A Fond Farewell to Our Executive Director

As we enter a time of transition for Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families, the staff would like to express our deepest gratitude to our supporters, donors, fellow advocates, and outgoing Executive Director Rich Huddleston. Rich leaves us with fond memories of the past 27 years.

With our steadfast team in place, AACF will not miss a beat. Our Board of Directors is in the final stages of the search for a new Executive Director. And, beginning January 1, two longtime members of our team will lead AACF as co-interim Executive Directors: Jennifer Ferguson, Deputy Director; and Laura Kellams, Northwest Arkansas Director.

We’re excited to see what’s ahead for AACF. We are committed to making Arkansas a better state to be and raise a child. Our best wishes to Rich, our friends and supporters for a healthy and successful new year.

Rich Huddleston’s farewell message:
We announced it back in March, but in case you missed it, today is my last day at Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families. After 27 years with the organization – the last 18 as executive director – I will be stepping away from AACF and moving on to new challenges and hopefully new opportunities in my life and career. It has been quite a ride during my time at AACF and I am proud of what we accomplished.  Working with great partners and some really committed legislators, we have advocated for, and achieved, major policy changes that improved the lives of Arkansas children and families, in areas including child health, health care for low-income adults, early childhood education, K-12 education, juvenile justice reform, reform of the child welfare system, the minimum wage, and making the tax system fairer for low and middle-income families. Just as importantly, we were a constant and important voice for the most vulnerable children and families in our state.

Any success we had during my time at AACF would not have been possible without the efforts of great partners, funders, advocates, and legislators who worked just as tirelessly as we did to make lives better for Arkansas children. Closer to home, I had the honor and privilege of working with great board members who supported the work of our organization and who were not afraid to allow us to speak out and hold politicians accountable when they proposed bad policies that would have harmed Arkansas children and families. Perhaps most importantly, I got to work with other advocates on staff who were smart, passionate, committed, hard-working, and who gave everything they had in our efforts to promote public policy change for Arkansas families.

But as much as I have loved working at AACF, there comes a time when change is needed.  AACF turned 45 years old this year. After 27 years with the organization and leading it for 18 of those years, it was time for a change for me and the organization. I need a new challenge professionally (no, I am not retiring), and the organization will benefit from new ideas, new approaches, and new relationships that my successor will almost certainly bring to the organization. So, thanks to everyone who supported me and AACF during my time here. Can’t wait to see what’s next for this great organization.