Then & Now: Pate helps Waltons with philanthropic strategy

by Paul Gatling ([email protected]) 982 views 

Editor’s Note: The following story appeared in the Jan. 2 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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In many ways, community development is at the core of Jeremy Pate’s career. For the past five years, he’s done that differently while working for one of the country’s wealthiest families.

“It’s inspiring,” Pate said during a recent interview. “Community impact and community development are where my career has taken me thus far. The fact that I get to live in a place where I can see it unfold with the resources this foundation provides is refreshing to see.”

Pate, 45, recently marked five years working for the Walton Family Foundation in Bentonville. Walmart Inc. founders Sam and Helen Walton created the family-led foundation in 1987, and it operates separately from Walmart Inc. and its charitable work through the Walmart Foundation.

A board of directors comprised of Walton family members governs the philanthropic foundation, which has about 120 employees and offices in Bentonville (headquarters); Washington, D.C.; Jersey City, N.J.; and Denver.

Pate is deputy director of the foundation’s Home Region Program, which funds quality-of-life initiatives in Northwest Arkansas and the Delta Region of Arkansas (Pine Bluff and Helena-West Helena) and Mississippi (Clarksdale).

The foundation promoted Pate to deputy director just a few weeks ago. As a senior program officer, he managed a portfolio of grants focused on strategic investments in various areas, including downtown revitalization, developing cycling infrastructure, land preservation and water quality.

Transitioning to deputy director, he now manages the grantmakers.

“It’s a larger picture around our overall objectives and thinking about opportunities, our strategy and how we develop that and the impact we have within the communities we serve,” he said.

Before joining the foundation, Pate had a long career in the municipal government sector. He was the senior development services director at the city of Fayetteville for eight years. Mayor Lioneld Jordan created the position for Pate, who had worked in the city’s planning division since 2003, two years after earning degrees in English and landscape architecture from the University of Arkansas.

In that new role, Pate oversaw development within the city limits. He also managed special capital investment projects for the administration.

Pate said he wasn’t anticipating a career move when Karen Minkel called him five years ago. They had previously worked together for the city. Minkel was the foundation’s Home Region Program director from 2012 to 2021.

“It was a good opportunity to think about community development differently,” said Pate, who was part of the Northwest Arkansas Business Journal’s Forty Under 40 class in 2013. “From the public sector and guiding development for one community to offering my services to many communities throughout the region.

“I was also excited about the broader geography. We work in Northwest Arkansas and the two counties (Benton and Washington) here. But we also work in the Delta, and that was newer to me. It has been a great learning journey relative to that work.”

Pate said urban growth offers tremendous opportunities but also comes with immense challenges. That is true for Northwest Arkansas, one of the country’s fastest-growing regions. Pate acknowledged that affordable housing is a critical issue that is top of mind and a focus of the foundation’s Home Region Program work.

“As we talk about those issues and acknowledge them, the solutions become more apparent what works here,” Pate said. “Hopefully, we can bring some solutions to the [affordable housing] conversation. Same thing with quality education and transportation and many of those quality-of-life initiatives in Northwest Arkansas.”

Married with two children, Pate spends his recreation time mountain biking or running, an activity he enjoys with his son (13) and daughter (10).

Pate grew up on a Howard County farm in southwest Arkansas. That formed a solid connection to the outdoors that remains today, and he wants to pass it on to his kids.

“Fortunately for me, they have found the love of running as well,” Pate said. “I value being out in nature so much, and I hope they grow up and value that connection with nature and the outdoors as much as I have.”