The University of Central Arkansas, to nobody’s surprise, has hired House Speaker Jeremy Gillam as its $130,000-a-year lobbyist, effective next week, and he’ll quit the House to take the job.
I say no surprise because I asked Gillam and UCA early in the legislative session about persistent rumors that this job was in the offing for Gillam, who’d said he wasn’t running for re-election. Both put off the question.
Today, the UCA release:
CONWAY-University of Central Arkansas President Houston Davis announced Wednesday the appointment of Arkansas House of Representatives Speaker Jeremy Gillam as UCA’s director of governmental affairs and external relations. The position is effective June 16.
Gillam, who is completing his second term as speaker of the Arkansas House of Representatives, will officially resign his speaker’s role and House of Representatives seat on June 15. Gillam currently represents District 45 in the Arkansas House, which encompasses part of White County. UCA’s Chief of Staff Kelley Erstine, who also has been responsible for similar legislative and external duties, will continue to assist Gillam on occasion.
Gillam was first elected to the House in 2010. In January 2015, he became speaker and is completing his second term, becoming only the fifth person in Arkansas history to serve more than one term as speaker. In addition to his duties as speaker, he currently serves on the House Judiciary Committee and House City, County and Local Affairs Committee.
“The hiring of Gillam is an important addition to our leadership team as we seek to advance our university and its mission,” said Davis. “Speaker Gillam brings a knowledge and understanding of critical issues and relationships within Arkansas that will ensure UCA is an active leader in advancing our state.”
“I am extremely excited about the opportunity to be a part of another leadership team that strives to improve the lives of Arkansans,” said Gillam. “The University of Central Arkansas has a forward-thinking vision for higher education. I look forward to working with President Davis and the UCA team on their proactive approach.”
Gillam attended Arkansas State University-Beebe and received degrees in criminology and psychology from Arkansas State University in Jonesboro. He and his wife Carissa have two sons, Jaxon and Alexander.
I asked Gillam about the potential job when the speaker, who rarely engages in debate, went to the well of the House to defend a private school voucher bill being pushed by the senator from, wait for it, Conway, home of UCA. That would be Jason Rapert.
Legislators are prohibited from moving into lobbying jobs for two years, with a great exception. Working for colleges as a lobbyist doesn’t constitute prohibited lobbying because they are state agencies. Gilbert Baker went from the Senate to a UCA lobbying job that evaporated after various ethical controversies. Johnny Key took a UA lobbying job before Asa Hutchinson gave him a higher paying position for which he was less qualified, director of the state Education Department. Gillam, a berry farmer, has the requisite skills to be a UCA lobbyist — he’s done lots of favors over the years for people who remain in important positions in the legislature. The move bumps his $47,000 pay as House speaker (plus per diem) up substantially and likely will come with a credit card.
Welcome to the deepening Arkansas swamp.
The House caucus will meet June 15 to choose a leader to serve until the new House convenes in January. Odds are against further special sessions this year.