Growing up amongst the row crops of northeast Arkansas, Shannon Mirus saw that agriculture was both the heart and economic engine of her community — whether people grew rice or soybeans, sold farm trucks, worked in banking or cooked for a farmer.
“Everybody where I’m from is in agriculture or is tied to agriculture,” she said. “It’s such a highly-regulated industry that I wanted to learn more about how to help people navigate the system that’s in place.”
She summarily earned a degree in agricultural business, then a law degree, and a master of laws in agricultural law, all at the University of Arkansas.
Being in a field dominated by men never fazed Mirus. In 2007, she joined the National Agricultural Law Center in Fayetteville as a staff and research attorney. There she worked under Harrison Pittman, whom she still considers a mentor.
At age 30, she became the first female general counsel for the Arkansas Oklahoma Gas Corp., where she remained until just a few weeks ago. She has overseen legal and regulatory matters with the Arkansas Public Service Commission, Oklahoma Corp. Commission and Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. She drafted legislation, then lobbied and testified to see three bills become law.
Mirus also helped found the nonprofit Arkansas Women in Agriculture.
“It’s a statewide organization to educate and empower women who work in agriculture, so they can learn from each other,” she explained. “If you’re working a tractor on a 4,000-acre soybean farm, you’re not often encountering others. And because husbands often die first, many women have inherited farms and are seeking resources.”
Mirus is exploring possibilities for her next job, including considering private practice, but she intends to remain in Northwest Arkansas.