Democratic lieutenant governor hopeful Mike Hathorn made stops in Fulton and Izard counties Jan. 16.
Hathorn, 32, of Huntsville is currently the rural development commissioner for Arkansas.
"I want to elevate the active role of lieutenant governor," Hathorn told the lunchtime crowd at the Fulton County Senior Center. "I want to to make it a substantive role."
Hathorn said that if he becomes lieutenant governor he wants to be a bridge builder between the legislative and the executive branch. The lieutenant governor traditionally sits on the state Senate and casts the deciding vote in a tie.
Hathorn said one of his roles as lieutenant governor would be that of economic ambassador. He said he would try to bring back a bill, which failed last year, that would put the lieutenant governor on the state's economic development commission. "You can't expect the lieutenant governor to be an ambassador if he doesn't have a seat at the table," he said.
Hathorn said he would not only try to bring new industry and development into Arkansas but he would also try help existing industry expand. He said it's just as important to make sure current industries are doing well as it is to bring in new developments.
The role of economic ambassador also ties into the role that Hathorn said education ought to play.
"We need a work force that's educated to get a job," Hathorn said. He said there should be an overall plan for education, one that would have a workforce prepared for industries interested in relocating operations into an area. "We need a long-term perspective and plan," he said, adding that facilities must be adequately funded in order to get a workforce ready.
Hathorn said no other issues are more important than seniors' issues. "You don't have to be a senior to care about senior issues," he said.
Hathorn said he would push for something similar to the Office of Aging that the state of South Carolina has to deal with senior issues. The office would be headed by the lieutenant governor.
"Right now we have a number of different services but no one agency over them," Hathorn said. "This would be the perfect role for the lieutenant governor, especially considering the aging population of Arkansas."
He said that he is also concerned about the problems with the new Medicare program which failed to pick up the plans of many seniors who were also dependent on Medicaid. He said the state should step in and help the people who slipped through the cracks until the problem is fixed.
Hathorn said many rural pharmacists are taking a risk of not being reimbursed for medicine they prescribe to customers who may or may not be covered by the new Medicare plan.
Hathorn is one of four Democratic candidates vying for the state party's nomination in the May 23 primaries.
Hathorn was a state representative. He was elected to the House while still attending law school at the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville and served from 1999-2004 when term limits ended his eligibility to seek election for that office.
Hathorn grew up in Kingston, Ark., and attended high school in Huntsville which is the county seat of Madison County. His father, Herb Hathorn, was a county judge and clerk for Madison County and is currently on the board of the Area Agency on Aging.
Hathorn's mother, Carla, is on the board of the Carroll County Electric Co-op.
Hathorn said that growing up in a rural part of the state makes him familiar with rural issues and rural life. Huntsville is about the same size as Melbourne and Salem, he said.
Hathorn was a Democratic nominee for the U.S. Congress in 2001 but lost to Rep. Faye Boozman. He was also the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee from 2001-2004. He is a member of the volunteer fire department in Marble, Ark.
Hathorn currently practices law at Wilson and Associates, a land and title firm with offices all over Arkansas.