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45th Governor of Arkansas, Mike Beebe

Governor Mike Beebe

Listen to Learn:

  • Mike's humble beginnings
  • Beebe's path to politics
  • How Gov Beebe kept AR debt free during the Great Recession
  • How Gov Beebe was one of few Democratic Governors to enact Obamacare in a red state
  • Why the state senators nicknamed Beebe "Atlanta"

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Governor Mike Beebe (aka Mickey Dale Beebe) was born in Amagon, Arkansas in 1946. He graduated Arkansas State University in in 1968 with a Bachelor’s degree in Political Science. He was elected to the Arkansas State Senate in 1982 and served there for the next 20 years. In 2003, Beebe was elected Attorney General of Arkansas. In 2006, Beebe won the Governor’s race and served for 2 terms. He left office on January 13, 2015 and currently serves on the Governors’ Council of the Bipartisan Policy Center in Washington, DC.

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[00:00:08] GM: Welcome to Up in Your Business with Kerry McCoy, a production of flagandbanner.com. Through storytelling and conversational interviews, this weekly radio show and podcast offers listeners an insider’s view into the commonalities of successful people and the ups and downs of risk-taking. Connect with Kerry through her candid, funny, informative and always encouraging weekly blog.

Now it’s time for Kerry McCoy to get all up in your business.


[00:00:34] KM: Thank you, son, Gray. My guest today is the 45th Governor of Arkansas, Mickey Dale Beebe, a.k.a Governor Beebe. Born in a tar paper house in Amagon, Arkansas, Governor Beebe exceeded his poor socioeconomic birthplace to attend Arkansas State University in Jonesborough. Make partner to a law firm in Searcy, Arkansas, and in 1982, began his political career as Arkansas State Senator that would eventually springboard him to the Governor’s Mansion.

In the 20 years, Councilor Beebe served as an Arkansas State senator. He interestingly never faced an opponent in his two-decade career. Because of term limiting, in 2002, Beebe left the senate and was elected Arkansas Attorney General. Again, with no opponent. He served four years in that position. In 2007, Mr. Mike Beebe became Governor Beebe of Arkansas and served two full terms.

In those 8 years, he reduced the grocery tax, navigated his citizens through the 2009 Recession and enacted the Affordable Healthcare Act. Governor Mike Beebe is said to be one of, if not the most popular governor in Arkansas History. Known for his honesty, loyalty and no nonsense approach to solving problems and for working across the aisle, he says, and I quote, “You can get a lot done if you don’t care who gets the credit.” This leadership style has served him well making an effective legislator, deal maker and endeared him to the voters and his comrades of both political parties.

It is with great pleasure that I welcome to the table the hardworking, popular, pragmatic retired governor of Arkansas, Mr. Mike Beebe.

[00:02:21] MB: That’s an accurate introduction.

[00:02:23] KM: Ain’t it though, and all true. Every bit of it is true.

[00:02:29] MB: I’ve been blessed that people have been very good to me.

[00:02:32] KM: You’re very humble. You always give the credit away. That’s what I said right in the beginning of the show. Didn’t I?

[00:02:38] MB: I heard Lee Scott who was a former CEO of Walmart. Heck of a guy. Really, really great leader, gave a speech one time about leadership, and one of the tenants that I remember the most was what you just said, and that is give away all the credit and accept all the blame. Ultimately, it’s not as magnanimous as it sounds, because when you give all the credit away to the others, people still know you deserve credit. It’s not as generous as it sounds, but what it does is it creates loyalty, causes those other folks to work even harder. When you accept the blame, the buck stops. You can privately blame folks, but publicly as a leader, you accept it. At least Scott did a great job in that speech and it’s a less [inaudible 00:03:27] aspiring leadership need to know.

[00:03:31] KM: That’s exactly right. I love your southern name, Mickey Dale Beebe.

[00:03:35] MB: Not many people know that. I’m sorry you keep publicizing it, but –

[00:03:41] KM: Did you mother call you Mickey Dale?

