State Sen. Lance Eads, R-Springdale, resigned Thursday to take a job with a Little Rock consulting firm.
"It has been my great honor to serve my district and the state of Arkansas in the Legislature," Eads said Thursday morning. "The opportunity I have had to work alongside my colleagues toward a better Arkansas has created memories for a lifetime. I am truly blessed and grateful for the support of my family, friends and constituents who helped me on this journey."
Capitol Consulting Firm of Little Rock announced that Eads accepted a job as senior consultant. The lobbying firm's clients include the Northwest Arkansas Regional Airport Authority, Audubon Arkansas, Arkansas Alliance of Boys & Girls Clubs and the Arkansas Homebuilders Association, according to the company's website.
Eads, 53, said he will remain a resident of Northwest Arkansas.
"Lance is the gold standard for a man and was the same as a state senator," said fellow Northwest Arkansas delegation member Sen. Bart Hester, R-Cave Springs. "He will be missed, and I wish him well."
Eads also will resign as vice president of governmental affairs for the Springdale Chamber of Commerce, said Bill Rogers, Springdale chamber president.
"This is a good news-bad news situation," Rogers said. "The good news is that Lance has been presented with a wonderful opportunity for him and his family. The bad news is that the chamber is losing a valuable team member and our community is losing a trusted public servant who was always willing to listen to all sides of an issue."
The Arkansas Constitution requires the governor to call a special election to fill a vacancy left by a resigning state legislator. Arkansas Code 7-11-105 requires the governor to set an election date within 70 days of the day he issues the call.
Eads was unopposed in his reelection to a four-year term in last year's general election.
"Sen. Lance Eads has served his community well," Gov. Asa Hutchinson said Thursday of his longtime legislative ally. "He has been a good partner in the successes we have achieved in Arkansas from economic development to lowering taxes."
Constituents of Eads' Senate District 7 should keep a close eye on the Washington County Election Commission website because of the tight timeline for a bipartisan special election, said commission Executive Director Jennifer Price.
The governor's proclamation will set the dates for party primaries, a runoff date for those primaries in case they are needed and the special election itself, she said. There also could be a runoff to the special election if no candidate gets a majority of the vote, she said.
"This is going to be a very condensed schedule," Price said.
Eads' resignation came one day before the state Board of Apportionment is to unveil maps showing new legislative boundaries based on 2020 U.S. census numbers. The special election will use the existing district boundary lines, Price said.
Eads didn't draw a Democratic opponent in any of his three races for the Legislature -- one for the state House and two for the Senate. He won at least 58% of the vote in both of his two primary races.
"I will always be grateful to my state senator, Sen. Eads, for taking on DACA nurses with me my first term and for his help and friendship in the Legislature," said Rep. Megan Godfrey, D-Springdale, referring to Eads' help in passing a 2019 bill making nursing licenses available to qualified graduates who were brought to the United States as children and are here illegally. DACA refers to Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, a federal program preventing deportation of those brought here as children.
Sen. Jim Hendren is an independent from Sulphur Springs in Benton County and the longest-serving member of the Northwest Arkansas delegation.
"Lance has been a friend who's done quality work," Hendren said. "I'm sorry to see him go, but respect what people need to do for themselves and their family."
Eads started his political career by defeating incumbent Rep. Randy Alexander, R-Springdale, in 2014. Eads served one term in the House before being recruited in 2016 to run for the Senate District 7 seat by Hutchinson after then-incumbent Sen. Jon Woods, R-Springdale, dropped his reelection bid. Woods was later convicted of fraud and is serving an 18-year sentence in federal prison.
"Sen. Eads is extremely well thought of by his former colleagues and will benefit our clients greatly with his knowledge of the legislative process," said Rett Hatcher, a founding partner of the Capitol Consulting firm and a former aide of Hutchinson's.