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Sanders highlights ‘Capital for a Day’ program during Rural Development Conference speech

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Sanders highlights ‘Capital for a Day’ program during Rural Development Conference speech

May 21, 2024 | 5:08 pm ET
By Mary Hennigan
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Sanders highlights ‘Capital for a Day’ program during Rural Development Conference speech
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Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders addresses a room of rural state leaders during her opening speech at the Arkansas rural Development Conference on May 21, 2024. (Mary Hennigan/Arkansas Advocate)

Enhancing rural life in Arkansas is the topic of a three-day conference in Hot Springs this week, at which Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders shared opening remarks on Tuesday.

Sanders touted changes she said have benefited the state’s rural communities — from school vouchers created by the LEARNS Act, to the “Capital for a Day” program, which takes state leaders out of the office and into different communities.

“So far, we’ve done 11 of those visits, and I’ll admit, some of it is because the events in day-to-day monotony of being in the Capitol building can make you want to bang your head through a wall,” Sanders said. “Blowing up a beaver dam in Magnolia or driving tractors outside of Walnut Ridge can sometimes be a bit more fun than just sitting in the Capitol.”

Pine Bluff served as the most recent temporary capital on May 15.

Sanders also shared a story about advice her father, former Gov. Mike Huckabee, gave her during a few difficult days after she took office in January 2023. Sanders recalled her dad telling her the best part of being a governor comes after enacting policy that is bettering lives.

Investments in education and an increased state police presence are two features that Sanders said she’s heard appreciation for while out in the community.

Sanders highlights ‘Capital for a Day’ program during Rural Development Conference speech
Audience members watch Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders as she delivers opening remarks for the Arkansas Rural Development Conference on May 21, 2024. (Mary Hennigan/Arkansas Advocate)

“I know that state government will not be the answer to all of our problems, in fact sometimes we’re the creator of some of those problems,” Sanders said. “But I do believe that great partnership with our state, our local, our private, public, nonprofit sectors coming together can address and meet the needs of our state.”

Secretary of Commerce Hugh McDonald emphasized the importance of rural prosperity during his speech at the opening ceremony. He listed dozens of towns with populations under 10,000 that have experienced a recent boost, whether it be with job growth, economic development or capital investment.

“Good ideas don’t just happen in the big city, but they also happen in small towns in rural Arkansas … we want to help support that,” McDonald said.

Programs scheduled during this year’s Rural Development Conference include discussions on affordable housing and rural retail, an outdoor economy update, how to set up communities for success in the film industry and grantee training.

Three legislative committee meetings that would typically be held in Little Rock will take place during the conference, all to discuss $1 billion in federal funds Arkansas will receive to equip residents with high-speed internet.