[00:03:44] MB: Called me Mickey until probably I was in the 6th grade and then everybody started saying Mike, except my grandmother. She never switched.

[00:03:56] KM: Well, I like it. You were born in Amagon, Arkansas. I’m not even sure where that is. You moved a lot. Tell us about your moving. Before you do, I just want to tell the listeners that out of the State of Arkansas, you lived in Detroit, St. Louis, Chicago, Houston, Almagor, New Mexico, and in the State of Arkansas, you’ve lived in Tuckerman, Jonesborough, Little Rock and New Port where you graduated high school. Those are the only ones I know. Tell us about moving all the time.

[00:04:23] MB: First of all, I wasn’t born in Amagon.

[00:04:25] KM: Oh you weren’t?

[00:04:27] MB: I was born in the suburb of Amagon.

[00:04:30] KM: Oh gosh!

[00:04:31] MB: Amagon has 85 people and they tell me, in fact I have a distant cousin that’s sided where the old shack used to be. It’s now a rice field. But it’s about a half a mile north of Amagon, which is only about 8 or 10 buildings. I would say I was born in the suburb of Amagon because it’s out the country. But no, my mother had me as a teenager. She didn’t finished high school. She was limited in what she could do with the lack of education. She had a great personality and a great work ethic. So she spent her whole life as a waitress and I was her only child, and we moved around a lot. She said Detroit, Chicago, St. Louis [inaudible 00:05:16] Crystal City. Three places in Florida, Houston Texas, Alamogordo, New Mexico, Tuckerman, New Port. Then from the 9th grade, I came back over in Fort Walton Beach, Florida and came back to New Port. Northeast Arkansas obviously was her home, and so came back to New Port. I went all through high school – Stayed four years in New Port going through high school. It’s the longest I had ever stayed anywhere.

Then after graduating from high school, I went to ASU. After graduating from ASU, I went to Fayetteville Law School and then came to Searcy straight out of law school joining a firm here that I was pretty lucky because the three senior folks that were there when I joined all ended up – One was hired about six years later. The other two were elected judges, and I woke up one morning the senior part in a well-established Searcy law firm. I had a lot of luck there.

[00:06:21] KM: You went to ASU. I heard you say or read somewhere that you considered a career in the FBI.

[00:06:29] MB: Yeah. I’ve got a friend – I’ve got several friends who always map out and say that they remember I said I was going to be governor. The truth of the matter is I went to law school specifically to go in the FBI. Back then, there were only two routes into the FBI. One was an accounting degree [inaudible 00:06:50] for me. The other was a law degree. Law school was a prerequisite, and when I went to law school, that was my intention, was to go in the FBI.

Obviously, your values change as you mature. Throughout the course of the first year of law school, I started to question what I wanted to do. Ultimately decided to into practicing law, and that’s what happened.

[00:07:12] KM: You took up practice in Searcy. Why did you pick Searcy? Is that just a place you got a job or did you just love the town?

[00:07:19] MB: Well, it’s a little bit of both. When I graduated, there weren’t a lot of job. We had about 80 people, 75 or 80 people I think in the graduating class, which is about normal back then for the law school in Fayetteville. There weren’t a lot of jobs. I was [inaudible 00:07:35]. So I did have some options. I had three opportunities. One of them was Searcy, and I had clerked here in the summer between my first and second year in law school with the very firm that I ended up joining. That was a determining factor. It wasn’t the salary. The salary that I was offered in Searcy was the worst of the three offers. But the senior partner said, “Boy! If you’re as good as you think you are, you’ll be a partner here before you would be any place here. If you’re not as good as you think you are, you don’t deserve to be a partner anywhere.”

[00:08:11] KM: Oh! Well, there you go. Yeah, big fish in a little pond. You’ve talked about this freely, so I don’t feel like I’m asking out of term, but your mother married five times, which is why you moved a lot.

