Many people stood out in Arkansas this year — for good and bad, we might add.
Among those mentioned by readers and staff as we deliberated on people to honor this year, in no particular order:
• Sen. Jim Argue. The Senate president pro-tem earns mention, again, for his steady work toward better public schools.
• Sen. Dave Bisbee. The Rogers Republican may be the best of the legislative bunch — hard-working, well-informed and, most of all, an honest broker who invariably puts principle above politics.
• University of Arkansas Athletic Director Frank Broyles. At age 80, he still calls most of the shots on the thing at the UA most impor-tant to more people — men’s athletics.
• Jim Lindsey. The fabulously successful real estate developer, former Hog football great and member of the UA Board of Trustees calls the shots that Frank doesn’t, both in sports and university governance. (Not that we’re saying that’s always a good thing, mind you.)
• Nolan Richardson. The former Hog basketball coach lost his lawsuit against the UA, but he exposed a soft white underbelly of racism, dishonesty and incompetence on the part of some members of the university administration. If only the sunshine would bring improvements.
• Gov. Mike Huckabee. Speaking of mixed blessings, the governor again was Arkansan of the Year if you measured it by sheer public exposure. As ever, he delivered more in the way of snappy quips and lofty rhetoric than deeds, but his huge weight loss was laudable and gained the kind of name-building national exposure that could help a rumored presidential run in 2008. He made a solid play for the Hispanic vote with a praiseworthy measure just last week to help children of undocumented immigrants continue higher education in Arkansas.
• Lu Hardin. The president of the University of Central Arkansas proudly added the Oxford American magazine to campus offerings, backed a move up in NCAA athletic competition and otherwise presided with an absence of rancor over a rapidly growing campus. He may be a candidate for governor or senator before too very long.
• Carl Redus. He was elected the first black mayor of Pine Bluff. It’s hard to believe it took so long.
• Jermain Taylor. The undefeated middleweight from Arkansas kept winning, to the delight of local fight fans.
• Matt Jones. OK, the Hogs were short on wins his senior year. But the quarterback’s last year was as colorful and exciting as the three that went before.
• Laura Rhea. Several readers nominated the director of the Arkansas Rice Depot for a charity that is so simple, but such hard work. It distributed millions of pounds of nourishing food to hungry Arkansans.
• Walter Hussman. The publisher of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, in addition to waging an expensive newspaper war in Northwest Arkansas (not necessarily a good thing in the long run, we caution), committed a significant sum to sending a reporter, Amy Schlesing, and a rotating crew of photographers to Iraq. The result should win prizes this year. Schlesing’s work was illuminating and even-handed (sometimes embarrassing to commanders, even) and provided a view of the sacrifice and heroism of the many Arkansans in Iraq far sharper than anything a wire service or national newspaper provides.
• Bruce Moore. Little Rock’s young city manager has his critics — no government leader is without them — but he’s a friendly consensus builder and, from where we sit, has so far produced much less bickering than previous administrative leaders in a government form that doesn’t really say clearly who is in charge.
• Robert Hupp. The director of the Arkansas Repertory Theatre continues to produce a season of delights for theater fans with performances on a par with Broadway standards.
• Steve Arrison. The numbers don’t lie. Hot Springs, a much smaller city, packs its expanded convention center with as much or more business than larger cities in the state, thanks to the promotion-heavy operation Arrison heads at the Convention and Visitors Bureau.
• Bruce Burrow. The successful Jonesboro developer and Huckabee intimate isn’t afraid of difficult projects — including a mall in Jonesboro and shopping center in North Little Rock that rely on help from government financing. When he says the fight over tax increment financing isn’t over until it’s over, he has the money to pay for the legal assistance to back it up.