Sen. Shane Broadway

By Elizabeth Sharp Published January 7, 2008 at 4:15 p.m.
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Shane Broadway lives a contented existence with his wife of 12 years, Debbie, and their three dogs in Bryant. During the week, he works at a marketing and communications firm and the Saline County Economic Development Corporation. But behind the unassuming demeanor and kind face is a man who has worked tirelessly for more than a decade in the name of public service. Broadway, 35, is a state senator - a duty that he doesn't take lightly.

"He's the most honest, humble person and hardworking-for-the-right-reasons kind of guy that I know," Debbie Broadway said of her husband. "I respect him so much because he takes it seriously. It's not a game for him. It's not a time-filler for him."

Broadway's fascination with politics began when he was a child in Benton. The youngest of six children, Broadway said he was 15 years younger than his next oldest sibling.

"I always say everything that could be done to irritate my parents had already been done," Broadway said, smiling.

Despite an occasional older brother dropping by, Broadway said he was raised more or less as an only child. And many of his political aspirations can be traced back to his relationship with his parents. A Highway Department employee and a high school cafeteria lady, they held less-than-glamorous jobs, but Broadway said their strong work ethic and dedication to their children were a constant reminder of his duty to help others.

"They always instilled in me how fortunate we were to live where we were and stressed giving back," Broadway said. "My dad wanted us to have a better life than he lived."

Broadway's first encounter with a real politician occurred in grade school. Larry Mitchell, now the mayor of Bryant, was running for state representative at the time. Broadway said he remembers being surprised that the man whose name he saw on campaign signs around town was just an average person he saw at church on Sundays.

"He was a normal guy, he could have a great impact on the community," Broadway said.

A few years down the road, Broadway had his next brush with politics. This time, however, it was with Bill Clinton, going door-to-door during his comeback campaign in 1982. One of Clinton's stops was the Highway Department, where he shook hands with Broadway's father.

But despite the exposure to public service both inside and outside the home, Broadway had other plans. His childhood dream was to be the voice of the Razorbacks. He went so far as to enroll in the radio and TV program at Arkansas State University once he was out of high school. However, it quickly became apparent that a future in broadcasting was going to require a lot more time and effort than Broadway felt he was willing to put in. Instead, he graduated with degrees in political science and history.

Broadway's current role in Arkansas politics is as a state senator, but he's had several other positions.

He's been a member of the Arkansas House of Representatives, including the youngest Speaker of the House in Arkansas history. He's also chaired the Southern Legislative Conference and the House Rules committee and co-chaired the Academic Facilities Oversight committee. But regardless of what position he's held, he's always felt passionate about one thing: improving education in central Arkansas.

A pivotal moment for Broadway was when he was invited to sit on five parole hearings one morning and realized that all of the criminals being heard had two things in common: They weren't educated - some of them didn't even have a high school diploma - and their crimes were either alcohol or drug-related.

From that moment on, Broadway's worked tirelessly to increase the quality of education at every level. Most of his work has involved co-authoring the state school funding program, which has donated $1.4 billion to construction and renovation.

He's also worked to improve safety on school buses and daycare vans. The piece of legislation Broadway feels most proud of is a $40 million infusion to preK programs across the state.

And his work hasn't been limited to the K-12 level. He's also worked to assist nontraditional students in their higher education endeavors, something that weighed heavy on his heart ever since he saw nontraditional students struggling to make ends meet back at ASU.

"They would see these incoming freshmen coming in [with scholarships] and blowing it away," Broadway said. "They wanted to be there, and they couldn't take out another loan."

Today, with Broadway's help, there are scholarships available to students over 24 pursuing continuing education. And with the assistance of Linda Bean and Janet Huckabee, at least $2 million has been put toward a program to assist adults who have never been to college but want to enroll in only three credit hours before choosing to pursue it any further. It's a move that Broadway feels will impact not only the adults involved, but future generations, too.

"It serves as a great example to kids - Mommy and Daddy are [getting educated], too," Broadway said.

Debbie has seen him develop as a politician and human being for the past 12 years, and she said she feels her husband has been specially equipped to do what he does. Many of the traits she admires most - his loyalty, patience and deep consideration before taking action - are things that Broadway shared with his own father, who died two months ago.

"I think Shane's ultimate goal is to live up to and honor his dad," she said.

Broadway said that he plans to continue pushing for legislation that will bolster the education programs in Arkansas and prepare the next generation to take his place.

"One of my goals before I leave is that whoever comes behind me is prepared," Broadway said. "I believe in the saying, 'Leave it better than you found it.'"

And as for post-retirement, Broadway said his big plans involve finding time to relax, something that neither he or Debbie has had much opportunity to do in years.

"I'm terrible at golf, and I'm not a great fisherman," Broadway said. "In retirement, I guess I could get better."

matter of

fact

My age: 35

My occupation is: State senator/ communications and economic development

My family includes: My wife, Debbie, three dogs - Biscuit, B.B. and Blue - mother, four brothers and one sister

My hobbies include: Hunting, fishing, golf, boating. Really all things sport

My goals for the future are: To do all I can for my family and my community and state

My name comes from: Really nowhere, most have always thought from the movie Shane but Mom says not so.

Most people don't know I: Was born with two fingers on my left hand attached together.

My political heroes are: Dale Bumpers and David Pryor

The person I admire the most is: My parents

I think people should: Take time to "stop and smell the roses," advice from an old friend to me a few years ago

My biggest fear: Was losing my father

The world would be a better place if:

Everyone valued education as the key to moving our state and nation forward

None Elizabeth Sharp can be reached at 501-244-4367 or elizabeth@syncweekly.com.