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Budget director for state Department of Finance and Administration resigns

Budget director’s last day was Friday by Michael R. Wickline | May 17, 2023 at 8:14 a.m.
Aaron Black, budget director in Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders’ office and the state Department of Finance and Administration, responds to questions from state legislators in this Jan. 19, 2023 file photo. Black resigned Friday, citing personal reasons. (Arkansas Democrat-Gazette/Staci Vandagriff)

Aaron Black, the budget director in Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders' office and the state Department of Finance and Administration, has resigned, citing personal reasons.

"The governor has a fantastic team to carry her forward and I wish her the best," Black said Tuesday.

Friday was Black's last day as a state Department of Finance and Administration employee with a salary of $144,499.92, state Department of Finance and Administration spokesman Scott Hardin said Tuesday.

Sanders spokeswoman Alexa Henning said in a written statement that, "The Governor appreciates Aaron's service, and we wish him all the best in his future endeavors."

Black wrote in an email dated Friday to the finance department's budget office team that it's "been exciting and fast-paced [these] last many months through the transition and the session.

"Each of you have brought so much to the experience and provided such support for me," he said in his email. "I wanted to tell you how much I appreciate you. Thank you for making my time enjoyable and for serving the new administration so well."

Black wrote in his email that "I am resigning from my position but I wish you all the very best as you carry forward with all the hard work and follow through on the policy changes and new initiatives recently passed."

Sanders announced Black's appointment as budget director in the governor's office Jan. 9, the day before she was sworn in as the state's first female governor. He was a former director of compliance at the state Department of Energy and Environment, an aide to then-Gov. Mike Huckabee and an executive director of the Arkansas Tobacco Settlement Commission.

Black was moved into the finance department budget director post during the second week of January after the promotion of then-finance budget director Robert Brech to the finance department's deputy director of budget position, Hardin said in late January. Finance department Secretary Larry Walther previously described Black's budget director position as a dual role in coordination with Sanders' office and Black also serving as budget director for the governor's office.

Hardin said Tuesday that it's not been determined whether Black's position as budget director at the finance department will be filled.

"Following Aaron's resignation, Robert Brech is overseeing all budget-related responsibilities," he said.

Brech joined the finance department as budget director in May 2021. He formerly was an attorney and chief financial officer at the state Department of Health and general counsel of the Arkansas Public School Resource Center.

Two months ago, Andrew "Vu" Ritchie resigned as chief legal counsel for Sanders, saying he had been presented with professional opportunities outside of state government over the previous couple of weeks and that it was important for him to have "clarity of mind" as he fully considered all of his options. At that time, he said he had submitted his official letter of resignation to Sanders, which was effective as of March 17.

Ritchie previously served as senior adviser for domestic policy for U.S. Sen. Tom Cotton, senior adviser in the office of Administrator Seema Verma at the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid in the Trump administration, and senior adviser to Gov. Asa Hutchinson.

Stephens announced Wednesday the hiring of Ritchie as vice president of government relations, a role in which he manages Stephens' legislative priorities at the federal, state and local level and serves as a policy adviser to Stephens' executive leadership. He started work for Stephens on Monday.

Print Headline: Black resigns dual post with governor


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