Former state legislator and Gov. Beebe confidante Jon Fitch, director of the Arkansas Livestock and Poultry Commission, passed away after complications from a stroke, Talk Business has confirmed.

Additional details regarding arrangements are not known at this time.

Fitch, a former State Senator and State Representative from northwest Arkansas, was appointed by Beebe to the Livestock and Poultry post in 2007 shortly after he became Governor.

Fitch, 60, was a 1973 graduate of the University of Arkansas. He was elected to the House of Representatives in 1979. He remained there until his election to the Arkansas Senate in 1985 where he served until 2002.

He served and chaired numerous committees while in the legislature, including 18 years as a member of the Agriculture and Economic Development Committee and handled numerous bills concerning livestock and poultry while in the legislature. In 1985 when Arkansas’ cattle industry was at the verge of being placed on brucellosis quarantine, Fitch passed the first Brucellosis Eradication Act. Arkansas reached Brucellosis free status in 1997.

Fitch operated a 6th family generation farm and cattle operation in Madison County near Hindsville.

The Arkansas Legislature established the Livestock & Poultry Commission in 1963. The first man to be appointed to lead that department was Rolla Fitch, Jon Fitch’s father.

George Hopkins, a former State Senator who now heads the Arkansas Teacher Retirement System, shared his thoughts on his Twitter feed tonight. Hopkins said:

"I am saddened to hear that Jon Fitch has died. I learned of the serious stroke on Friday. Jon loved life and was dedicated to his work. Jon’s passions were ranching, the agriculture industry, and government service. He loved serving by improving governmental service. Jon was reliable, hardworking, & resourceful. He cared about his family & was loyal to his friends. Jon lived life large and with passion!"

Gov. Mike Beebe issued this statement:

"I met Jon when I entered the Senate in 1983, and we remained close colleagues for the next 28 years. A dear friend and a dependable ally, Jon jumped at the chance to lead the Livestock and Poultry Commission, and his time there has bolstered both the efficiency and morale of the office. We will miss his warm smile and his dedication to Arkansas, and I will personally miss his friendship."

UPDATE: The Arkansas State Senate posted this tribute and recap of Fitch’s legislative career. He was a workhorse and a reformer.

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