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Tom Dalton, the former Arkansas Department of Human Services director who worked to implement ARKids First in the 1990s, died of cancer last week in Hot Springs. He was 78.

Dalton was also city manager in Little Rock from 1986 to 1992 and a special assistant for about a year to former Gov. Mike Huckabee during the first stages of changes to the state's welfare system.

Originally from Cortland, N.Y., Dalton went into the Army for three years after high school. He was stationed in Korea. He also served in the Peace Corps after college.

He moved to Little Rock to become city manager after working in Michigan and Ohio; Dalton's time in Arkansas was spent primarily in Little Rock and Hot Springs.

Dalton worked as Department of Human Services director from 1993 to 1997. Much of his time with state government was spent working for former Gov. Jim Guy Tucker.

"He was a very, very bright guy," Tucker said. "Always thinking ahead about issues down the line, and I always thought he was very sensitive to people and how they felt about things."

Former Little Rock Mayor Jim Dailey, who worked with Dalton during his time as city manager, said Dalton helped push for the Future Little Rock initiative. The initiative was established in the early 1990s as a way to enlist the community's help in combating violent crime with programs that addressed youth issues and public safety.

"Tom was a sharp guy, I remember that -- a very strong leader and manager," Dailey said. "He was probably one of the more future-thinking types of city manager."

As Little Rock was expanding west, Dalton wanted to work to revitalize downtown, Dailey added. Later in his life, Dalton volunteered as a board member for the Little Rock Downtown Partnership and several other nonprofit organizations, according to his obituary at Gross Funeral Home.

There was some speculation that Dalton might leave the city in the early 1990s, but he liked Little Rock and he said he thought he had accomplished a lot in the city.

"How do you disprove a negative," he told a reporter in 1992. "Well, I'll just keep on staying."

During the interview with the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette in 1992, Dalton said he wanted to see more communication between the diverse groups of Little Rock to improve the city.

"I see us being able to work collaboratively together on areas of concern, like youth at risk and substance abuse, and I see an increased commitment to change," he said.

After working in government for nearly 30 years, Dalton began work in the private sector.

He started his own consulting firm called Dalton and Associates Inc. He was also the program director for Winrock International for nearly a decade.

He had two daughters and a son. He loved spending time on the lake with his wife and hiking. He also cared about helping children, and his family asked for donations to the Arkansas Sheriffs' Youth Ranches, a group foster-care home, instead of flowers, according to the funeral home obituary.

Tucker said he and Dalton continued working and spending time together over recent years, and he regrets not getting the chance to say goodbye to his friend.

"He had a good, full life and did good," Tucker said.

NW News on 06/20/2018

Print Headline: Ex-state official Dalton dies of cancer

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