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Governor Appoints New Chief Legal Counsel and Director of Legislative and Agency Affairs

LITTLE ROCK – Governor Asa Hutchinson has appointed Karen Whatley as Chief Legal Counsel for the Governor’s Office and Jordan Burgess as Director of Legislative and Agency Affairs.

Ms. Whatley has been Director of Legislative and Agency Affairs since August 2018. Ms. Burgess has been Senior Health Policy Advisor and liaison to the Department of Human Services since May 2019.

“Karen and Jordan have played significant roles in my administration,” Governor Hutchinson said. “Karen helped guide legislation to transform state government. Jordan and Karen have been on the front lines in our response to COVID-19. Each has hard-won experience that will benefit Arkansas as they assume their new roles.”

Ms. Whatley, who joined the Governor’s Office in August of 2018 as director of Legislative and Agency Affairs, graduated from Arkansas Tech University with a Bachelor’s in English. She earned her law degree in 1994 from the University of Arkansas Law School in Little Rock, which now is the William H. Bowen School of Law.

Ms. Whatley was an Assistant United States Attorney for nearly 14 years, then worked at Mitchell, Williams, Selig, Gates, and Woodyard for four years before she became executive director at the Arkansas State Medical Board, where she served two years.

“I am excited to take on this new role, which will allow me to utilize my legal background and training,” Whatley said. “The past three years as director of Legislative and Agency Affairs have been a perfect precursor for this position, and I am ready for a new challenge. I would like to thank Governor Hutchinson for this opportunity.” 

Ms. Burgess joined Governor Hutchinson’s staff in May 2019 as the Senior Health Policy Advisor. As the liaison to the Department of Health and Department of Human Services, Ms. Burgess helped advance Governor Hutchinson’s goals to improve health care and assisted with the state’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Ms. Burgess grew up in Fort Smith and is a graduate of Southside High School. She holds a Bachelor of Science in International Business from the University of Arkansas. She received her law degree from the William H. Bowen School of Law in 2012, and in 2018 she earned an MBA from the University of Central Arkansas. Prior to joining the Governor’s staff, Ms. Burgess was Associate General Counsel at Delta Dental of Arkansas. She is a member of Leadership Arkansas Class XIII and currently serves on the UCA Alumni Board of Directors.

“It’s an honor to have the chance to take on the responsibility to serve our state in this important role,” Ms. Burgess said. “I look forward to working with the legislative branch to help shape the policy and the future of our state. Participating in that process is a privilege, and I thank Governor Hutchinson for the opportunity.”

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