’d pray for them. It was not optional. Her actions spoke way more than her words. I believe that in the end, the relationships that we build are all that we truly own on this earth.”