Then & Now: Malone still involved in policymaking at AACF

by Paul Gatling (pgatling@nwabj.com) 575 views 

Editor’s Note: The following story appeared in the Oct. 14 issue of the Northwest Arkansas Business Journal. “Then & Now” is a profile of a past member of the Business Journal’s Forty Under 40 class.

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Stephanie Malone is the rare professional whose career has taken her from Northwest Arkansas to central Arkansas — and not the other way around.

Born and raised in Rogers, Malone, 41, recently celebrated her first anniversary as the governmental affairs director for Little Rock-based nonprofit Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families (AACF). As a Republican strategist, she works closely with the legislature to craft policies that affect children and families across the state.

Navigating her way around the State Capitol is not unfamiliar territory for Malone. From January 2009 to January 2015, while living in Fort Smith, she served three terms as a Republican member of the Arkansas House of Representatives. In the first four years, she represented House District 64. She represented House District 77 for the final two years.

During her first term, while also working as the marketing director for the Fort Chaffee Redevelopment Authority in Fort Smith, the Northwest Arkansas Business Journal selected Malone as a member of its 2009 Forty Under 40 class.

During her six years as an elected official, Malone represented the concerns of roughly 30,000 constituents. She successfully carried and passed several pieces of legislation on behalf of numerous organizations and individuals, including the Arkansas National Guard.

During the 89th General Assembly in 2013, Malone was chosen by the Speaker of the House to chair the House Select Committee of Rules, one of only three women to ever be selected for the role.

Malone, who is a University of Arkansas graduate, left her job at Fort Chaffee in 2013, and she was term-limited as a legislator in 2014. After her career as a state representative ended, the Arkansas Educational Television Network (AETN) in Conway hired her as its professional relations director in April 2015. The following year, Community Health Centers of Arkansas in Little Rock hired Malone as its policy and advocacy director.

With AACF, Malone is afforded the chance to remain involved in policymaking and effecting change, only now it’s behind the scenes. In the 92nd General Assembly earlier this year, AACF crafted legislation that was ultimately passed into law. It prohibits the use of corporal punishment in Arkansas public schools on children with specific disabilities. The legislation was co-sponsored by Sen. Joyce Elliott, D-Little Rock, and Rep. DeAnn Vaught, R-Horatio.

In a recent interview, Malone said the idea of bringing two sides together for a common goal appeals to her.

“I enjoy challenges in life,” she said. “Everybody in this group [AACF] pushes for better opportunities for children and families across the state. There’s just a difference sometimes of how to do that. It presented a challenge for me to work with a majority conservative legislature, which is the way that I typically lean politically, with an organization that maybe comes from a different side. Bringing two sides together to accomplish a goal is appealing to me.”

Malone recently concluded a 24-month turn as a LeadAR participant. LeadAR, or Lead Arkansas, is a statewide leadership program operated by the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture. It is designed to educate emerging leaders on public issues and develop their expertise in addressing critical problems facing Arkansas.

As a community-minded professional, Malone also volunteers as legislative coordinator for Arkansas Hunger Alliance and is a board member for Just Communities of Arkansas, a social justice and equity organization based in Little Rock.

Malone, whose uncle is U.S. Sen. John Boozman of Rogers, said she wholeheartedly endorses public service. She considers her own time at the State Capitol well spent. She said she doesn’t miss campaigning, however, and doesn’t see herself returning to the political arena anytime soon.

“I don’t think I would rule anything out, but we’ll see what happens,” she said. “Even to this day, when people ask, ‘Would you suggest running for office?’ I say, ‘Absolutely.’ Win or lose, it’s an amazing experience.”

She also doesn’t rule out a return to her hometown one day. Her immediate family all still lives in Rogers.

“Everything in my life has worked out well so far,” she said. “I feel like I am exactly where I am supposed to be at this point.”

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