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story.lead_photo.caption University of Central Arkansas President Houston Davis announced Wednesday the appointment of Arkansas House of Representatives Speaker Jeremy Gillam (shown) as UCA's director of governmental affairs and external relations.

CONWAY -- Jeremy Gillam, a two-term speaker of the Arkansas House, is resigning from the Legislature to take a position that will include lobbying and other activities for the University of Central Arkansas.

"It is bittersweet to leave" the Legislature where he's served since 2011, said Gillam, R-Judsonia, but he is "excited about the new opportunity."

Gillam, 41, submitted a letter of resignation, effective at 5 p.m. June 15, to the governor's office Wednesday. He will become UCA's director of governmental relations and external affairs the next day.

His annual salary will be $130,000, UCA President Houston Davis said Wednesday in an interview.

As House speaker, Gillam makes $47,277 a year. The speaker represents House District 45, which covers part of White County.

Gillam said he and his brother sold their 450-acre berry farm in White County last month. Ritter Crop Services of Jonesboro bought the farm for $1,364,925, according to the White County assessor's office.

"For a while I have been trying to figure where the Lord is going to lead me and what is going to be the best fit for me and my family, but I still wanted to serve and do something that I felt was making a difference," Gillam said.

"I visited with a lot of different people about a lot of different possible roles ... and this [position] was just kind of organically developed over the last few months," he said.

Gillam said the House will caucus on June 15 to choose his successor. He hopes the chamber promotes Speaker-designate Matthew Shepherd, R-El Dorado, to the position.

Davis said Wednesday that he was impressed that Gillam had twice been chosen House speaker. Speakers typically serve one two-year term.

"That is a high-pressure role" and shows Gillam has a "strong leadership record," Davis said.

"One thing that really struck me is that I had individuals from both sides of the aisle mention his name as a really strong candidate for this job," Davis said. "It's a testament to him [that] he's a two-term speaker. That tells me he can deliver, that he's got a good work ethic and that he's an honorable person."

Gillam and Davis said Gillam will not be a registered lobbyist, and Gillam said he doesn't view himself as a lobbyist. Gillam will, however, work with state, local and federal governments on issues affecting UCA, Davis said.

Gillam "will be representing UCA's interests as well as providing information relating to higher-education matters to the statehouse," the president said.

State lawmakers are subject to a two-year cooling-off period for registering as lobbyists, said Graham Sloan, director of the Arkansas Ethics Commission. But state law provides an exception to registering as a lobbyist for a public servant acting in his official capacity under certain conditions.

"So, a former member of the General Assembly whose term of office had expired [under Arkansas Code Annotated 21-1-402] could take a job with a state university and engage in lobbying activities and not be required to register as a lobbyist as long as they don't receive $400 in a calendar quarter from a nongovernmental source for lobbying or spend more than $400 in a calendar quarter for lobbying," Sloan said in an email.

For several months, there has been speculation about whether Gillam would go to work for a state agency such as UCA or the state Plant Board.

State Rep. Michael John Gray, D-Augusta, said UCA's announcement Wednesday was "obviously ... not a surprise to anyone."

"It is a little surprising that he resigned in the middle of his term to do it," said Gray, who is chairman of the state Democratic Party.

When they approved Amendment 94 to the Arkansas Constitution in November 2014, voters extended from one year to two years the period during which lawmakers are barred from accepting lobbyist jobs after leaving office. Gray said he questions "the loophole there" that essentially allows lawmakers to accept lobbying jobs for state agencies after leaving office.

That loophole "speaks to the things that people don't like about government," and lawmakers should make it clear to the public that the exemption exists, Gray said. He said he isn't taking a shot at Gillam or begrudging him for taking the job with UCA.

"But I just think it is a problem in our system," he said.

Davis said UCA Chief of Staff Kelley Erstine will continue to represent UCA as well at times.

Davis said Gillam's position is "not just about the relationships with the statehouse, although that's important for providing information and being aware of current issues."

Davis said Gillam could get involved in issues that would affect UCA's infrastructure -- easements, streets and access points, for example. There also will be opportunities for Gillam to help with internal matters such as student development and internships.

J.R. Davis, a spokesman for Republican Gov. Asa Hutchinson, said the governor plans to call a special election to fill the vacancy in House District 45.

In the Nov. 6 general election, Beebe Republican Jim Wooten is unopposed for that seat, but the next legislative term won't start until mid-January.

In a written statement, Hutchinson said Gillam "has been a tremendous asset to Arkansas throughout his years of service in the House of Representatives."

"He has done a remarkable job serving as speaker, and his unique perspective and strong leadership will be missed," Hutchinson said.

As for the timing of his resignation, Gillam referred to Shepherd and said, "At the end of the day, the House is in good hands."

Shepherd said he has been preparing to take over as speaker since March when he was elected speaker-designate.

"I feel like I am ready and prepared to go," Shepherd said.