[00:08:22] MB: Yeah. She was a great person in every aspect of her life except her judgment of men. I never knew my dad. I never had a dad really. I heard who he was, but I never met him. He was never there. I had a number of stepdads, some better than others, some worse than others. That precipitated most of those moves.

[00:08:47] KM: How did all that moving developed your personality you think?

[00:08:52] MB: Well, I’ve always joked that if you’re the new kid in your class every few months, you better be good at one of three things. Either you better be tough, and I wasn’t, you’d be able to run fast, and I couldn’t, or you better learn how to talk. I supposed I learned how to talk. I supposed that have developed my personality.

[00:09:15] KM: Well, this is a great place to take a break. When we come back, we’ll continue our conversation with the ever-popular 45th retired Governor Mike Beebe. We’ll talk about his 30-year political career. Hear some more sage wisdom that he learned while governing and get some behind-the-scenes stories of Arkansas politics. Stay tuned. We’ll be back.


[00:09:35] GM: You’re listening to Up in Your Business with Kerry McCoy, a production of flagandbanner.com. Over 40 years ago with only $400, Kerry founded Arkansas Flag & Banner. During the last four decades, the business has grown and changed along with Kerry’s experience and leadership knowledge.

In 1995, she launched the business website flagandbanner.com, became an early blogger in 2004, founded the nonprofit Friends of Dreamland Ballroom in 2009, began distributing a biannual publication called Brave Magazine in 2014, and today she’s branched out into this very radio show, YouTube channel and podcast where each week you’ll hear her engage in candid conversations with engaging persons.

Stay informed about upcoming guests by subscribing to Up in Your Business with Kerry McCoy’s YouTube channel where updates of happenings on the busy Flag & Banner campus, like Dreamland Ballroom events, current Up in Your Business guests, sales at flagandbanner.com, relevant Brave Magazine articles and Kerry’s weekly blog post, join our email list at flagandbanner.com and receive our Thursday, very popular, all inclusive, water cooler weekly update. Telling American-made stories, selling American-made flags, the flagandbanner.com.

Back to you, Kerry.


[00:10:55] KM: You’re listening to Up in Your Business with me, Kerry McCoy. I’m speaking today with Arkansas’ popular and pragmatic retired 45th Governor Mike Beebe. Before the break, we talked about Governor Beebe’s humble beginnings. We talked about his wonderful personality and how it came from having to be so versatile and why everybody likes him, because he had to be liked at every school he ever went to, and that’s why he’s the most popular guy.

Governor Beebe, you now have a successful career as an attorney and partner in the Lightle Beebe Law Firm in Searcy, Arkansas that we just talked about before the break. It was 1982 and you decided to run for the Arkansas State Senate. Why would you make that change?

[00:11:37] MB: Well, I’d always been interested in politics after I got out of law school, after I had changed my course in life. We had a senior, Ed Lightle, who had been a state senator for 8 years and had decided that 8 years has all he wanted. He retired after 8 years. That was unusual at the time. That had been several years before. He piqued my interest a little bit. For reasons nobody ever understood back in 1974, when I was two years out of law school, I didn’t have any money to know anything about politics that I campaigned for. Out of the clear blue, Dale Bumpers supported me to the ASU board. I was just a baby and I looked even younger. I used to have to wear glasses, prescription, once in a while. So people think I was older.

My five years on the ASU board further triggered my interest in politics and in government and public policy. I was searching around for opportunity, and redistricting occurred in ’82. We had been in with Bill [inaudible 00:12:51] because he kept getting an opponent out of Searcy. He kept winning, but he kept getting an opponent. They created [inaudible 00:13:06]. Had an incumbent named Mr. Bill Hargrove. I decided to run.

I started running in ’81, back in July of ’81. When it came filing time in ’82, he came to see me. Wanted me not to run against him. Said he probably only want four more years. He’s a nice gentleman. I said, “Mr. Bill, I’m going to run.” A few weeks later, he dropped out. Actually, he never filed. When the filing time came, I filed and I’m the only one and the rest is kind of history.

