Scott Bennett announced Wednesday he will retire as director of the Arkansas Department of Transportation, effective March 20, and the state's Highway Commission wasted little time naming Lorie Harris Tudor as his replacement after a special meeting Thursday.
Tudor, a 36-year veteran of the department, will be its first woman director. She began her career there as a typist. In 1995, she returned to academia and earned a bachelor's degree in civil engineering from the University of Memphis.
She rejoined the department in 1998 as a civil engineer in the planning division. In 2011, she was named assistant chief engineer for planning and was promoted to deputy director and chief operating officer in 2014.
"I am both honored and humbled by the trust that the Commission has placed in me to lead the Department," Tudor said. "I have had many great mentors over the years, but Scott Bennett has taught me the most. His strong and effective leadership has resulted in many positive changes at the Department. He will be greatly missed and we wish him the best as he begins this new chapter. With the Department's competent staff and support, I am confident that we can continue that progress as we head into the future."
Bennett has been the department's director for nine years. He led the department as it implemented highway programs approved by voters in 2011 and 2012; he will step down months before a constitutional amendment to make a half-cent sales tax permanent goes before Arkansas voters on Nov. 3.
"I've had a great career at ARDOT and I've been fortunate to be a part of many success stories, but it's time for me to step down," Bennett said in a statement. "I've always been told 'you'll know when it's time,' and I believe that time has come for me."
Bennett, a native of Blytheville, joined the department's research and planning division in 1989 after spending four summers as an engineering intern. He graduated from the University of Arkansas with a bachelor's in civil engineering and later earned a master's degree.