Meet our staff
Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families employs a staff of skilled professionals. We have extensive experience in data analysis, policy research and community network building. Feel free to contact us for more information.
Executive Director - Rich Huddleston
Rich Huddleston became the Executive Director of AACF in July 2004. Previously, Rich served as the Research & Fiscal Policy Director for AACF for nine years and was the lead program staff for our State Fiscal Analysis Initiative project. Rich has an extensive background in research and public policy and has worked on a variety of public policy issues affecting children. Rich has a Masters of Public Administration from West Virginia University and a BA in Political Science from Carroll College. Rich and his wife Janie live in Little Rock with three pugs and have a grown daughter, Lauren.
Deputy Director – Jennifer Keith Ferguson
Jennifer Ferguson rejoined AACF in June 2005. From 1996 to 1998, Jennifer served as Financial and Legal Director for AACF and served on the Board from 2001 to 2005. Previously, she served as Chief Financial and Operating Officer for the Arkansas Community Foundation. Jennifer is a native of Hope, Ark., and has a BA in Business and Economics from Hendrix College and a J.D. from the University of Arkansas Law School at Little Rock.
Director of Education Policy and Finance - Jerri Derlikowski
Jerri Derlikowski joined AACF in August 2012. Most recently, she served for seven years as Administrator of the Policy Analysis and Research Section of the Bureau of Legislative Research, where she coordinated the state's biennial educational adequacy study. Prior to that, she served for six years as a Fiscal Analyst for the Bureau. Jerri has a B.A. in Social Welfare and a M.Ed. from the University of Arkansas, and a B.S. in Computer Science from the University of Arkansas at Little Rock.
Director of Governmental Affairs - Tamika Edwards
Tamika Edwards joined AACF staff in June 2014. Before that she served as Director of Public Policy for Southern Bancorp Community Partners and as Community Affairs Specialist for former U.S. Senator Blanche Lincoln. Tamika received her bachelor's degree in English from the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff. She received a masters in Professional and Technical Writing from UALR and a Juris Doctor from the UALR Bowen School of Law. Tamika lives in Little Rock with her husband and two children.
Northwest Arkansas Office Coordinator - Christine Hartman
Christine Hartman joined AACF in July 2014. From 2001-2012, she taught education courses at Northwest Arkansas Community College. Christine has a BA in English and communications and a masters of education from the University of Arkansas. Christine and her husband, Pete, live in Fayetteville with their three daughters.
Northwest Arkansas Director - Laura Kellams
Laura Kellams joined AACF as its first Northwest Arkansas director in August 2008. Before that, she was a reporter for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette for more than 11 years, covering politics, government and regional affairs in a 12-county region. Laura has a journalism degree from the University of Arkansas and has lived in the northwest corner of the state for 20 years. She and her husband Kyle live in Fayetteville.
Senior Policy Analyst - Paul Kelly
Paul Kelly has been with AACF since 1995 and currently serves as the Senior Policy Analyst. Paul provides technical expertise, research and policy analysis on a variety of children's issues including early care and education, juvenile justice, child welfare and family self-sufficiency. He is currently working on a project to develop an out-of-school network to prevent juvenile crime. Paul has a Masters of Social Work from the University of Arkansas and a BA in Sociology from Benedictine College. Paul has two sons, Matthew & Paul and four grandchildren.
Health Policy Director - Marquita Little
Marquita joined AACF in 2014. Before that, she served as the director of policy and planning for the Arkansas Department of Human Services. In this role, her work included health care reform implementation, health care payment improvement, and behavioral health system transformation. She studied psychology at Hendrix College and earned a master' degree from the University of Arkansas Clinton School of Public Service.
Communications Director - Gerard Matthews
Gerard joined AACF in 2012. Before that, Gerard was an associate editor at the Arkansas Times and served as development director for Independent Living Services in Conway. He grew up in Texarkana (the Arkansas side) and got a bachelor's degree in political science from the University of Central Arkansas. He has a master's degree in media and public affairs from The George Washington University.
Administrative and Events Director - Cara Neal
Cara Neal joined AACF in October 2013. Previously, she served as Special Events Coordinator for Easter Seals Arkansas. Cara is a native of Little Rock and has a B.A. in business marketing and management from Ouachita Baptist University in Arkadelphia. Cara and her husband Jon live in Maumelle with a new baby named Judd and their two beagles, Carl and Mable.
Health Care Policy Fellow - Sarah Pearce
Sarah joined AACF in May 2014. Previously, she interned as the Organizer-in-Training with Planned Parenthood of the Heartland in Little Rock. She is an Arkansas native and has a bachelor's degree in history from Hendrix College. She lives in Little Rock with her partner Ari.
Education and Fiscal Policy Fellow - Bailey Perkins
Bailey Perkins joined AACF as the Education and Fiscal Policy Fellow in August 2014 through the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities State Policy Fellowship program. She previously served as a summer intern for AACF through the Southern Education Foundation's Southern Education Leadership Initiative. She earned a Master of Public Administration degree with a Public Policy concentration from the University of Oklahoma and a Bachelor's degree in Political Science and History from Oklahoma City University.
Senior Policy Analyst – Kim Reeve
Kim Reeve joined AACF as Senior Policy Analyst in November 2009. Her previous experience includes serving as Senior Policy Analyst for Southern Good Faith Fund and Service Corps Fellow for the City of Bloomington, Indiana in their Latino Outreach project. Kim received her bachelor's degree from Alma College in Michigan and her Masters of Public Administration from the University of Indiana, Bloomington. Kim lives in Little Rock with her husband Oscar and their dogs Suzie and Daisy.
Outreach Director – Kerri Michael Sernel
Prior to joining AACF in 2014, Kerri Michael Sernel served as development and marketing director for Just Communities of Arkansas. Her previous experience included working with allied professionals to create a coordinated community response to domestic violence; grant-writing and program development; and policy advocacy impacting women and children on the statewide level. A native of Memphis, Tennessee, Kerri holds a BA in psychology from the University of Alabama and a master's in social work from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Kerri lives in Little Rock with her husband Toby and daughter Lily.
Development Director - Mallory Van Dover
Mallory Van Dover joined our staff in May 2013. A proud native of Marianna, Mallory has lived in Little Rock since her graduation from the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville. Prior to joining the AACF team, Mallory enjoyed development roles at Easter Seals Arkansas and Just Communities of Arkansas. Mallory and her husband Brian are proud parents of Mason, Mason, Nic and Emma.
Senior Policy Analyst - Eleanor Wheeler
Eleanor Wheeler joined the AACF team in October 2013. She is a Hendrix alum and received her masters in Applied Economics from the University of Houston. Prior to joining Arkansas Advocates, Eleanor worked as an analyst in the health sector in Boston, Massachusetts.