I’ve spent most of my adult life working in the US and around the world in rural economic development. It has taught me the importance of engaging EVERYONE. To solve our problems, we must be willing to consider every possible solution. Whether it’s a small village or an entire country, I have learned that for ideas to work they must originate and be supported from the community they affect.
I truly believe that we all have more in common than not. We all want good schools and a safe community to raise our children. We all want a more equal society where everyone has the opportunity to work hard and enjoy life. We all get sick sometimes and shouldn’t have to worry about being able to pay the doctor or afford the medicine we need. We all want politicians to actually listen and respond to our concerns. I believe these are shared values we can all work toward and I would be honored to have the privilege of working with you as the Representative of the 65th District.
Education – Healthcare – Rural Infrastructure – Environment
A quality public education system is the foundation of every community and is especially essential for rural economies like ours to grow and prosper. Businesses invest in areas with strong schools and available workforce learning programs. Young people choose communities they see a vibrant future in, where one day they can see themselves raising a family. I myself am a product of Morrilton High School and am so thankful that both my children started their education here too, with teachers that I know and trust. I want every parent in Arkansas to have that same confidence that their child is getting a world-class education.
Every four year old in Arkansas deserves an opportunity to enroll in a pre-K classroom. Early childhood education has been shown to be one of the most effective investments in an individual’s “learning life”. Additionally, providing universal pre-K also gives parents the opportunity to work, to go back to school, to better themselves, without having to worry about childcare.
We should also invest in expanding vocational education opportunities, because not every student wants or needs to go to college to be successful. By working with local employers, we can have students job ready, or close to it, by the time they graduate high school.
We need total community involvement in supporting our schools, because education is the key to addressing so many of our state’s most pressing problems. Our local education leaders need a strong advocate in the legislature and I want to be that voice for them.
Access to quality and affordable healthcare is essential to the quality of life and stability of communities. As we have seen during this pandemic, healthcare tied solely to employment is extremely fragile when economic strife hits.
Availability of healthcare is not just a moral issue, but also an economic one. Rural hospitals and clinics constantly face financial challenges due to patient’s lack of insurance and sporadic public program funding.
Arkansas Works, program implemented under Governor Beebe and renewed under Governor Hutchinson, not only afforded 200,000 Arkansans health coverage, it also generated $444 million in positive economic benefit . However, many Arkansans still lack access to quality, affordable health care. We need to build upon and strengthen this program to protect all Arkansans and the hospitals that care for them.
Substance abuse continues to be a huge and growing problem in many communities across the country, unfortunately including ours. Medicaid expansion has played an enormous role in addressing this issue, by expanding mental health and substance abuse coverage to thousands of uninsured individuals. Studies show that states with Medicaid expansion had an average increase of 43% in substance abuse treatment. We must treat substance abuse as the public health crisis it is by focusing on rehabilitation and treatment, rather than punishment.
Attention to infrastructure is critical for rural districts such, as ours, where we face challenges in transportation, energy, water, and communication. Access to quality internet has become increasingly important during this period of school closings and work from home requirements. I applaud Governor Hutchinson for taking action in 2019 to increase Arkansans’ broadband availability and I support expanding this much-needed work. However, Internet service is just one part of the puzzle.
In 2019, after unprecedented amounts of rain, many of us realized that our flood control infrastructure must be evaluated and updated immediately. Most of our levees were built more than 60 years ago and not designed to withstand the level of water that comes with a flood. Controlling the flooding in the Arkansas River Valley is crucial to commerce, our agricultural community, and our economy. It is also crucial to our wildlife areas and all the places we like to go to hunt and fish.
District 65 has a special opportunity to assist this infrastructure overhaul, due to our significant industrial development potential. I see opportunity for District 65 to take a leading role in modernizing our state and I want to advocate for you in the legislature.
Our state is blessed with an abundance of natural resources as well as beautiful wild spaces that have earned us the nickname, the Natural State. From productive farmland to scenic vistas, our state’s natural beauty and bounty enhance our quality of life and our economic opportunities. It is our responsibility to protect the long-term value of these precious natural resources by implementing sound environmental and economic policies.
Arkansas should be on the forefront of environmental policy, because our state relies so heavily on the sustainable management of our natural resources. The investment opportunities in solar, wind, and hydroelectric energy are numerous and waiting to be taken advantage of. We all need clean water to drink and clean air to breathe. Protecting the environment is all of our concern, especially in District 65 where so many of us build our living off the land.