Special to The Banner News
Governor Sarah Huckabee Sanders announced today that she will appoint Eric Jackson, Dr. Trey Berry, and Rebecca Baker to the Arkansas State Parks, Recreation, and Travel Commission.
Each of these appointments will expire on January 14, 2029. Eric Jackson will be reappointed, Dr. Trey Berry will replace John Gill, and Rebecca Baker will replace Skot Covert.
"I am excited to appoint Eric Jackson, Dr. Trey Berry, and Rebecca Baker to the Arkansas State Parks, Recreation, and Travel Commission – three excellent representatives of Arkansas who will continue to show the nation and the world the incredible natural beauty, world-class outdoor recreation, and great economic success of our state," Sanders said. "I am ready to unleash our state's potential to be a national leader in tourism and outdoor recreation, and work with these talented individuals to attract visitors and businesses from across the nation to the great state of Arkansas."
Eric Jackson Bio:
Eric Jackson is the Senior Vice President at Oaklawn Racing Casino Resort and serves on the Board of Directors. He helped oversee Oaklawn's development as one of the premier racing and gaming centers in America, as well as Arkansas' top commercial tourism attraction, with annual attendance topping 2.5 million. Eric also supervised over $100 million in construction at Oaklawn and has been awarded international patents for historic racing/Instant Racing.
A graduate of Hendrix College, Eric currently serves on the Hendrix College Board of Trustees, CHI-St. Vincent's Board of Directors and Executive Committee, the Arkansas State Chamber of Commerce Board, and the Arkansas State Parks, Recreation and Travel Commission. He has also volunteered in various local and national capacities for more than 25 years with Sisters of Mercy, while serving on numerous boards that benefit the Hot Springs community, making his passion for community service and civic involvement clear.
He has been awarded the Desoto Award for lifetime contribution to economic development and tourism in Hot Springs and Arkansas, the Boy Scouts of America Distinguished Citizens Award, and Arkansas Tourism Person of the Year.
Dr. Trey Berry Bio:
Dr. Trey Berry is the 12th president of Southern Arkansas University. President Berry joined SAU in 2011 as professor of history and dean of the College of Liberal and Performing Arts. He was promoted to provost and vice president for academic affairs one year later. Before coming to SAU, he spent two years as deputy director of the Department of Arkansas Heritage, two years as a dean at the University of Arkansas at Monticello, and 18 years as a faculty member and administrator at Ouachita Baptist University. Berry became president in 2015, and the focus of his presidency was to focus on people, planning, programs, and philanthropy, all which have been evidenced during his tenure. During this time, SAU launched and successfully completed its most ambitious comprehensive fundraising initiative in its history. Beginning in 2016 and concluding in October 2021, the Love & Loyalty Campaign raised $29.7 million, far surpassing its goal of raising $22.275 million, thanks to the generosity of Mulerider alumni and friends. The campaign established over 100 new endowments and funded support for every area of campus.
The University is now home to an ABET-accredited engineering program, a new doctoral program in rural and diverse educational leadership, a growing graduate school, a top-ranked nursing program, a teacher education program with double-digit growth, and many more academic accolades. Enrollment has increased by more than 10% since Dr. Berry's presidency began, and with 5,094 students enrolled during the fall of 2022, SAU experienced the highest enrollment in institutional history.
President Berry earned both his M.A. and Ph.D. in history at the University of Mississippi and earned his B.A. in history with minors in both political science and biology at Ouachita Baptist University. His published books provide factual historic accounts of Arkansas history and include: The Forgotten Expedition; The Louisiana Purchase: Journals of Dunbar and Hunter; The Arkansas Journey (5th to 7th grade textbook); and Arkansas History: A Collegiate Reader.
Rebecca Baker Bio:
Rebecca Baker, also known as Lady Angler Lentz, is an avid outdoorsman who is passionate about motivating others to explore Arkansas and try new hobbies. One way she does this is through her social media platforms that showcase Arkansas' world-class outdoor recreation and incredible natural beauty. As a former foster child herself, Rebecca is a mentor with the Mayfly Project and teaches foster children how to fly fish.
After serving as a diesel mechanic Texas Army National Guard for six years, she worked as a manager at various auto parts stores. She then moved back to Arkansas, began to explore our state parks, and met her husband on Petit Jean Mountain. Rebecca soon became enthralled with tourism, fishing, and hunting, and feels this is her true calling. She is a cervical cancer survivor and uses social media to promote Arkansas' outdoors. When she isn't wade fishing, hiking, or bow hunting, she can be found in the gym where she is also a personal trainer.