LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — Arkansas’ governor on Wednesday named 15 new cabinet secretaries under a government reorganization plan that cut the number of agencies answering directly to him.
Gov. Asa Hutchinson said the new secretaries will begin work on July 1, but will spend the coming weeks working on plans to carry out the reorganization he signed into law last month that cuts the number of cabinet-level departments from 42. Hutchinson has called the plan the largest government reorganization in Arkansas in nearly 50 years.
“They really have less than a month and a half to prepare for the transition,” Hutchinson told reporters.
All of the cabinet secretaries will see a pay raise under the reorganization, ranging from 1.5% to 57%. The biggest salary increase will go to Jami Cook, who will become secretary of the newly formed Department of Public Safety that will include State Police, the Crime Lab and the Department of Emergency Management. Cook, the director of the state Commission on Law Enforcement Standards, will see her pay increase from $99,000 to $155,916.
Hutchinson said the $154,302 for the increased salaries will come from the departments’ existing budgets. Hutchinson said the secretaries won’t be able to create additional jobs or spend more money. He has said he expects the reorganization to save the state $15 million a year in rent, leases, sharing services and by eliminating unfilled positions.
Department of Heritage Director Stacy Hurst will become secretary of the newly formed Department of Parks, Heritage and Tourism. Her pay will increase from $123,000 to $137,094. Mike Preston, the head of the Economic Development Commission, will become secretary of commerce. In addition to economic development, Preston will now oversee several other agencies including the insurance, securities and bank departments. His pay will increase from $150,000 to $153,000.
The reorganization also combines the state prison and parole systems into a cabinet-level Department of Corrections. State Department of Correction Director Wendy Kelley will be the secretary overseeing that department.