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Arkansas governor taps aide to lead Department of Transformation and Shared Services


Arkansas governor taps aide to lead Department of Transformation and Shared Services

Sep 05, 2023 | 4:23 pm ET
By Tess Vrbin
Arkansas governor taps aide to lead Department of Transformation and Shared Services
Side view of Arkansas State Capitol in Little Rock. (John Sykes/Arkansas Advocate)

Arkansas Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders appointed her director of cabinet affairs, Leslie Fisken, as secretary of transformation and shared services on Tuesday.

Fisken will replace Joseph Wood atop the state Department of Transformation and Shared Services. Wood, the former Washington County judge, stepped down from Sanders’ cabinet in August when he was elected chairman of the Arkansas Republican Party.

“For the past eight months, Leslie has successfully united every agency in my administration around our shared goal to make bold, transformational change for the people of Arkansas,” Sanders said in a press release. “She is a hard worker with a deep understanding of how state government works.”

Sanders appointed Fisken as her first director of cabinet affairs in December. Fisken was previously chief of legislative affairs for the state Department of Parks, Heritage and Tourism.

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Fisken has also served as an education policy adviser to former Gov. Asa Hutchinson and an elected Little Rock School District board member. She was on the board for three years until a state takeover of LRSD removed the entire board.

She said in Tuesday’s press release that she appreciated the opportunity to “bring together all our state agencies around [Sanders’] bold, conservative agenda” as director of cabinet affairs and will continue the effort while leading the Department of Transformation and Shared Services.

The purpose of the department is “to identify efficiencies and cost-saving measures to streamline operations” within state government, according to its website. It also serves many state administrative functions, including managing employee benefits, information technology and procurement.

Hutchinson and the state Legislature created the department in 2019 and reduced the number of executive-branch agencies reporting to the governor from 42 to 15. The total number of staff in all executive-branch agencies dropped 858, from 24,932 to 24,074, between June 30, 2019 and June 30, 2020, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reported.

In March 2020, then- Transformation Secretary Amy Fecher told lawmakers that the changes had saved the state $26.7 million.

Wood has served as transformation secretary since shortly after Sanders took office in January. The Republican governor endorsed Wood for the chairmanship after she appointed the previous chairman, Cody Hiland, to the Arkansas Supreme Court in July. Hiland replaced Associate Justice Robin Wynne, who died in June.