by Max Brantley
A public official of long and trustworthy acquaintance told me yesterday he'd heard a strong buzz about the possibility that a former state legislator was emerging as a leading candidate to direct the new Arkansas Lottery.
Surely not. The state lottery commission won't hold its first meeting until May 5. They, and not legislative and executive powers, will be running the show, legislation sponsors have said. Still, I found it a tiny bit curious that neither the former legislator nor several others who might be in a position to know something have responded to my questions about the rumor. (UPDATE: Got a call back. "Speculation." "Commission hasn't even met yet.")
The talk did prompt me to check in with David Ferguson, director of the Bureau of Legislative Research. House Speaker Robbie Wills had said the bureau would be providing lottery staffing until the commission gets its own staff in place. Not much shaking so far, Ferguson said. He's forwarded an e-mail from Commissioner Ray Thornton to other new commissioners inquiring about items they'd like to discuss at the first meeting. Ferguson said it would be presumptuous for his staff to set off on any operational chores, though it stood ready to provide whatever assistance the commission might request on an interim basis. I asked whether he'd heard from anyone interested in new jobs. No, he said, but he'd just recently received a call from the secretary of state's office, wondering what to do with inquiries that office had received about lottery work. They'll be passing those requests along to the Bureau for safekeeping, Ferguson said. I have a call into the secretary of state to get some details about the inquiries. There will be many jobs available in the new state gambling authority, but the director's job, with its $354,000 maximum salary, is the plum. (UPDATE: Secy. of state's office says it had received a resume from an acquaintance of a staff member, no more.)
UPDATE: Oh, OK, I ws trying to be responsible and all. But John Brummett goes ahead and says the name going around is that of interim UCA president Tom Courtway, he who gave me something akin to a non-denial denial this morning. (It's true he currently has other things to do, but by the end of the summer the presidential search committee willing, maybe not.) Brummett adds another name to the mix, that of former Clinton aide Bob Nash. Brummett theorizes on Ray Thornton as lottery commission chairman. As my original post indicates, he's already acting like it. Brummett says Thornton would add "viceless gravitas." Yes, but he also has a blood relationship with the Stephens family, which in turn has an interest in an advertising firm hoping to land the lottery marketing work.