Gretchen Conger to be Sanders’ chief of staff

Governor-elect also transfers $2.5 million to reelection campaign fund

By: - November 22, 2022 2:14 pm
The Arkansas State Capitol dome. (John Sykes/Arkansas Advocate)

The Arkansas State Capitol dome. (John Sykes/Arkansas Advocate)

Gretchen Conger will be Gov.-elect Sarah Huckabee Sanders’ chief of staff in the governor’s office, Sanders announced Tuesday.

Sanders also announced that she will transfer more than $2.5 million from her 2022 gubernatorial campaign treasury to her 2026 reelection campaign and named campaign manager Chris Caldwell as senior advisor to the reelection campaign.

Gretchen Conger

Conger, who served as deputy chief of staff to Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey, joined Sanders’ campaign in 2021 as senior advisor and is currently deputy director of the governor-elect’s transition team.

“Gretchen Conger’s proven experience and leadership from her time in the Arizona governor’s office makes her the perfect choice to serve as my chief of staff,” Sanders said in a statement.

“Her dedication during the campaign to develop policy plans and initiatives, as well as her enthusiasm to get to know Arkansans, will help me usher in my bold agenda to take Arkansas to the top and build an incredible, talented team to serve the people of our state.”

As senior advisor in Sanders’ campaign, Conger was responsible for development of the candidate’s policy priorities and agenda, according to a press release.

“I am honored and humbled that Governor-elect Sanders has tapped me to be her chief of staff,” Conger said. “It will be the honor of my life to serve Arkansas’ first woman governor, and I am confident that her conservative leadership and bold agenda will ensure better opportunities for all Arkansans. I love Arkansas and its people, and I’m excited to get to work serving them and their interests.”

Caldwell’s role

In a press release, Sanders described Caldwell as a longtime friend and said her election “would not have been possible without Chris and the incredible team he assembled, which is why I am pleased that he has agreed to ensure I am well-positioned for re-election in 2026.”

Chris Caldwell

Caldwell is the former federal co-chairman of the Delta Regional Authority. A Bryant native and graduate of the University of Arkansas, he worked for Arkansas U.S. Sen. John Boozman  from 2010 to 2018 and managed his 2016 re-election campaign. Caldwell also served on former Gov. Mike Huckabee’s 2008 presidential bid and then-U.S. Sen, Tim Hutchinson’s 2002 campaign.

“I cannot thank Chris enough for his candid advice over these many years and his leadership of my campaign,” Sanders said in the press release.

Caldwell said, “Arkansas is blessed to have someone with [Sanders’] character, determination, and vision to lead our state, and I am excited to see all that she accomplishes while preparing for her re-election.”

Conger’s career

Conger has over twelve years of experience in public policy and political engagement at the federal, state and local levels in both the private and public sectors.

Before joining the Sanders campaign in 2021, Conger worked for Ducey for nearly seven years, both as his legislative director and as his deputy chief of staff. She was responsible for strategic development and execution of Ducey’s agenda, including his legislative, policy and budget priorities.

She helped Ducey achieve the largest tax cut in Arizona history, securing a 2.5 percent flat income tax. She worked to pass and implement important K-12 education reforms, including 20 percent in teacher pay raises, significant expansion of quality choice for more families, funding for the waitlists at high-performing charter schools, and establishing the Arizona Teacher’s Academy to recruit new teachers to the field.

She also negotiated one of the largest water deals in Arizona history to protect the state’s limited water resources into the future.

Before joining the Ducey Administration, Gretchen was the Vice President of Public Policy at the Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry, where she championed pro-business policies at the state legislature and with the federal delegation. She also ran the Arizona Chamber Foundation, a nonprofit policy research entity to develop policies that would promote a pro-growth environment and ensure economic freedom for businesses across Arizona. Gretchen has both issue-based and candidate-based campaign experience.

She graduated from the University of Arizona with a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science and minors in French and Spanish.

She resides in Little Rock.

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Sonny Albarado, Arkansas Advocate
Sonny Albarado, Arkansas Advocate

In his 50-year career, Sonny Albarado has been an investigations editor, a business editor, a city editor, an environmental reporter and a government reporter at newspapers in Arkansas, Tennessee and Louisiana. Most recently, he retired from the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette after serving as projects editor for 12 ½ years. He got his start in journalism as editor of the Nicholls Worth, the student newspaper at Nicholls State University in Thibodaux, La., where he earned a bachelor’s degree in English in 1973. Nicholls awarded him an honorary Doctor of Letters in 2014.

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