The Arkansas Waterways Commission has seven commissioners; five members represent the five navigable rivers in Arkansas and two members are "at-large."
Phyllis Harden, Chairman
Phyllis Harden is primarily responsible for Legislative and Special Projects for Pine Bluff Sand and Gravel Company. She began her career with Pine Bluff in 1981. Mrs. Phyllis was instrumental in the initiation of Pine Bluff’s most successful Safety Program, which dramatically reduced injury and illness to the company’s highly productive people. She is frequently in Washington, DC lobbying for Corps of Engineers waterway projects and funding. Phyllis is on the Board of Directors and a Past-President of the Mississippi Valley AGC, which is the largest geographical Branch of the Associated General Contractors of America and represents contractors on the river system from the Canadian border to the Gulf of Mexico. She also serves on the Board of Directors of the Dredging Contractors of America, Washington, DC. and is on the Executive Committee and Board of Directors of the National Waterways Conference, Washington, DC. Locally, Mrs. Phyllis is Vice-Chairman of the Pine Bluff-Jefferson County Port Authority Board. She was the first female commission member, and on June 23rd, 2020, she became the first female AWC chairman.
Representing for the Arkansas River, Marty Shell of Fort Smith has also been appointed to the commission. A second generation port terminal operator, Shell has been employed by Five Rivers Distribution for the past 24 years being able to work with his father Buck Shell, the founder of Five Rivers Distribution for 15 of those years. Marty is active with both the Fort Smith and Van Buren chambers serving as President for the Van Buren Chamber and Political affairs for the Fort Smith Chamber. He also serves as a Civil Service Commissioner for the City of Fort Smith police and fire departments and is the current Arkansas Oklahoma Port Operators Association president. Marty and his wife Shannon have been married for 20 years and have three children, Mackenzie, Avery, and Nathan Shell.
Joe Harris, of Osceola, represents the Mississippi River; his term expires 2021. Mr. Harris is a consultant/lobbyist on national, state and local levels for counties, cities and organizations. He serves on The Arkansas Delta Commission. He has served three terms as a member of the Arkansas House of Representatives. Mr. Harris was Assistant Speaker Pro Tem. He served as chairman of Public Transportation and was a member of House Rules, House Management Committee, and The Tobacco Settlement Task Force. He served as an alternate member on the committee of Joint Energy.
Matthew King, of Little Rock, serves at-large and his term expires 2023. Mr. King is the Director of Market Information and Economics with the Arkansas Farm Bureau Federation. He has a degree in agribusiness from Arkansas State University and a Masters in Agricultural Economics from the University of Arkansas. Mr. King is a member of the University of Arkansas College of Agriculture Deans Advisory Board and serves as administrator for the Arkansas Soybean Promotion Board. Prior to coming to Farm Bureau, Mr. King was an economist with the USDA Foreign Agriculture Service in Washington, D.C.
Jeff Rutledge, of Newport, represents the White River and his term expires in 2024. Mr. Rutledge, a native of Newport, graduated from Newport High School and earned a B.S. in Plant Science from Arkansas State University in Jonesboro and a Masters in Agronomy (Weed Science) from the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville. Mr. Rutledge has been farming full time since 1999 in Newport along the White River producing rice, wheat, corn, soybeans and milo. Mr. Rutledge serves on the Newport School Board, Levee Commission, several industry organizations and is President of the White River Coalition.
Sherrel Johnson is so closely associated with Union County Sparta Aquifer Recovery that if people can’t recall her name, they refer to her as the “water woman” or “that Sparta woman”, a moniker she readily accepts. Johnson first dedicated herself to Sparta aquifer recovery in 1997 following the Arkansas Natural Resources Commission’s (ANRC) 1996 designation of Union and four contiguous South Arkansas counties as the state’s first Critical Groundwater Area. Johnson earned her BA in political science at Southern Arkansas University – Magnolia, and her AA from South Arkansas Community College in El Dorado. Her husband Ben is an Arkansas historian, author, and recently retired history professor who held the John G. Ragsdale Endowed Chair in Arkansas Studies at Southern Arkansas University in Magnolia. Mrs. Johnson represents the Ouachita River.
Representing the Red River, David Haak was born and raised in Texarkana, Arkansas, and owns a pecan farm on the banks of said river. After graduating from Henderson State University with a degree in Biology, he became a science teacher in the Texarkana Arkansas School District. In 1980, he started his business, First Tape and Label. Today, First Tape and Label prints tire labels for every tire manufacturer in the U.S. and ships worldwide. In 2019, David started a new business, Natural State Label, a sister business that prints labels for the prime label market. David served on the Texarkana, Arkansas Board of Directors for three years, the Arkansas House of Representatives for six years, and the Arkansas Economic Development Board for five years. For the last few years, David has enjoyed a partial retirement and during this time he has spent many hours on the farm. Being a Biology major and a farmer David has always had an interest in protecting the state's waterways. David and his wife, Debbie, have been married for fifty-one years. Mr. David's daughter, Jennifer, and son-in-law, Michael Chesshir, are both working in the family business. They have three wonderful grandchildren; Mica, Reese, and Haak.