State Rep. Andy Davis, R-Little Rock, who lost a bid for House speaker-designate to Shepherd in March, said he supports elevating Shepherd to House speaker on June 15.

Gillam likened his plans to the resignation of then-Sen. Johnny Key, R-Mountain Home, who joined the University of Arkansas System as associate vice president of university relations. Key is now the state's education commissioner.

Gillam is the second lawmaker in recent years to take a lobbying position with UCA. In January 2013, when his legislative term ended, former state Sen. Gilbert Baker, R-Conway, became executive assistant to then-UCA President Tom Courtway. Baker resigned that position in April 2014 and is a music teacher at UCA.

Arkansas Tech University hired former Rep. Phil Jacobs, D-Clarksville, in 2005 as associate vice president for governmental relations, after his term ended. He registered as a lobbyist.

Former Sen. Shane Broadway, D-Bryant, has been Arkansas State University System's vice president for governmental relations since 2015. Broadway's Senate term ended in January 2011, and he became director of the state Department of Higher Education the next month. From there he moved to ASU.

Other lawmakers have taken different government jobs. In June 2016, state Rep. Kelley Linck, R-Flippin, resigned to become the Department of Human Services' first chief of legislative and governmental affairs. At that time, he said it wasn't a lobbying position.

Sen. Eddie Joe Williams, R-Cabot, resigned in November to accept an appointment as President Donald Trump's representative to the Southern States Energy Board.

Rep. David Branscum, R-Marshall, resigned in November to take a job with the U.S. Department of Agriculture's rural development office in Arkansas.

Photo by Democrat-Gazette file photo
UCA President Houston Davis is shown in this file photo.
Photo by Special to the Democrat-Gazette
State Rep. Michael John Gray, D-Augusta, is shown in this photo.
Photo by AP file photo
Speaker-designate Matthew Shepherd, R-El Dorado, is shown in this file photo.

A Section on 06/07/2018

Print Headline: State Speaker Gillam to quit as a legislator; Hired at UCA, doesn’t see himself as lobbyist, he says

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Comments

  • JMort69
    June 7, 2018 at 5:56 a.m.

    So, again, this is the "Lord" leading him. Really. The Lord certainly has interesting timing. He "led" him to do this the day before the lobbyist at the top of the biggest scandals in our legislature is changing his not guilty plea in the federal case against him. Wonder why the Lord allowed Gillam to sit by and let these scandals proliferate under his so-called "leadership"? And, I guess the Lord told him its OK to run the fine line of the law for his next job as well. Gillam also tried to get the same bunch of crooks in on the ground floor of medical marijuana, it appears. He appointed Travis Story to the MM Comm. and Story is Ecclesia's attorney. Story messed the whole thing up for all of us who need it, and, Woods, now a convicted felon, was trying to divert some of the income to Ecclesia. The hearing on MM is also today. So, I guess the Lord told Gillam to bail before any of this came down. I suspect that federal prosecutors had more to do with this than the Lord. And, we the people will foot the bill for his next gig as a lobbyist for a state funded school. After all, that's our tax money too. These guys, either directly or by association, have robbed the good people of Arkansas blind for years and wrapped in all in their phony religions. I am so sick of these charlatans using the name of God in their schemes. It is blasphemy, pure and simple. So, whether it was the Lord or the law, I'm glad Gillam is gone and I hope he is followed by all the rest of the crooks in our legislature. Arkansas needs a clean slate.

  • Illinoisroy
    June 7, 2018 at 7:53 a.m.

    Shouldn't be limited to lobbying only. Elected officials shouldn't be able to be employed by any state government supported entity for 2 years!

  • 3WorldState1
    June 7, 2018 at 9:07 a.m.

    I heard his "God" BS yesterday as well. If Religion is real, people like this will surely burn in hell - hiding behind the Lord. Disgraceful. He said he didn't know anything about the job before he quit the legislature? Republicans think their base will believe anything. And for the most part, they do.

  • LRCrookAtty
    June 7, 2018 at 9:44 a.m.

    JMort...again great analysis! 3World..agree, just as Democrats will believe anything that their chosen "talking-heads" tell them. The problem is that Dems and Reps alike, listen to their chosen (usually those that agree with them) talking-heads (Fox for Republicans, all others for Democrats), and believe whatever comes out of their mouths. A lot of the "talking-heads" on these shows are attorneys, because they know how to say something (and it be accurate) without telling the whole truth, just the part of the truth that they want to disseminate amongst their followers.

  • JMort69
    June 7, 2018 at 10:32 a.m.

