by Michael R. Wickline | Arkansas Democrat Gazette
Grant Wallace, a former chief deputy state treasurer, has started work as the director of the state’s Employee Benefits Division.
Last week, Wallace took on his new role with a salary of $128,685 a year, said Alex Johnston, a spokeswoman for the state Department of Transformation and Shared Services.
Wallace served as the state Department of Human Services’ director of budget, forecast and financial analysis with a salary of $111,900 a year from Jan. 1 until Feb. 17, according to state officials.
The Employee Benefits Division’s former director, Jake Bleed, started work as legal counsel at the Arkansas Development Finance Authority on Jan. 16 with a salary of $140,591 a year. As the Employee Benefits Division director, Bleed’s salary was $154,492 a year, according to Johnston.
The division manages the group health and life insurance plans and other select benefits to build quality programs for eligible members while promoting customer service, education, accessibility and affordability, according to its website.
The projected annual budgets for the state’s public school and state employees’ health insurance plans total $750 million, Johnston said. The state’s public school and state employees health insurance plans cover about 183,000 people, including working members, retirees, spouses and dependents.
Wallace was a chief deputy treasurer for the state treasurer’s office from 2015 until this year.
The state Board of Finance approved the nomination of Wallace to be the division’s director during its Feb. 16 meeting.
Department of Transformation and Shared Services Secretary Joseph Wood nominated Wallace for the post, citing his previous work with the state and federal government and the board.
Wallace served as grassroots manager for the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network from 2013-2015, campaign manager for Republican congressional candidate Beth Anne Rankin in 2011 and 2012, regional director of health initiatives for the American Cancer Society in 2010 and 2011, and field director for the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network from 2008-2010, according to his resume.
He served as assistant director of Gov. Mike Huckabee’s Washington, D.C., office from 2003-2007. Huckabee is the father of Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders, who was sworn in as the state’s chief executive on Jan. 10.
On Thursday, John Bridges, executive director of the Arkansas State Employees Association, said he was “enthusiastic” about Wallace’s appointment.
The Arkansas State Employees Association met Thursday morning with Wallace and the leadership team at the state Department of Transformation and Shared Services “And we left very impressed with their fresh perspective and commitment to the employee health insurance plan,” Bridges said.
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