Arkansas House Speaker Matthew Shepherd said he won’t seek another term leading chamber

Arkansas House Speaker Matthew Shepherd speaks to reporters at the state Capitol in Little Rock, Ark., on April 7, 2023. (AP Photo/Andrew DeMillo)

Republican Matthew Shepherd, Arkansas’ longest-serving House speaker, said Tuesday he won’t seek another term leading the House next year.

Shepherd has served as House speaker since 2018, and his term will end in January 2025. He has served in the state House since 2011.

Shepherd said he plans to run for reelection for another term representing his south Arkansas seat in the House. The House will vote on its next speaker at the end of next year’s legislative session, which will focus primarily on the state’s budget.

“I just felt like it was the right time to let folks know I wouldn’t seek another term and so the House and others who might be interested can start preparing and having the discussion about who follows me,” Shepherd told The Associated Press.

The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette on Monday first reported Shepherd’s decision.

Shepherd announced his plans about two weeks after lawmakers formally adjourned this year’s legislative session, Republican Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders’ first since taking office in January.

Sanders saw her top agenda items approved during the session, including a massive education overhaul that will create a new school voucher program. The session was also marked by new restrictions on transgender people, including a law aimed at reinstating a ban on gender-affirming care for minors.

Shepherd led the majority-Republican House during the COVID-19 pandemic, which prompted the chamber at one point to meet in a basketball arena rather than the Capitol to follow social-distancing guidelines.