Hope-Hempstead County Economic Development President Steve Harris hears many tributes at retirement party today

Steve Harris, retiring as Hope-Hempstead County Economic Development President, shows off some gifts received at a party at First National Bank of Tom Bean put on in his honor today.

After eight years in the role and many achievements he is proud of, Steve Harris is retiring as Hope-Hempstead Economic Development Corporation President. A celebration of his career was given in the reception area of the First National Bank of Tom Bean at noon today.

Dr. Ladell Douglas, Vice Chairman of the EDC board began the ceremony, saying “Anybody who retires should be celebrated and we hope you’re getting to celebrate. So we thank you for the service you have provided.” He then introduced State Representative Danny Watson.

Watson told of his first meeting with Harris. “I picked up on it really quickly, how serious and how in-depth Steve was. He was committed to his line of work to promote more business development in not only Hope but Hempstead County and actually for the state of Arkansas.” Later Watson said he had a citation from the Arkansas House of Representatives to present to Harris at his convenience.

Next, from a delegation of the Arkansas Economic Development Commission, Jarrod Wickliffe, Senior Project Development Manager said Harris had been very welcoming to commission staffers as they came here to familiarize themselves with the industries Hope has. “Steve was active to reach out and to embrace us welcome us into a new career in economic development … we really appreciate your mentorship, your guidance and all the work you’ve done for the state and for Hope and are excited for your new venture on your travels.”

Harris’ friend Bubba Powers was the next to speak. “He’s ‘Hondo’ to a lot of us. Havilcek was a great basketball player for the Boston Celtics, back before most of you were born. I think he gave himself the nickname. Steve’s always been very smart. He’s been a great friend of ours. Those of us who grew up with him will always cherish our memories. Really, from a young age, economics has always been part of his DNA.  When we were young teenagers and we’d cat around on Friday and Saturday nights, he’d always leave his billfold at home.” At this the audience laughed.

“You know we love you,” Powers resumed. “We’ve played cards together. We’ve [followed] the Razorbacks games throughout the entire United States. We’ve got more stories and more memories to tell. We’re glad you’re retiring. All of our friends here wish you the best.”

Nicole McRaven, Harris’ administrative assistant for the last four years said he was the best employer she had ever had.  “He’s been understanding, kind to me, taught me a lot.” She said of Harris, “He wants people to learn. He wants them to do their best. And as long as you get your job done, he’s happy.  I just appreciate that and know we’ll miss you.”

Douglas, the final speaker, mentioned the benefits that have come from Harris’ tenure, including the Tyson plant’s past expansion and future plans for expansion as well as the expansion of New Millenium. “He told me in retirement he’s going to be working to make downtown a little bit better,” Douglas said. 

Here he presented Harris with a basket of retirement-themed gifts including socks, a shirt, and a rocks glass.

Harris thanked the speakers and attendees, saying “The best thing about my job really is to work with a lot of people in here that want Hope and Hempstead County to get better. I just really appreciate the cooperation and making my job easier. It’s been a good thing for me and my wife Mittie and so we’re just grateful.”

As the attendees were enjoying the finger-foods lunch by Sheba’s catering, Harris was asked what his most gratifying achievement was as EDC President. “When we met at the Capitol, with Danny Watson, our State Rep, and we met with the governor’s office and Tyson and the highway department, we put together the project that allowed Tyson to build their new feed mill.” He also said he was pleased that in his eight years most Hope-Hempstead County plants expanded with only a single industry, Georgia Pacific, leaving. But soon Danson’s, which turns sawmill waste into grilling fuel, came in.

Harris, with his wife Mittie, plan “a little bit” of travel in the months to come, but also, as Steve said, laughing, “I’m going to hide out for a while and get off the radar.

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