Keesa Smith Named Executive Director of AACF

Keesa Smith Named Executive Director of AACF
Keesa Smith, executive director of Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families (Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families)

Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families on Thursday announced that Keesa Smith has been named executive director of the nonprofit.

She takes over for Rich Huddleston, who stepped down at the end of 2022 after 27 years with the Little Rock-based nonprofit.

Smith's first day is Feb. 20.

She joins AACF after spending the past decade at the Arkansas Department of Human Services, where she was deputy director of youth and families. In that role, she oversaw the divisions responsible for the state’s child welfare, juvenile justice and early education programs.

She also served as the agency's appointee on several boards and commissions, and as the secretary's designee on the Supreme Court Commission on Children, Youth and Families. 

"Keesa has a strong commitment to the children and families of Arkansas, and she is prepared to lead AACF to new heights," Ryan Davis, AACF board president, said in a news release.

Before working at DHS, Smith led the Department of Workforce Services’ board of review. In that role, according to the release, she eliminated a backlog of more than 4,000 unemployment appeals and decreased the wait time for clients from 14 months to 23 days.

Her past roles include deputy legal counsel for former Gov. Mike Beebe, staff attorney at the Center for Arkansas Legal Services, and university instructor in business and constitutional law.

Smith holds a bachelor's in journalism and mass communication from the University of North Carolina and a Juris Doctor from the University of Arkansas at Little Rock Bowen School of Law. She's a member of the Pulaski County Bar Association and the Harold Flowers Law Society, and the inaugural class of the Arkansas Bar Association Leadership Academy Program.

"I am excited and look forward to continuing AACF's long history of advocating on behalf of our state's most vulnerable population, our children," Smith said in the release. "For more than 45 years, AACF has played a key role in keeping children's issues at the forefront of people's minds. I can't wait to begin this new role and continue the work of improving the lives of Arkansas's children and families."

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