Democratic gubernatorial candidate and political newcomer Jared Henderson stopped by Pine Bluff Monday on a tour of southeast Arkansas ahead of the May 22 Primary Election.


Henderson is facing off with fellow Democrat Leticia Sanders. The winner of the primary will take on the winner of the Republican Primary, which is also being held on May 22. Incumbent Asa Hutchinson is squaring off against Jan Morgan on the GOP side.


Mark West filed as an independent (Libertarian) and will also appear on the November ballot.


Henderson said his top priority is education. And even if he doesn’t get elected, he vowed to continue working on the issue as a private citizen.


According to his campaign, “Arkansas teachers are often unheard, undervalued, and underpaid. This campaign has a central goal on education: In 10 years, Arkansas should be the best state in the country to be a public school teacher.”


There has been a 56 percent drop in the number of people entering the teaching profession since 2009, according to Henderson’s campaign.


“For our state to have the best and the brightest future, we have to attract the best and the brightest to the teaching profession and celebrate and retain our talented educators who are already in it,” according to his campaign.


“We need to make sure we have a great human being in every classroom who has the training and resources they deserve, and then we need to get out of their way. If we do that, we have a fighting shot at building an excellent Arkansas education system that works for every kid. If we don’t achieve that, it’s going to be hard to get there.”


During Monday’s visit, Henderson said that “there are great people in schools in critical positions, we just have to stop the paperwork. So many teachers tell me they are buried in paperwork and can’t focus on teaching. It sucks up their time and energy, and makes newcomers not want to go into the profession. If we can make some progress in education, other things can happen.”


Another major issue for Henderson is small business development. While everyone wants major manufacturers to locate in Arkansas, he said, “that only benefits a handful of communities. We have to do more to provide money to small businesses and offer them access to healthcare. We have to create more jobs in the small business sector.”


According to his campaign, “Our rural communities are filled with smart and innovative people who have the vision and the courage to step up and build a new business in their local economy. What they usually don’t have is the money to get started, access to health insurance while their family takes the risk, and the first few hours of basic business training that would give them a fighting shot as they act on their dreams. These are solvable problems – and if we can come together to address them, we will empower countless Arkansans to create new and better jobs across the state.”


ABOUT HENDERSON


The following synopsis of Henderson’s personal and professional life was provided by his campaign.


“After attending Arkansas public schools his entire childhood, Jared graduated from the University of Arkansas, summa cum laude, with bachelor’s degrees in Computer Science and Physics. He later attended Harvard Business School where he earned a master’s in Business Administration. He simultaneously studied under full scholarship at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government where he earned a second master’s degree in Public Administration.


“In 2001 and 2002, Jared worked as a research scientist and operations manager at NASA, where he was formally recognized for his leadership. After NASA, he joined the world’s top business strategy firm, McKinsey & Company. He was the first person ever to be offered a job at McKinsey while still a student at the University of Arkansas. At McKinsey, he worked alongside Fortune 500 executives in multiple industries, a state superintendent of education, and supported mayors of two of America’s largest cities during the Great Recession.


“For the last six years, Jared’s career has focused on public education. As an executive director and senior vice president of a national non-profit, Jared had responsibility for more than 1,500 teachers and 150 employees. This work has cemented his belief that all students can learn and achieve if provided with equitable opportunities – and that great educators should be counted among the most important and talented professionals in our society. For two years, Jared served as managing director of ForwARd Arkansas, working alongside dozens of Arkansans to develop a statewide vision for the future of public education. The vision and more than 90 supporting recommendations were approved unanimously by the State Board of Education in 2015.


“Over the last three years, Jared has assumed his most important and fulfilling jobs of his life as husband to Dr. Melanie Prince and father to a precious baby boy, Duke. Today, they live in Little Rock where they own and operate a medical practice.”