The trustees for the Arkansas Public Employees Retirement System on Tuesday hired state budget administrator Duncan Baird as their next permanent executive director.
The retirement system is state government's second-largest, with more than $8 billion in investments and more than 75,000 working and retired members. The Arkansas Teacher Retirement System is the largest state retirement agency.
In a voice vote with no dissenters, trustees approved the motion by a colleague -- state Treasurer Dennis Milligan -- to employ Baird, starting March 31, at the executive director's minimum salary of $149,862 a year. Milligan is a Republican from Benton who defeated Baird for the Republican nomination for treasurer in 2014. Baird also is a former state representative.
Baird's salary is $123,918 a year as budget administrator at the Department of Finance and Administration, according to the Arkansas Transparency website.
The trustees selected Baird over system chief investment officer Carlos Borromeo and actuary Jody Carreiro, after trustees interviewed each of them in a closed executive session Tuesday.
"We felt like he had a good mix of investment experience and legislative experience and also outreach experience that we felt like would be a good opportunity for executive director," board chairman Candace Franks said of Baird.
Referring to the March 31 start date, Franks said, "We are going to transition him between his position as budget director and his position over here, so he is going to be helping out here with our legislative process, too,
The system's deputy director, Jay Wills, will continue to serve as interim executive director "until we get the transition complete," Franks said.
Gov. Asa Hutchinson said, "I applaud APERS trustees for their selection of Duncan Baird as its new executive director.
"For the past four years, Duncan has done an impressive job as my state budget director, and I am confident he will be a great fit in this new role," the Republican governor said in a written statement.
"Now that the trustees have made their decision, we will begin to consider options to fill the state budget administrator position."
The retirement system's previous executive director, Gail Stone, announced on Dec. 5 her retirement, effective at the end of last year, after she said two trustees gave her the option of retiring and she felt like she had no other option. She had worked at the system since 1990 and served as its executive director since July 2001 until her retirement.
After Stone announced her retirement, Senate Republican leader Bart Hester of Cave Springs said he thought Baird should be considered the front-runner to be her replacement.
Baird had applied for the executive director job at the Teacher Retirement System before the trustees voted Oct. 31 to promote system associate director of operations Clint Rhoden to the post. Rhoden succeeded George Hopkins, who retired effective Nov. 16, after serving in the job since December 2008. Hopkins was a former Democratic state senator from Malvern.
Baird was one of 39 applicants for the Public Employees Retirement System's job. A trustees' selection committee -- Larry Walther, Daryl Bassett and Franks -- narrowed the field to three finalists. Walther is director of the state Department of Finance and Administration. Bassett is director of the Department of Workforce Services. Franks is the state bank commissioner. Walther, Bassett and Walther are appointees of Hutchinson.
"I'm not surprised," Sen. Joyce Elliott, D-Little Rock, said in an interview about Baird's hiring. "I doubt there are two people who are."
She said she hopes Baird does a good job and is very careful about protecting the system against people who want to undermine it.
Sen. Linda Chesterfield, D-Little Rock, said in an interview, "Duncan is very capable. I'm sure he will do a very good job."
Sen. Bill Sample, R-Hot Springs, who is an incoming co-chairman of the Legislature's Joint Committee on Public Retirement and Social Security Programs, said he had no comment about Baird's hiring.
Franks said Baird's hiring wasn't pre-ordained by the trustees.
"We had wonderful candidates. We had great interviews, and I'm really delighted with what kind of experience we had to interview," she said.
Baird, 39, has worked for Hutchinson's administration since January 2015. He served as a Republican state representative from Lowell from 2009-15 and as co-chairman of the Joint Budget Committee the last two of those years.
He also worked as a broker dealer for Arvest Asset Management in Lowell from 2004-09, according to his application.
Borromeo has served as the chief investment officer for the retirement system since 2010. His previous experience includes stints at Stephens Inc.; Am South Capital Markets of Nashville, Tenn.; Yamaichia International America of New York; and the Federal Home Loan Bank System in Reston, Va., according to his application.
Carreiro, who has a contract with the state Legislature, has been an actuary at Osborn, Carreiro & Associates since 1988, according to his application.
After the trustees hired him, Baird said in an interview, "I am honored to be selected by the board and look forward to getting to work for the members, both active and the retirees, and look forward to working with the board, getting to know the board and having a chance to engage with the full organization.
"My plan over the next few weeks and months is just to get to start diving into the organization," he said.
Carreiro said in an interview that "I want the system to do well, which means I want Duncan to do well."
Carreiro said he has a unique skill set, and he was disappointed that he wasn't hired, "but I have a good job."
Borromeo said in an email, "I think they interviewed three very qualified candidates, and they selected the person they felt was the best person for the position.
"I will continue to serve the Board and the new Executive Director in the same capacity that I have done for the past 8 and a half years," Borromeo wrote.
Gail Stone, former executive director of the Arkansas Public Employees Retirement System, speaks to legislators in this 2011 file photo.
A Section on 01/09/2019
Print Headline: State budget administrator, former Arkansas lawmaker gets top exec position at APERS