AR Briefly

Sarah Huckabee Sanders names Deere, others to incoming Arkansas gubernatorial staff

By: - November 29, 2022 1:58 pm

Arkansas Gov.-elect Sarah Huckabee Sanders named former White House Deputy Press Secretary Judd Deere and University of Arkansas Trustee Kelly Eichler as her deputy chiefs of staff on Tuesday.

Deere, a Benton native who has worked as a spokesman for elected officials in Arkansas and other states, and Eichler, a veteran of the current gubernatorial administration, were among four senior staff members Sanders announced.

The others were Andrew “Vu” Ritchie, chief legal counsel, and Jordan Powell, director of public affairs.

The group will work under Chief of Staff Gretchen Conger.

“Arkansans can rest assured that this talented group of individuals who are going to advise me daily as governor have the determination and desire to see our state succeed,” Sanders said in a statement.. “I’ve known many of them for years, both as colleagues and friends, and each one brings invaluable experiences and expertise to the office. Along with Chief of Staff Gretchen Conger, I am excited to have this team by my side as we work to take Arkansas to the top.”

Sanders will take office in January, and most of the members on the announced leadership group have been working on Sanders’ transition team.

Deere worked as the chief spokesman for Sanders’ gubernatorial campaign, and he was also Attorney General Leslie Rutledge’s communications director before going to work in the Trump White House.

Eichler was Gov. Asa Hutchinson’s policy director until 2017, and Hutchinson appointed her to the University of Arkansas Board of Trustees, where she still serves. Sanders’ father, former Gov. Mike Huckabee, appointed Eichler to a seven-year term on the state Board of Corrections. She is also a former prosecutor.

Ritchie is the deputy director of Sanders’ transition team. Ritchie worked in the Hutchinson administration as an adviser and legal counsel, and he worked as a domestic policy adviser for U.S. Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.). The Little Rock native also worked as a senior adviser in the office of Seema Verma, the former administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services during the Trump administration.

Powell was Sanders’ deputy campaign manager and external affairs director for the transition. He has worked a consultant and communications adviser on several political campaigns. In 2016, he was deputy campaign manager for Mike Huckabee’s unsuccessful presidential campaign.

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Hunter Field
Hunter Field

Hunter Field is a veteran Arkansas journalist whose reporting on the state has carried him from military air strips in northwest Arkansas to soybean fields in the Arkansas delta. He spent the better part of the last decade investigating and reporting on Arkansas government and politics. For three years, he covered education policy, medical marijuana and the Arkansas General Assembly as part of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette’s Capitol Bureau. Most recently, he was the Democrat-Gazette's projects editor, leading the newspaper's investigative team. Hunter got his start in journalism covering sports for The Commercial Appeal in Memphis. A Memphis native, he enjoys smoking barbecue, kayaking and fishing in his free time.