Sanders Names Members of Natural State Advisory Council

Sanders Names Members of Natural State Advisory Council
Bryan Sanders, husband of Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders, speaks with the crowd on Jan. 24 at the state Capitol, the day the governor announced that he would chair the Natural State Advisory Council. (Steve Lewis)

Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders on Tuesday named 17 appointees to the new Natural State Advisory Council, which is led by her husband, Chairman Bryan Sanders.

"I am proud to appoint a talented team of bold, passionate, and innovative outdoor recreation leaders to the Natural State Advisory Council," Sanders said in a news release. "These individuals bring the experience and expertise our state needs to promote tourism and grow our outdoor economy — sharing with the world what we already know: Arkansas is God’s Country."

Members include Tom Walton, co-founder of the Runway Group; Bill Dillard III, senior vice president of Dillard’s Inc. of Little Rock; George Dunklin of Humphrey, a former chairman of the Arkansas Game & Fish Commission and former president of Ducks Unlimited; and Mindy West, CFO of Murphy USA Inc. of El Dorado and a member of the Ducks Unlimited board of directors.

"Working together, we will establish our state as a destination for outdoor enthusiasts from around the world and take our outdoor economy to the next level," Bryan Sanders said. "This is a space we will compete and win."

The Natural State Advisory Council: 

  • Austin Albers, owner, Buffalo Outdoor Center; Arkansas Parks, Recreation & Travel Commissioner, Ponca.
  • Katherine Andrews, director, Arkansas Office of Outdoor Recreation, Little Rock.
  • Bill Barnes, owner, Mountain Harbor Resort, Mount Ida.
  • Austin Booth, director, Arkansas Game & Fish Commission, Little Rock.
  • Devin Cole, chief strategy and commercial officer, George’s Inc., Springdale.
  • Bill Dillard III, senior vice president, Dillard’s Inc., Little Rock.
  • Anne Marie Doramus, vice president, Arkansas Bolt Co.; Arkansas Game & Fish commissioner, Little Rock.
  • George Dunklin, owner, Five Oaks; former chairman, Arkansas Game & Fish Commission; former president, Ducks Unlimited, Humphrey.
  • Suzanne Grobmyer, chief of staff, Arkansas Department of Parks, Heritage & Tourism, Little Rock.
  • Hugh McDonald, secretary, Arkansas Department of Commerce; board of trustees, The Nature Conservancy of Arkansas, Little Rock.
  • Mike Mills, secretary, Arkansas Department of Parks, Heritage & Tourism, Little Rock.
  • Bryan Sanders, first gentleman of Arkansas, Little Rock.
  • Phil Shellhammer, director, Greenhouse Outdoor Recreation Program, University of Arkansas, Fayetteville.
  • Martin Smith, principal, Ecological Design Group, Birdeye.
  • Matt Tarver, partner, RZC Investments, Bentonville. 
  • Dr. Tommy Wagner, owner, Wagner Medical Clinic; board of directors, Arkansas Game & Fish Foundation, Blytheville.
  • Tom Walton, co-founder, Runway Group, Bentonville. 
  • Mindy West, CFO, Murphy USA Inc.; board of directors, Ducks Unlimited, El Dorado.

The governor announced the initiative last month and said her husband would lead the effort. Bryan Sanders, a Republican political strategist, will not be paid for his work on the council, whose duties include recruiting new outdoor recreation businesses, expanding existing outdoor recreation businesses, and fostering entrepreneurial growth through economic development incentives.

The council will also work with the Arkansas Department of Parks, Heritage & Tourism to establish a plan to maintain Arkansas’ trail systems and develop a data-driven marketing strategy to promote tourism and outdoor recreation.

An executive order establishing the council says that Arkansas' outdoor economy grew by almost 23% in 2022, and that the state "must seize this momentum and further establish the Natural State as a leader in the outdoor economy and a destination for outdoor enthusiasts from around the world."

The council will present an annual report summarizing its recommendations for how the governor can advance outdoor recreation and the state's outdoor economy.

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