[00:13:44] KM: Why did he ask you not to run? Did he think you’d beat him? You were a brand-new guy.

[00:13:50] MB: Yeah, but Searcy was bigger than [inaudible 00:13:53] and growing. Geographically, the district, in terms of hometown folks, favored me even though I was brand-new, young and inexperienced. I suppose that was a factor. I’m not sure.

[00:14:11] KM: You remarkably served unopposed for 20 years.

[00:14:16] MB: You have to be a little bit lucky for something like that to happen. I campaigned every day. I never had an opponent, but I always thought you don’t just campaign during the campaign season. It wasn’t a formal and official campaign [inaudible 00:14:30] raised money or either of that stuff, but I was out in the district. I [inaudible 00:14:35] evolved where I was the senior part and I had big cases. I didn’t have lots of cases, but the cases I had were pretty huge. It afforded me extra time. So I spent several hours a week travelling in the district, seeing people, listening to their concerns. Trying to be responsive doing constituent services. That paid off.

As time went on, that grew and grew and consequently nobody ever decided to run. When I got right around for attorney general, there’s I think 7 people counting myself on both sides of the aisle talking about running for AG. Ultimately, nobody ever filed except me. I was elected the AG without an opponent, which I don’t think has ever happened, or if it has, I don’t remember it. In any event, when I ran for governor, some of the political pungent, particularly John [inaudible 00:15:33] said, “I didn’t know how to campaign. Never had a campaign. Didn’t know how to raise money [inaudible 00:15:38].”

[00:15:40] KM: Except for you, campaigned every day, 365 days a year, which it sounds like your opponents just didn’t want to work that hard.

[00:15:49] MB: Well, I enjoyed it. It wasn’t work, and I liked people. I enjoyed the senate. I never thought I’d enjoy anything more than the senate.

[00:15:59] KM: Yeah, you were term limited.

[00:16:01] MB: Right. I had to get – The state senate was as high as you could go and still be part-time. So you could have a real job and a real life outside of politics. I had to make a decision with term limits to get in or get out. There was no other place to go. Obviously, I decided to quit the law practice and get in full-time to elected office.

[00:16:25] KM: You had to take good cut and pay.

[00:16:27] MB: Oh yeah! No question to that. But I’ve been fortunate. I’ve had a number of good cases including I had the largest jury verdict in the history of Arkansas in ’81 before I ran. Then subsequently in 4 or 5 years later, [inaudible 00:16:48] that even broke that record. I called my wife after that case and I said, “I got a good news and bad news.” She said, “What’s the bad news?” I said, “My record is broken.” She said, “What’s the good news?” I said, “I broke it.

[00:17:00] KM: When you win a big case like that for the state, you don’t get any of that money, do you?

[00:17:03] MB: Right. [inaudible 00:17:05] AG. All that money goes to the state.

[00:17:08] KM: Was the chicken house case your law practice or was that for the state?

[00:17:12] MB: No, that was mine. That was the first one.

[00:17:15] KM: What was the second one called?

[00:17:17] MB: The second one was a terrible action involving a 14-year-old senior high cheerleader and her grandmother. That was just atrocious [inaudible 00:17:25] in a big truck. One was a products case. One was a negligence case.

[00:17:30] KM: What was motivating you to stay in politics instead of going back into private practice in Searcy after your senate?

[00:17:39] MB: I’ve done all I needed to do in the practice of law and I rarely enjoyed doing the public service and the politics of it. What motivated me I suppose was a different challenge. I had practiced law for 30 years. 20 of those years I was in the senate, but as I said, that’s part-time job. So I could have a real job. I continued in the practice of law for 30 years. I had been there, done that, and decided to do something different.

[00:18:06] KM: I certainly understand that. Tell us how the decision to run for the governor came about. You ran against Asa Hutchinson, and during a debate, had a pretty defining moment when you said, “I want to promise less and deliver more to the Arkansas people.”

