AACF Board of Directors Announce Executive Director Stepping Down

From Ryan Davis, Board President, Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families

It is with a mix of sadness and gratitude that the Board of Directors announces Rich Huddleston’s departure as Executive Director of Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families (AACF), effective December 31, 2022. For the past 27 years, Rich has been instrumental in the organization’s efforts to improve the lives of children and families across the state of Arkansas. Rich began at AACF as the director of research and policy before becoming executive director in 2004. While we will miss him and his leadership, we wish him the best of luck in his future endeavors.

We want to thank Rich for his dedicated service, which helped bring about many significant policy wins for children and families, including:

  • The expansion of quality pre-k
  • Three increases in the state minimum wage
  • Making the tax system fairer for low-income families
  • The expansion of health care coverage for adults with low incomes
  • Access to children’s health care coverage for Marshallese and other immigrant children
  • Juvenile justice reform
  • School discipline reform

The board would like to thank Rich for giving the organization ample runway and lead time to make this transition. Over the next few months, we will conduct a comprehensive search to find the new AACF executive director. During this transition period, our priority will be to find the best individual to lead, while making sure the work of the organization moves forward while the transition is underway so we can continue to be strong advocates for children and families during this time. The dedication and hard work of the AACF staff will help make this transition possible. We will share the job announcement when it is ready and ask for your help identifying candidates who can help AACF take its next steps.

Again, we cannot thank Rich enough for the dedication, passion and vision he has given AACF over the past 27 years. He will be missed by the staff, board and partners alike. We look forward to following his next undertaking and are hopeful and excited for the next phase of AACF as we continue to work for sound policies to support Arkansas’s children and families. If you have any questions or concerns during this transition process, please do not hesitate to reach out to me at ryanddavis1978@gmail.com.


Ryan Davis
Board of Directors
Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families

From Rich Huddleston, Executive Director, Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families

As many of you know, AACF turns 45 years old this year. I have been with AACF for 27 of those years, and as executive director since 2004. That time has been the highlight of my professional career. My work at AACF has allowed me to fulfill my passion for advocacy and my passion for improving public policy to ensure all children and families have what they need to thrive and succeed.

More importantly, during that time I have been blessed to work with many brilliant and committed staff, supportive board members, great partners, and funders and donors who have supported AACF. Thanks to everyone’s efforts, we have been able to work with partners and policymakers to secure numerous major policy wins for children and families over the years. We have also worked tirelessly with our partners to help defeat or limit many harmful proposals that could have worsened the well-being of Arkansas’s children and families. And we’ve helped elevate and inform public debates about what children need to thrive and succeed.

One of the organizational accomplishments I am most proud of during my tenure is the opening of the regional office in Northwest Arkansas over a decade ago. Our team in Northwest Arkansas has really helped take our work and our reach to another level throughout the state. We have also made racial equity for children and families an even greater focus of our work, which should help make our advocacy more effective and impactful in the coming years.

As much as I have loved working at AACF, there comes a point when it’s time to do something different. I have been with AACF for most of my career, and I am ready for a new challenge professionally. And I believe the work of AACF will benefit from a new leader who might have a different perspective and fresh ideas to help us move forward. So today I am announcing that I will be stepping down as executive director of AACF at the end of this year, effective December 31.

Now is a good time to begin planning for the leadership transition at AACF. It will give AACF time to conduct a national search process and have a new executive director firmly in place before the next regular legislative session begins in January 2023. I have no doubt that AACF will hire someone great who can position the organization to continue its advocacy work and efforts to improve public policy for children and families.

As to my future after AACF, I have not decided what I will do next, but I am ready for a new challenge and opportunity in advocacy, public policy analysis, lobbying and nonprofit management. I hope to have the next stage of my career mapped out in the coming months.

Again, I must express my deep gratitude to all who have been supportive of AACF over the years. Without you, the organization would not be as strong as it is. I’m honored to have served as the executive director of AACF, and I look forward to seeing the organization’s continued success.


Rich Huddleston
Executive Director
Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families