The state's loss: editorial.
Of all the thankless jobs in this state, directing the Arkansas Economic Development Commission ranks near the top. The person who takes on the role of chief job-creator is playing in a league as competitive as the NFL, but the quarters are much longer, the scoreboard much harder read and the rules, written and unwritten, ever-changing. And the Monday-morning quarterbacks, sometimes including this one, just as critical.
Last week, in one of those strange coincidences that define the word coincidence, the current and a past director of AEDC died on the same day.
Though 70 years old--a fact that surprised even people who knew her well, because she certainly didn't look it--Maria Haley was on the job when she was felled by a brain aneurysm on Friday, Sept. 9. She succumbed four days later.
Haley's death was entirely unexpected and premature, but it was the kind of "good death" that many of us pray for. She was vital and active and useful until the very moment she was struck down.
Later on Tuesday evening, Jim Pickens, who took over AEDC at an especially trying time back in 2001, also died in Little Rock. He was nearly 64 and contemplating retirement from his job as vice president of public affairs for Entergy Arkansas when Gov. Mike Huckabee called on him to fill, initially on an interim basis, the AEDC directorship upon the sudden resignation of Barbara Pardue. He ended up staying for two and a half eventful years.
When he did retire, he told Arkansas Business: "Economic development is about the future, not the past. It's never finished. There's always another project out there."
Truer words were never spoken, which means that Gov. Mike Beebe will be looking for another hardy soul with vision and political skills and management know-how and a thick skin. May he, and we, be lucky enough to find another leader of the caliber of Maria Haley and Jim Pickens.
Arkansas Business' Opinion Page