[00:18:20] MB: What I suppose prompted it was it was an open seat. Huckabee was term limited. So he was gone. It was opportunity and it’s a natural progression. A lot of AGs run for and been elected governor. I’d had a statewide constituency and base from the time that I was AG and name recognition gone up significantly. I thought I had a chance.

In the course of it, through my 20 years in the senate, I had found that telling people the truth actually was not just good public policy. It was really good politics too. Even though you made some people mad and even though you told them stuff they didn’t want to hear, the majority of them, not all of them, but the majority of them actually rewarded you for being honest.

It was kind of a mantra with me that I just told it like it was and ultimately that was good politics as well as good government. It was a natural thing to say when people started pandering about what all they were going to go. For me to say, “Look, I’d rather under-promise and over-deliver rather than go the other way around.” I think people reward you for it. Ultimately that’s what happened.

[00:19:34] KM: Not long after you were elected in 2008, the banking crisis occurred. What did you think? “Oh my gosh! Just my luck.”

[00:19:40] MB: Yeah. You didn’t have much time to think about it. I had a good year in 2007 because I was elected in ’06 and took office ‘7, and we were doing quite well. We actually had a surplus and we were able to do things that got us out or headed down the road to get us out from all that [inaudible 00:20:03] stuff that we dealt with for 27 years, that I dealt with in the senate, and we were able to fund public schools and facilities in a way that headed this away from the court and back in the local folks, being able to run schools. Relative to that, I was pretty happy. As you mentioned, bam! In ’08, the big Wall Street bank torpedoed and it torpedoed the country into a recession that lasted all through ’08 and into the parts of ’09. But I was proud of the fact that with – I’d been in the senate. I’d been on budget. I knew how revenues [inaudible 00:20:45] was supposed to work. I knew what to observe. I’m a social, liberal and a fiscal conservative. I don’t care what your religion is or what church you go to or who you like or who you don’t like, but I don’t want you spending money that’s not there and I don’t you to be wasting my money or anybody else’s money.

We were conservative in our investing and we were able to cut [inaudible 00:21:10] Stabilization Act periodically as it went through so that we were one of four states that never really got in trouble fiscally throughout the recession. The other three states didn’t have any people. They had more animal, like North Dakota, Montana and Alaska. We were fortunate that we got through that crisis with a minimum of problems. We didn’t go into debt like a lot of states do. We didn’t steal from retirement funds just to make the [inaudible 00:21:41] work. It was tough and there was some pain throughout it. When we came out of it, we came out of it much better with the rest of the country.

[00:21:50] KM: What do you think about the recession we’re in now? Do you think about what you would do different than what’s going on?

[00:21:56] MB: I have great sympathy. I told Asa that I know how lonely it is where he sits in the middle of a crisis. I told him it was lonesome when you’re having to make those decisions as a governor during a crisis. If you ever just need to talk, I’m always here. We’ve developed – Not withstanding the fact we ran against each other in ’06. We developed a pretty good relationship.

[00:22:24] KM: You were really known for balancing the budget. It was really important. Like you said, you’re a social liberal and a fiscal conservative. When the Forestry Commission fell short, you audited them in your second term.

[00:22:35] MB: Yeah, we knew that making some changes. You’re always going to have problems. You can’t keep your finger on it. The state government is too big. You can’t keep your finger on everything in advance all the time, and sometimes some of these things reach up and bite you. All you can do in circumstances. Those things occur if you take decisive action to eradicate the problem, fix the problem. That was just one example. We had a number of examples most of which I’ve forgotten. But yeah, [inaudible 00:23:07] examples where you have ups and downs and you have problems in the agency and you have to react and you have to react decisively. That was an example of one that ultimately worked out.

[00:23:21] KM: Back to current events. You were also really, really a proponent of schools and really cleaning up the school system. Your mother was big on education, because like you said, she didn’t graduate high school and she felt limited. What do you think about the STEM schools or do you have an opinion about STEM schools and the way they’re rearranging the public school system in Little Rock?

