Two Arkansas politicos who worked closely with the late Jimmie Lou Fisher, Arkansas’ longtime state treasurer, reflected on her contributions to state politics.
Dr. Chuck Welch, ASU System President, worked for Fisher when he returned home from a stint in Washington, D.C. in his early 20’s.
“I was moving back from Washington D.C. and Senator Pryor was retiring, and I was asking him, ‘Well, what do I do next?’ And I’ll never forget. He said, ‘You need to go work for Jimmie Lou Fisher. I’ll put in a call. She’s somebody that just really loves to help young people figure out what their next steps are.’ And he was absolutely right,” Welch said.
“I’ll never forget the first meeting I had with her in her office and she asked me what I wanted to do. And I really didn’t know. And she said, ‘Well, here’s what we’re going to do. We’re going to figure out what you want to do, and then you’re going to go do it. And I’m going to help you every step of the way,’” he added.
Welch worked for Fisher for a year and eventually went on to earn his PhD and began his career in higher education.
“She was someone who, she much preferred a hug over a handshake. She was someone who constantly reminded me that it’s about doing the right thing and about taking care of people,” Welch said.
Janet Harris, CEO and executive director of the Winthrop Rockefeller Institute, worked with Fisher and her office when she was a deputy in the offices of Charlie Daniels, former Secretary of State and Commissioner of State Lands.
Harris is also a native of Greene County, where Jimmie Lou Fisher served as county treasurer before expanding to statewide politics.
“She was the first woman that I ever saw serve in an elected office, both as county treasurer in my home county in Greene County, but then later as a statewide elected official and the first woman to be nominated for governor in Arkansas. So, [she was] a trailblazer in politics and public service,” Harris said.
She recalls Fisher’s 2002 run for governor against incumbent GOP Gov. Mike Huckabee. Harris said Fisher’s endurance and grit were on display to those behind the scenes.
“When she was running for governor in 2002, she had quite a bit of back pain. And I remember that there were days it was really hard for her to take the stage or take the podium and shake the hands. But she did it, and she did it with a smile and with grace and was so interested in connecting with Arkansans and telling stories,” Harris recalled.
“I was speaking to a friend of mine who worked with her for a long time. And she was recounting the day after Jimmie Lou lost the governor’s race in 2002, and she said the whole staff was kind of in the headquarters, and they were all down, and she [Fisher] came in just whistling and smiling and saying, ‘Let’s move forward.’ I think as a politician and a public servant, she left an incredible legacy of service. She also left a legacy as a person that I think we can all learn a lot from, and I know she’ll be dearly missed,” Harris said.
You can watch Welch’s and Harris’ comments in the videos below.
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