This week, we were shocked and saddened by the sudden death of Maria Haley, executive director of the Arkansas Economic Development Commission.
When I was elected governor in the fall of 2006, Maria was one of the first people I asked to join my new administration. I was unsure whether she'd be willing to leave a prestigious and lucrative job in Washington, D.C., and come home to lead our economic-development efforts in Arkansas. Not only did she agree to come back and take a six-digit pay cut in the process, she hit the ground running and never stopped.
The daughter of an educator and a Philippine diplomat, Maria lived and worked in seven countries before moving to America and becoming a U.S. citizen. She would make Arkansas her adopted home, and in 1979, then-Governor Clinton hired her for a job at the Arkansas Industrial Development Commission.
She would later join President Clinton's Administration in Washington, serving twice in the Presidential Personnel Office and as an appointed member of the board of the U.S. Export Import Bank. Throughout her distinguished career, Maria honed her disciplined work ethic and developed an invaluable network of friends and professional contacts around the world. She used this knowledge and experience as she vigorously pursued international investment in Arkansas.
She convinced me, even though I am not someone who likes to venture on long trips away from home, that a trade mission to Europe would reap significant benefits for our State. We traveled to Europe, and Maria was right. New companies came to Arkansas, bringing jobs with them. It is telling that on the day Maria died, I was breaking ground on a wind-energy plant being built in Mississippi County by Beckmann Volmer, a German company we visited on that trip.
Maria's dogged determination was instrumental in Arkansas's ability to attract new jobs even during the worst of the global recession. We were able to land projects that we had previously not even been in contention for, and we convinced companies to have confidence in locating here when many companies were hesitant to make new investments anywhere.
However, the things that made Maria the most effective were her personality and her energy. Her enthusiasm and drive inspired loyalty and commitment from the team she assembled at AEDC. She was a remarkable person whose lifetime of experience and knowledge of protocol made her comfortable in every setting or situation. Ginger and I were honored to call her our close friend, and many others on my staff considered her a beloved colleague, and someone to emulate. If Maria decided to do something, she did it with her whole being, a calm demeanor and with impeccable style.
Maria did more for Arkansas in her lifetime than most people will ever fully know. Her legacy will be our continued success in raising Arkansas's stature in a global economy. Her tireless pursuit of jobs will go forward at AEDC and in the communities she worked with across the State. Along with Maria's family, we mourn the loss of this great and gracious lady whose accomplishments were many and whose presence and counsel will be deeply missed.