[00:23:39] MB: Are you talking about charter school?

[00:23:41] KM: Charter schools, aha.

[00:23:42] MB: I have always been opposed to private or charter schools that weren’t open in enrolment getting state funds. That’s a different matter. But I’ve always been supportive of open enrollment public charter schools and there’s a difference. An open enrollment school is usually one where any of the public school students regardless of their financial abilities have the opportunity to go to that charter school.

In cases where they have limited number, then they do it by lottery, which is also fair, so you’re not just taking rich kids. Every kid has the opportunity to be able to at least have a chance to go in the open enrollment public charter schools, and then getting state money is something that I’ve supportive of. You can’t have an open enrollment charter school in a district that’s so adversely impacts the student population of the public school in that district that it ruins the public school.

[00:24:40] KM: I think that is what’s happening. Is that what the problem is now? They’re closing the small neighborhood schools.

[00:24:45] MB: It can be a problem. In Little Rock, I don’t know that it’s gotten to that point yet because they do have a significant population that is able to feed. But let me explain. Under our Supreme Court orders and the way they forced us to fund public schools in a different fashion, you have to have a certain number of kids, because we’re paying by the kid, or else you can’t have the curriculum necessary. You can’t have chemistry or physics or some of those [inaudible 00:25:12] teachers if you don’t have enough students.

If you have a small town or a small school district and somebody opens an open enrollment public charter school, you can actually take enough kids away from the regular public school if they can’t function. You can’t allow that. Those kind of open enrollment public charter schools cannot be permitted. Now that’s all different from private schools. Private schools, they don’t get state money. If somebody wants to go to a private school, that’s a different measure. The state can impose requirements on those private schools in terms of curriculum requirements and stuff like that. But they’re not funding them. What we’re talking about is the public charter schools.

[00:25:55] KM: Before we go to break, you’re known for cutting the middle classes taxes. You reduced the state’s grocery tax by half. You increased the homestead property tax. Your education reform was really important to you. You did a lot for special needs students, expanded Medicaid. Anything about those that you’re really proud of that you want to mention?

[00:26:13] MB: Yeah, but I got to correct you on one thing. I eliminated the grocery tax. We cut it in half the first year. We chipped away at it. My last year in office, we still had one and seven-eighths. Now, there’s one-eighth that we could take off, because part of what was passed by the people in the constitutional amendment for all that game and fish stuff and everything else. That one-eighth we couldn’t do anything about, but we went from 6% down to one-eighth. I got rid of all of it I could get rid of.

However, it wasn’t gone when I left office. What I had to do, and we had to pay for getting rid of the grocery tax, and the way we did it was the last one and seventh-eights that was on the books when I left office, we passed a law that’s gone in 2018 when we quit paying deseg money to the Little Rock schools. When we quit paying, when the state quit paying what we were paying the Little Rock schools under that court order of that extra money for desegregation, that was already scheduled to end per court order in 2018. I convinced the legislature that when that ends in 2018, automatically, that last one and seventh-eighths, and it did. That law was passed in 2013 before I left office in 2014, or 2015 actually. It was already in place and automatically got rid of the rest of the grocery tax in 2018.

[00:27:44] KM: Good job. You’re listening to Up in Your Business with me, Kerry McCoy, and I’m speaking today with Arkansas’ popular and pragmatic, retired 45th Governor Mike Beebe. In your second term governor, you became the first democratic governor since 1874 to face a Republican-controlled legislature in both houses. But this did not stop you from getting things done. One of your biggest achievements during your second term what you’re signing to law the private option, part of the Affordable Care Act, a.k.a. Obamacare. What does that mean and why was it important?

[00:28:22] MB: Well, it meant a great deal for a lot of different constituencies. There were a number of arguments that we used to get it done. All were true, but different arguments were more appealing to different constituencies. For example, you had the obvious argument that 250,000 Arkansans were now going to be able to have healthcare. But that wasn’t sufficient for a lot of folks, because Arkansans in the general assembly did not like Obamacare. Obamacare was unpopular because Obama was unpopular.

