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It was a muted, low-key political announcement, but a hearty "congratulations" goes out today for state Senator James Paul "Jim" Hendren, R-Sulphur Springs, on his election as the new President Pro Tempore of the Arkansas State Senate.

The quiet, knowledgeable and effective leader of the state's vaunted "Upper Chamber," the Arkansas State Senate, was elected by a secret ballot last week in a closed-door Senate conference.

There was not a public race for the President Pro Tempore seat, but two candidates were announced as being favored to lead the Arkansas State Senate in 2019 for the 92nd General Assembly: Hendren and state Senator Jimmy Hickey of Texarkana.

The election was held using paper ballots, no vote totals were announced, other than Hendren was the winner.

When asked about the victory, Hendren, who has served in the state Senate since 2013, downplayed the win telling the state's largest daily newspaper: "We don't disclose the vote counts."

That is classic Jim Hendren. Just the facts, don't make such a big deal out of this routine matter.

He also went on to say: "I appreciate the opportunity to serve in the leadership position." Hendren also said he wanted the state Senate to be an institution of which the state can be proud.

If anyone is wondering if the nephew of the governor and son of long-time state Senator and state Representative Kim Hendren, had inside juice from the administration, just examine the quote from senator Hickey following the vote.

"I think it is best that I don't comment," Hickey said.

Historically, western Benton County, since 1836, has had two strong state senators emerge as leaders in the Upper Chamber. In 1953 and 1954, former State Senator Russell Elrod, a Democrat, of Siloam Springs, was the President Pro Tempore.

Elrod served as state Senator, 24 years from 1945-1969, before state-mandated term limits were in force.

There were also some changes in Republican Senate leadership coming out of that closed-door session.

Hendren, who was the caucus leader and majority leader, was replaced by state Sen. Bart Hester of Cave Springs. Replacing Hester as the GOP caucus whip was state Sen. Scott Flippo of Mountain Home.

It was disclosed that state Sen. Terry Rice of Waldron, sought the post of the leadership of the GOP caucus and also that state Sen. Missy Irwin of Mountain View, had sought the post of caucus whip.

These new officers will officially be elected on the last day of the current fiscal session, which is now in its midway point and may adjourn later this month as prescribed by law.

The quiet Hendren was in the Arkansas House of Representatives from 1995-2001; he has been in the Arkansas State Senate since 2013. The 54-year-old is the owner of Hendren Plastics Inc., and a Colonel in the Arkansas Air National Guard, after retiring recently as a Colonel in the Missouri Air National Guard.

Did Hendren's election to the leadership post give the opposition party -- Democrats any political heartburn, not according to one veteran Democratic state Senator. "Jim is a fine man and will be fair with the majority party," said state Sen. Keith Ingram of West Memphis and the leader of the Minority Democratic Party in the Senate.

Hendren has been a big help to his uncle, Gov. Asa Hutchinson. The governor named the senator as the co-chairman of the legislative tax overhaul task force and the public employee and health insurance task force, among other committees and task forces created by Hutchinson as governor.

Will the new post add to Hendren's already full plate? Of course, it will. He will have lots of administrative duties and a small staff to help with details.

But I know his spouse, Tammy, and their grown children, David, Daniel, Nick and Molly, are all proud of their dad.

And so is the collective political community of Western Benton County and Northwest Arkansas as well.

Congratulations Mr. President Pro Tempore Sen. Jim Hendren.

• • •

Maylon Rice is a former journalist who worked for several northwest Arkansas publications. He can be reached via email at maylontrice@yahoo.com. The opinions expressed are those of the author.

Editorial on 03/07/2018

Print Headline: State senators pick Jim Hendren for Pro Tempore

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