LITTLE ROCK — The Arkansas Game and Fish Commission’s newest member said Thursday he believes in operating with openness.
"I am a communicator by nature," Ford Overton of Little Rock said in a news conference at Little Rock’s Witt Stephens Jr. Central Arkansas Nature Center announcing his appointment. "I am transparent in the way that I manage my business and my affairs. I come to the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission with no agenda other than to serve."
Gov. Mike Beebe appointed Overton to replace George Dunklin of DeWitt. Overton is joining a commission that has been criticized for its record on transparency, particularly after its three-member governance committee voted in 2010 to recommend that the commission adopt a proposed policy that would limit access to its records.
Commissioners said at the time that they were not subject to the Arkansas Freedom of Information Act because the commission was created by a constitutional amendment, not the Legislature. Faced with criticism from Beebe and others who said the FOI law does apply to the commission, the governance committee scrapped the proposal.
"I think that transparency is healthy within an organization. I think transparency solves a lot of potential ills," Overton told reporters after Thursday’s news conference.
Beebe told reporters he believes transparency has improve at the commission.
"It just needs to continue to get better, and that’s one of the things I talked to (Overton) about as I made the decision as to who this appointment was going to be," Beebe said. "I was assured by him and I am assured by who he is and his approach that he will improve that."
Overton, 46, owns West Tree Service in Little Rock, which contracts with utilities to keep their rights of way cleared, and is a member of the Arkansas Game and Fish Foundation Board. He is a graduate of the University of Arkansas.
"I am extremely excited about this opportunity. I am passionate about the outdoors," Overton said in the news conference.
He told reporters later his goals also include increasing education about the outdoors for young people and learning more about how the organization works and what its employees do.
Overton’s term will expire July 1, 2019.