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Mark White named executive director of the Arkansas Teacher Retirement System

by Michael R. Wickline | June 8, 2023 at 11:45 a.m.
FILE — Mark White, Chief of Staff at the Department of Human Services, introduces his staff during a meeting of the Senate Committee on Public Health, Welfare and Labor on Wednesday, Jan. 18, 2023. (Arkansas Democrat-Gazette/Stephen Swofford)

Mark White, chief of staff at the state Department of Human Services, will become the next executive director of the Arkansas Teacher Retirement System, the system’s trustees decided on Thursday morning.

After a 12-minute closed-door executive session to discuss the selection of an executive director, 12 trustees voted to hire White for the post. There were no dissenters. Three of the board's 15  trustees were absent.

Afterward, board Chairman Danny Knight said White's salary and starting date as executive director are still to be determined.

The trustees interviewed eight candidates for the executive director’s post before Jim Hudson, chief of staff for the state Department of Commerce, withdrew his application on Monday after his interview on Friday. He said then, “I truly believe this isn’t the right opportunity for me at this time.”

Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Thursday in a written statement that "Mark White is an outstanding public servant who has demonstrated his commitment to Arkansas across a nearly twenty-year career in state government.

"He has served my administration well as the Chief of Staff for DHS and I know he will do great work on behalf of Arkansas’ teachers," the Republican governor said. 

In mid-March, the system’s then-executive director, Clint Rhoden, announced his resignation after 4½ years in the post, citing personal reasons. He departed the system on April 28. Since then, Deputy Director Rod Graves has been serving as interim executive director.

White has worked at the Department of Human Services since February 2018 in various administrative posts, including as secretary from October 2022-January 2023, and as director of legal services at the Arkansas Public School Resource Center from October 2016-February 2018, according to his application for executive director.

He previously worked in a few other posts at the state Department of Human Service from March 2013-September 2016. White was staff attorney at the state Department of Education from May 2010-March 2013, a partner in a law firm from November 2006-April 2010, an administrative law judge at the Arkansas Workers Compensation Commission from July 2003-October 2006, and regulatory policy liaison for then-Republican Gov. Mike Huckabee from June 1999-June 2003. Huckabee is Republican Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders’ father.

White wrote in a letter dated April 16 to the teacher retirement system’s board of trustees that “I pride myself on my ability to navigate complex policy and operational issues, leading teams by example through collaboration and communication.

“I have a proven track record of earning the trust of colleagues, clients and legislators by being open, upfront and honest. And I am known for working with calm resolve in a fast-paced, high-pressure environment,” he said.

White said in his letter that he knows that “job number one is reaching out to and taking care of our system members and employers.

“I have a personal stake in this since I and the members of my family are members of ATRS,” he wrote. “As Executive Director, I will make it a top priority to ensure that every member and employer is treated with respect and kindness, and that every employee is responsive and diligent in addressing needs.”

White has a bachelor’s degree in political science and communications from Ouachita Baptist University in Arkadelphia and a law degree from the University of Arkansas School of Law in Fayetteville.

He listed former Department of Human Services Secretary Cindy Gillespie; state Sen. Kim Hammer, R-Benton; state Rep, Jeff Wardlaw, R-Hermitage; Arkansas State University System Vice President of University Relations Shane Broadway; and former Republican Gov. Asa Hutchinson’s Chief of Staff Alison Williams as his references.


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