    Absolutely LRAtty. I have never belonged to either silly club. I don't need anyone to tell me how to think. The key is that we who use our brains have to outvote those who merely follow the talking heads. If we in Arkansas don't get up and do that, we will never improve the caliber of people in charge and they will continue to run their cons. The election of Bob Ballinger as the Repub. candidate for Senate Seat 5 is a prime example. He did not carry one precint he currently represents in the House. But, the gullible voters in Crawford Co. don't know him like his current constituents. And, because he showed up at all their churches with his family dog and pony show and is so slick, they fell for him like P.T. Barnum's suckers. Also, he was backed by the governor, in spite of his questionable connections to the Ecclesia scams. I guess Asa can excuse that, since his own nephew, Jeremy is supposedly involved in the Cranford/Wilkins Medicaid scam. There is no honor in our state house right now, and, if we don't vote these undesirables out, there never will be.

  • RBBrittain
    June 7, 2018 at 10:52 a.m.

    How come no one in the media has addressed Gillam's apparent violation of Arkansas Constitution, Article 5, Section 10? "No Senator or Representative shall, during the term for which he shall have been elected, be appointed or elected to any civil office under this State." Resignation does NOT remove this disability; only after "the term for which he (was) elected" expires in January can he accept "any civil office under this State" (including county & municipal as well as state jobs). From what I can tell in this article, the prior appointments of Johnny Key at UA & Kelley Linck at DHS were unconstitutional (though not challenged); Eddie Joe Williams & David Branscum took Federal jobs not subject to the constitutional ban; the others listed (including Key's current job at ADE) were appointed after their terms expired.

  • 3WorldState1
    June 7, 2018 at 11:59 a.m.

    I belong to no party. But the "talking heads" on both sides are not of equal equivalence. I watch both Fox and MSN and listen to AFR daily. Fox is literally state run tv. I have been saying it for years. And Gen. Peters, who recently quit Fox after 10 years has been saying the same thing - That Fox is a Propaganda machine and is dangerous for our country. MSN, while certainly skewed left, works on a premise of legit quests, journalism and facts. Do they harp on some things too much? Yes. Are they lying? No. Just reporting.
    But there is no question the Trump party (there is no Republican party anymore) will believe anything. Anyone that still believes a man that has lied over 3000+ times is not in there right mind. Their hatred and yes, racism in many, apparently takes over their ability to understand what is real and what is not. It is an interesting and scary dilemma our country is going through right now.
    But generally speaking, I agree with you.

  • LRCrookAtty
    June 7, 2018 at 12:24 p.m.

    3World...I watch and read the statements on all articles made by you and others, and there is no difference. You just did the same thing in your rant above, by saying that any news agency (basically the ones that you agree with) besides Fox is spouting the full truth. People, Like JMort and I, actually watch (critically) all the news channels and find them all to cater to their parties of choice. CNN, MSNBC etc.. will rant at how much of a liar Trump is and how he stole the election etc... because they know that's what the crazies on the left want to hear and believe. While Fox (Hannity #1) will spout how great Trump is and how he hasn't lied etc..., because that is what they know the crazies on the right want to hear. When Obama was President, MSNBC, CNN etc...skewed the numbers to make it look like he was doing a great job. While Fox reported on different numbers to demonstrate how bad Obama was doing. Then you and others get on here and spout what they told you.

    By the Way...Gen. Peters, no matter what he says now, was the one that called Obama a Pu$$y on Fox live, for what happened in Bengazi (If I remember correctly it was Bengazi). So, his credibility is not very high (he could be angry or disgruntled employee). However, while it was putting money in his pocket, he was on board (even with Hannity).

  • JMort69
    June 7, 2018 at 1:08 p.m.

    And, once again, we have devolved into petty partisanship, while missing the bigger picture. WE HAVE A STATE HOUSE FULL OF CROOKS AND CON MEN. Can we try to concentrate on that? And, today, the lobbyist Cranford, at the top of the Medicaid and Ecclesia scams, pleaded guilty to paying bribes to three AR legislators, including "Senator A", in the Preferred Family Medicaid indictment. Senator A is, reportedly, the governor's nephew. So, the scams go all the way to the top of our state government. I don't think there is any party affiliation on our money. And, right now, our money is being stolen by the handsful. I have recently been involved in a highly successful cause in Arkansas. We all put aside our political differences, in fact never mentioned politics, and we won. We won with the support of numerous legislators at the state and federal level. If the people of Arkansas would come together against our common enemy, the bevy of crooks in our legislature, we could win that battle too. Its going to take all of our brooms, no matter the description, to sweep the dirt out of our state house. So, enough with petty, political party rhetoric. Let's try being Arkansans first.

  • LRCrookAtty
    June 7, 2018 at 1:34 p.m.

    JMort...That was my point, that I did not type as eloquently as you did. When people post on here that there is a problem (like Crooks in our Legislature) and then follow up with rhetoric about Trump being a liar or Obama being a muslim sympathizer, it minimizes the original problem and does nothing to fix the problem. Vote the crooks out of office and elect someone to replace them, whether black, white, asian, republican, democrat or other just get the CROOKS out of office.

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