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Sanders announces first cabinet secretary pick

Daniel Breen
Arkansas State Police Capt. Mike Hagar speaks with reporters at the Arkansas State University System office in Little Rock Monday as Governor-elect Sarah Huckabee Sanders looks on.

Republican Governor-elect Sarah Huckabee Sanders has named her choice to lead the Arkansas Department of Public Safety.

Sanders on Monday announced her intention to nominate Capt. Mike Hagar as her Secretary of Public Safety. Hagar will also be promoted to colonel and serve as director of the Arkansas State Police, where he’s worked for nearly 30 years and currently serves as Troop A Commander.

Speaking with reporters near the state Capitol in Little Rock, Sanders said Hagar understands the needs of law enforcement, and is well-respected in the field.

“I know he will do an incredible job in this role, making sure that the morale of the men and women of State Police is at a high, making sure that they have the resources and the training and the respect they need to do their job. Because, frankly, our entire state depends on it,” Sanders said.

Hagar replaces Col. Bill Bryant at the State Police and A.J. Gary at the Department of Public Safety. Gary, who was appointed acting secretary by Gov. Asa Hutchinson in August, will continue to serve as director of the state Division of Emergency Management. He’s held that post since 2016.

Hagar thanked Sanders, saying he plans to focus on boosting resources and training for law enforcement in the state. He also said making Arkansas an attractive place to work as a police officer is a top priority.

“Honestly, with recruiting and retention being the issue that it is, we’re always going to need more. We need to be competitive, not only with the other agencies in the state, but surrounding states,” Hagar said. “So yes, we need more money.”

Sanders also called for more respect for police, saying those on the “far left” have demonized law enforcement in recent years. When asked, she elaborated on a few of her goals to reduce crime during her tenure as governor.

“We want to make sure that we are actually locking up violent repeat offenders, not letting them back on the streets. We want to make sure that we have truth in sentencing,” Sanders said. “We cannot continue to allow the out-of-control crime that is taking place, and I think those are a couple of the measures that we can focus on that will serve our state better.”

Sanders was asked about former President Donald Trump’s recent comments suggesting the U.S. Constitution should be “terminated” to address baseless claims of widespread voter fraud. The former White House Press Secretary declined to respond, saying her focus is on the “people of Arkansas.”

Daniel Breen is a Little Rock-based reporter, anchor and producer for KUAR.