Steuart Walton to head Economic Recovery Task Force

Gov. Asa Hutchinson speaks Saturday during his daily COVID-19 briefing

Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson has appointed Steuart Walton to chair the newly formed Economic Recovery Task Force.

Walton is the co-founder of Runway Group, a real estate and hospitality holding company. He is also the grandson of Walmart founder Sam Walton. He serves on the board of directors of Walmart, Flipkart, Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, and the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum.

Hutchinson said the 27-member task force is comprised of representatives from several fields, such as agriculture, recreation, sports, retail, small businesses and more. It also includes cabinet secretaries Wes Ward (Agriculture), Mike Preston (Commerce) and Stacy Hurst (Parks, Heritage and Tourism).

The group, Hutchinson said, is expected to hold its first meeting this week, and will make recommendations both to the governor and to leaders in their respective industries on how best to “put this economy back into a higher gear, but to do it in a way that is consistent with public health requirements.”

Steuart Walton / Walton Family Foundation

Hutchinson said on Friday that statewide COVID-19 restrictions could start to be lifted on a limited schedule as early as May 4. In order for that to be successful, he said the public needs to have confidence in the manner in which the economy is slowly reopened.

“You can open up a restaurant on May 4, but if the public doesn’t have the confidence they’re going to be safe, they’re not going to go,” he said. “They’re going to self-select their way out of it.”

The governor said selecting Walton to chair the new group was an easy decision.

“I believe he’s the perfect leader for this task force because he’s engaged in the hospitality industry, and his family is, of course, in the retail industry,” said Hutchinson. “He is also engaged in philanthropy across the state of Arkansas.”

The full list of task force members includes:

  • Wes Ward, Department of Agriculture
  • Mike Preston, Department of Commerce
  • Stacy Hurst, Department of Parks, Heritage and Tourism
  • Ted Thomas, Public Service Commission
  • Steuart Walton, Runway Group
  • Randy Zook, Arkansas State Chamber of Commerce
  • Sylvester Smith, National Federation of Independent Business
  • Joey Dean, Associated General Contractors of Arkansas
  • Annmarie Jazic, Dillards, Inc.
  • Charlie Spakes, Arkansas Grocers and Retail Merchants Association
  • Montine McNulty, Arkansas Hospitality Association
  • Kelly Eichler, Indoor Recreational Facilities
  • Deke Whitbeck, Arkansas Game and Fish Foundation
  • Lance Taylor, Arkansas Activities Association
  • Hunter Yurachek, University of Arkansas Athletics Director
  • Shannon Newton, Arkansas Trucking Association
  • Charles Frazier, Rock Region Metro
  • Lorrie Trogden, Arkansas Bankers Association
  • Sonny Tucker, Arkansas Southern Baptist Convention
  • Gary Bueller, Arkansas Conference of United Methodists
  • Michael Mitchell, African Methodist Episcopal Church
  • Richard Abernathy, Arkansas Association of Educational Administers
  • Andy Goodman, Arkansas Independent Colleges and Universities
  • Andrea Henderson, Arkansas Association of Community Colleges
  • Chuck Welch, Arkansas State University System
  • David Wroten, Arkansas Medical Society
  • Bo Ryall, Arkansas Hospital Association