Gov.-elect Sarah Sanders announced Thursday (Dec. 22) former Entergy Arkansas CEO Hugh McDonald as her choice to lead the Arkansas Department of Commerce, the cabinet post that oversees economic development and recruiting, and other agencies dealing with banking, securities and insurance.
McDonald, who has been retired from Entergy since 2016, said he is looking forward to the challenge of recruiting businesses to Arkansas and helping develop the state’s workforce. Sanders said improving Arkansas’ workforce training and coordination – with an eye toward helping younger, non-college bound students explore career opportunities – would be a top priority for her administration.
“No one has figured this [workforce] out yet,” Sanders said. “I want Arkansas to be the leader on this.”
Mike Preston, the outgoing Secretary of Commerce, is transitioning to the private sector. He said an announcement about his future would be forthcoming.
McDonald spent 34 years at Entergy, including 16 years at the helm of the state’s largest electricity provider. With Entergy, McDonald was involved in many major economic development projects during his tenure, including the original $1.6 billion Big River Steel economic super project that was announced in 2013.
He is also a past chairman of the Arkansas State Chamber of Commerce and a former board member of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
Sanders also announced her intention to nominate Shane Khoury as the secretary of the Department of Energy and Environment on Wednesday (Dec. 21).
Khoury has more than 18 years of service in state government. He is now the chief counsel for the Arkansas Department of Energy and Environment, handling all legal and policy matters and managing legislative affairs. He also serves as hearing officer for the Oil and Gas Commission. Currently, he is the Governor’s Associate Representative for Arkansas to the Interstate Oil and Gas Compact Commission (IOGCC), he is the former chair of the Council of State Oil and Gas Attorneys as well as the Legal and Regulatory Affairs Committee of the IOGCC.
He has served as a member on the National Council for Electricity Policy, as an alternate on the Southern States Energy Board, and as a chair on the Arkansas State Employee Grievance Appeal Panel/Arkansas State Employee Grievance Review Committee.
“Shane’s years of experience with state energy and environment policy will be an asset as we ensure our energy industry can continue to invest and diversify while preserving the Natural State’s outdoor beauty. A reliable, growing energy sector will expand our economy, creating opportunity for every Arkansan, and I’m confident that together, we will unleash Arkansas energy,” Sanders said.
Khoury received his law degree from the University of Arkansas at Little Rock, William H. Bowen School of Law, and his bachelor’s degree in political science from Arkansas State University.