“New year, new beginnings,” writes northwest Arkansas PR entrepreneur Elise Mitchell, who led a parade of new year’s greetings, big and small, funny and poignant, posted by Arkansas marketing, media and political figures.
Mitchell announced her departure as chair of Mitchell Communications Group, her “family for 25 years” and a reliable revenue producer at about $17 million a year as of late 2017.
A motorcycle rider who loves a biking metaphor, Mitchell is leaning into leadership consulting, a natural outgrowth of her business biography/coaching book, “Leading Through the Turn.”
As CEO of EliseMitchell.com, she will conduct leadership retreats and coach on teamwork. “I started by teaching a master’s level leadership course at Syracuse [University] in 2018, then launched my own workshop in 2019,” Mitchell told Arkansas Business via email.
Leadership means building a team you can eventually let go, Mitchell said, describing the transition as bittersweet. “These are my people … no doubt I am a smarter, wiser and better leader for having worked alongside them,” she said in a holiday email.
In November 2017, she relinquished CEO duties to Wal-Mart veteran Sarah Clark, who drew praise for taking the agency to “new heights” as the flagship PR agency for Dentsu Aegis Network, a wholly owned subsidiary of the Japanese advertising and public relations firm Dentsu. Mitchell sold Mitchell Communications to Dentsu in a 2013 deal worth millions.
Another fixture in northwest Arkansas, former Springdale fire chief and Bentonville Chamber executive Rich Davis, had his own new year’s announcement: “Retired,” was the one-word message on Twitter, beneath a selfie of a bearded and grinning Davis wearing a camouflage visor.
For the past four years, Davis was manager of community and government affairs for Black Hills Corp., which acquired Davis’ former company, SourceGas, in 2016. From 2002 to 2010, he was executive vice president and COO of the Bentonville/Bella Vista Chamber of Commerce.
Viktoria Capek of Duluth, Minnesota, let the “cat out of the bag,” declaring on Twitter that “This Southern girl is getting back below the Mason-Dixon” after a year and a half at Fox 21 in the North Country. The Atlanta-area native is joining the news team at KATV, Little Rock’s ABC affiliate.
Susanne Brunner of KARK hailed a watershed year, personally and professionally. “I published my first children’s book, ‘Busker the Tusker,’ won a regional Emmy, traveled to Kauai, Destin, Vegas and NYC, made amazing memories with family.” And … “My husband and I found out we’re going to have a baby!”
Ashlei King of KLRT started 2020 with 20-20 vision, wearing her eyeglasses on the set.
Jessica DeLoach, the Democratic strategist originally from El Dorado now working in Washington, offered personal advice:
“Claim your space in this new year,” she posted, taking a break from recent work for Pete and Chasten Buttigieg. “Do what you need to feel full.”
Her husband, former Little Rock mayoral candidate and Winrock International executive Warwick Sabin, is now executive director of the Society of Fellows at the Aspen Institute, also based in Washington.
Arkansas journalists offered lists of their 2019 work, but the clear winner from this vantage was John Moritz of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette (no relation to my boss, Arkansas Business Editor Gwen Moritz). His list of notable pieces included “many that furthered public accountability in state government.” But never mind all that.
Sure, he delivered great reporting on Mickey Gates, the Hot Springs lawmaker expelled from the Arkansas General Assembly for failing to file his taxes for years, and on Josh Mahony, who pulled out as the Democratic challenger to U.S. Sen. Tom Cotton just hours after the campaign filing deadline passed.
No, the “most bizarre political story” the reporter ever encountered involved “a man [Chris Sevier] with a history of stalking arrests and wacky claims who duped a state representative [Johnny Rye, R-Trumann]” into filing bills that would make Arkansans pay “an unconstitutional tax to view pornography.”
Moritz said that Sevier, enraged by the reporting, threatened to burn down the newspaper.
That threat seemed a bit empty considering Sevier’s low opinion of the state overall, expressed at the end of Moritz’s piece:
Sevier’s final assessment? “Nobody gives a shit about Arkansas.”