Editor’s note: Frank D. Scott Jr. is a banker, former state highway commissioner and a board member of the Little Rock Port Authority. Opinions, commentary and other essays posted in this space are wholly the view of the author(s). They may not represent the opinion of the owners of Talk Business & Politics.
Governor Beebe made a courageous appointment in 2013, putting a 29-year old on the Arkansas Highway Commission. Perhaps he saw something in me that someone once saw in him. When he was 26, Governor Dale Bumpers appointed him to the Board of Trustees at Arkansas State University, an early step in what would become a remarkable career in public service.
I recently texted Governor Beebe to wish him a happy birthday this past December. In response, Governor Beebe thanked me and told me to stay in touch, carry the torch, and “don’t ever let it be forgot.” That final line stuck in my head. It was a line from Camelot, a favorite Broadway play of President John F. Kennedy, a president Governor Beebe has studied very closely.
Now that my term on the Highway Commission is up, I want to take a moment to reflect on my time on the panel, while also committing to carry the torch forward and not forget the voices of the citizens I’ve heard from, the public sector officials I’ve learned from, and the businesses I’ve been able to collaborate with to have a positive impact on the state.
Several projects come to mind when I think about how fortunate I’ve been to be able to have an impact through my work on the Commission. One of my first projects after joining the Highway Commission was to identify funds that we could direct to the City of Conway for highway improvements that would aid the development of a Sam’s Club-anchored big box retail center adjacent to the highway. I was able to work with Director Scott Bennett and Deputy Director & Chief Operating Officer Lorie Tudor to identify $10 million, and the city partnered to contribute $2 million towards the highway improvements. Today, that development has an economic impact of $65 million.
Even though this didn’t fall under my purview with the Highway Commission, I am also proud of the case I made for minority participation in the management of the Highway Employees’ Retirement System’s $2 billion pension plan. At the time, the System’s pension fund had two money managers, one managing a majority of the fund’s funds. I was able to encourage five minority/women-owned businesses and five majority-owned, Arkansas-based firms to bid for the management of a portion of the pension fund. The System’s CFO then issued a national RFP to which 36 firms responded. The minority and women-owned firm Garcia Hamilton & Associates distinguished itself throughout this process and secured the management of $40 million in core fixed income. Of particular note here is that the System’s pension fund was the first state agency to have a minority-owned firm manage any funds at all.
One of the most high-profile projects I’ve had the opportunity to work on was the 30 Crossing project. My goal for the 30 Crossing project was to develop a solution that enhanced the economic well-being of all our communities in the region while also improving mobility and safety in the corridor. From the start, I believed strong public engagement would be critical to the success of the project. The Highway Department did an incredible job engaging the public – listening to hundreds of neighborhood groups, citizens, and elected and appointed officials. Looking back, I’m proud to say that we benefitted from over 1,250 citizens who attended public meetings. Over the course of my work on the project, we made many schematic changes to the design, balancing the engineering needs with the needs of the community. Without the input of the community, these key iterations, ensuring that the project better connects us to one another, would not have been made.
I feel particularly blessed to have recently secured $600,000 to contribute towards the reconstruction of the arterial intersection that connects Asher Avenue, Colonel Glenn Road, and University Avenue. I grew up in Southwest Little Rock near the University of Arkansas at Little Rock in a low-income community that needed help. This project will improve the walkability of the area and will lay the groundwork for increased commercial development along the corridor. Ultimately, this helps UALR and the community where I grew up.
I am grateful for the opportunity to have served the people of the State of Arkansas in this capacity, and feel thankful to have been able to make an impact in communities around the state. The work I’ve done has only been possible through the contributions of so many engaged community members and the committed partnership of the private sector. I am also grateful for the opportunity to develop a good relationship with Governor Hutchinson, and for his support in advancing our state’s highway infrastructure.
As I roll off the Commission, I’m often asked, “What’s next?” The answer is that I plan to be the best man of faith, the best First Security Bank executive, and the best engaged citizen that I can be. I plan to serve in whatever capacity with which God blesses me. Further, I plan to be thoughtful with my voice in analyzing different issues inside and outside of Arkansas that impact the people of our great state.
One piece of encouragement I would leave with fellow Arkansans is that one does not need certain positions or titles to make an impact on the future of Arkansas. I have seen young people, everyday citizens, and local businesses pitch in each and every day to make Arkansas better. All voices matter, and it is imperative that we are all engaged to make sure the future for Arkansas is a bright one.
As President John F. Kennedy once said when speaking about public service, “I can assure you that there is no area of life where you will have an opportunity to use whatever powers you have, and to use them along more excellent lines, bringing ultimately, I think, happiness to you and those whom you serve.”