Kay Kelley Arnold: Public Servant

Kay Kelley Arnold: Public Servant

It’s difficult to summarize a life as full as that of Kay Kelley Arnold.

She is respected, celebrated and devoted to organizations that support issues such as social justice and environmental preservation, topics she holds near and dear to her heart. The Heber Springs native is an accomplished lawyer and businesswoman as well as a friend. She continually rallies people around worthy causes.

In a single word, Arnold is passionate. Her passion for service extends well beyond her community, reaching from the state level all the way to international organizations.

Public service is in Arnold’s DNA. Her parents, Henry and Tommie Kelley, were active participants in their community and taught their children that it was an honor to volunteer their time and talent to the betterment of society. That foundation coupled with employers who encouraged employees to find meaningful ways to give back to their community gave Arnold the love, spirit and ability to get involved in a wide variety of projects.

As the previous Vice President of Public Affairs at Entergy Corporation, she was able to put her love of philanthropy, volunteerism, grassroots politics and policy making into action. She managed the foundation and grants program, as well as the employee volunteer programs. Arnold led a team of employees charged with finding solutions to the problems low income citizens face.

Of course, that’s only scratching the surface of the many organizations in which Arnold has had a hand. She has led award-winning programs that support the environment and economic growth and developed effective grassroots campaigns to pass significant legislation and to raise funds for innovative projects that bridge the gaps that exist between economic prosperity and environmental quality.

Arnold was a member of Bill Clinton’s staff during his first term as governor. In that capacity, she served as his liaison to what is now known as the Department of Arkansas Heritage. When he left office in January 1981, she did as well.

Five years later, the re-elected Gov. Clinton tapped Arnold to lead the Department of Arkansas Heritage. In addition to supervising six cultural departments, she stepped into the job as plans were being made for Arkansas’ sesquicentennial. She also oversaw those efforts which were heavily tilted toward artistic and historic events.

Her experience in philanthropy and political action is now focused on several state, regional and national organizations where she serves as a board member and volunteer. To put that in perspective, Arnold currently serves on the board of Arkansas Hospice and is a founding director of two new environmental non-profits, the Arkansas Environmental Defense Alliance, aimed at preserving and defending the natural resources within the state, and the Little Red River Foundation, which serves to protect and enhance the Little Red River.

Arnold continues to serve on the national board of The Conservation Fund and is an advisory board member to the Inter-American Foundation and the Foundation of the Mid South. She is also serving as a citizen advisor to the Metroplan board, appointed by Little Rock Mayor Mark Stodola, and an Arkansas advisor to the Clinton Foundation. She is also an active member of the Arkansas Women’s Forum and serves as an honorary member of Arkansas Women of Power.

As the first Arkansas director of the Nature Conservancy field office, Arnold learned the importance of partnerships between government, nonprofit and corporate entities. Working together these organizations can accomplish more than any one of them could do by themselves and the societal benefits of these collaborations are both enduring and tangible. As the director of the Department of Arkansas Heritage Arnold learned firsthand of the power people have to improve their communities when they are focused and flexible to make changes and work diligently toward common goals.

For almost 40 years, Arnold has been an active volunteer, serving and leading on more than 45 nonprofit and governmental agency advisory boards at the local, state, national and international levels. As her numerous board and committee positions attest, Arnold utilizes her passion for the environment and her commitment to eliminating poverty and expanding economic opportunity to advocate for meaningful change, both within Arkansas and beyond.

Arnold’s decade of volunteer service to the Little Rock Municipal Airport Commission, the body responsible for setting policy for Bill and Hillary Clinton National Airport, brought momentous improvements to the airport’s passenger experience while dramatically increasing its economic impact on the state.

Arnold, who twice served as chairwoman, was influential in changing the airport’s longstanding business model with airlines, an unheard-of move at the time. This enabled the airport commission to begin retaining record earnings, which have helped to bring about $90 million in improvements during the largest construction initiative within the organization’s history. The projects have included a new ticket lobby, baggage claim renovation, an enlarged security checkpoint in addition to a concourse renovation planned for late summer. Much of the work, which was completed by local contractors, began at the end of the recession, and provided a spur to the local economy. The first phase of the terminal redevelopment project was completed in May 2013 with former president Bill Clinton and former secretary of state Hillary Rodham Clinton in attendance to celebrate the airport’s transformation and formally dedicate the facility as Bill and Hillary Clinton National Airport.

Clinton National Airport, which is now debt-free, has been a trailblazer as airports across the country have adopted its best practices, set forth by the airport commission, as their choice financial model for future success.

The airport is home to nearly 4,000 jobs with approximately half of those located at Dassault-Falcon Jet Corporation. Occupying more than 1 million SF, Dassault-Falcon’s operation at Clinton National is the largest in the world.

In 2013, during Arnold’s last term as chairwoman, Dassault was looking at several communities vying to be the site of the company’s new facility to serve as the completion center for two new jets, the Falcon 5X and the Falcon 8X. Arnold was determined that Little Rock would be chosen, which would result in a 250,000-SF expansion and additional, well paying jobs. Through Arnold’s leadership, the airport provided $41 million in rent incentives, which helped Little Rock win the project that was completed in November 2015.

Although Arnold has been retired from Entergy for three years, she can still be found serving her community in Little Rock. She keeps herself busy gardening, fishing, entertaining friends at her cabin on the Little Red River, playing with her dog Scout, traveling and volunteering for political candidates and the non-profit causes in which she believes.

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