The tea party was big at the time and the Affordable Care Act had provisions in it that mandated certain requirements on insurance, and that was unpopular with some people. The truth in the matter was it was more complicated than that. Arkansas, because under our constitution, we couldn’t change this because it’s constitutional, people would’ve hadn’t changed it with the constitutional amendment. It took three-fourths vote for this. Three-fourths in both houses. That 75 out of a hundred in the house, 27 out of 35 in the senate. The fact to the matter is you can’t get three-fourth from motherhood and apple pie in most of the time. But there were plenty of other good reasons.

First of all, the expansion of Medicaid, which we turned into the private option, but it was still the expansion of the Medicaid, was the one thing the US Supreme Court said was optional when Obamacare came in front of the Supreme Court. States could take it or not take it. Most of the southern states and certainly all of Republican states said no. They weren’t going to take it.

Well, one of the arguments is, “Look, we’re paying for this whether we take it or not. It’s being paid for in a couple of ways. All our taxes are paying for part of it.” What the feds did was they said, “Look, we’re going to expand Medicaid so that you don’t have more uninsured for hospitals, since hospitals are going to get more money, because now they got more people insured. We’re going to cut Medicare reimbursements.” Now, they’re not cutting Medicare, but they’re going to cut Medicare reimbursement rates for hospitals, because now hospitals are going to get more insured so they don’t have as many uninsured so they don’t need as much money in reimbursements from Medicare. So whether we take it or not, we’re going to pay for it. Our hospitals are going to pay for it. Our tax payers are going to pay for it.

One of my arguments was, “Do you want our tax payers to be sending all these money to California and New York so that they can have more insured and leave our people that?” Well, that appealed to a lot of folks, obviously. I mean, that’s just logic. Another argument was what it was going to do to our hospitals if we didn’t take it. For example, I said to cut Medicare reimbursement rights. It was $58 million that first year [inaudible 00:31:20] in this loan in terms of loses if we didn’t do the private option.

The other thing was Obama needed a seventh state, and no southern state was doing it. We convinced him with the Republican. Now, I got to give people like Jonathan [inaudible 00:31:40], Republican State Senator [inaudible 00:31:42] who’s turned out to be a wonderful state senator incidentally. David Sanders, John [inaudible 00:31:49]. They helped lead a contingent and help formulate the private option where in instead of just extending Medicaid, we took the money and the requirements that would have been applicable under Medicaid and bought insurance with it, and it did a couple of things. Number one, it increased the number of insurance companies providing healthcare in Arkansas creating more competition which chopped our rates.

In addition to that, it allowed us to be able to have a pool of money, because we already had interest premium on the book. We didn’t have to raise it. We didn’t have to raise taxes. It was already there from years and years and years ago. It created a pool of money with all these by buying insurance instead of just straight Medicaid. It created a pool of money that allowed us to [inaudible 00:32:37] states cost going full without ever having to raise another dime in taxes because it created more tax money in an already existing tax on hospital insurance premiums.

Hospitals were happy with it, because they were going to get killed without it and it would have closed a lot of smaller hospitals, rural hospitals. You still had some highly illogical opposition with the people or the folks and extremely conservative Republicans that didn’t want to go along.

Now, most Republican governors have awakened and they followed our lead. Now we have I guess 47 states [inaudible 00:33:17], but you still got 8 or 10 states that are doing the very – Mississippi I don’t think has ever taken it. Alabama I don’t think has ever taken it.

[00:33:26] KM: Did people call you and ask you your opinion? That was a lot of moving parts that you just said. Did they call you up and ask you every one of those and you kind of taught everybody?

[00:33:35] MB: Yeah. The first one to call was Gary Herbert, the Republican Governor of Utah [inaudible 00:33:40] Utah is pretty conservative. He said, “How did you do this?” Walked him through it, and I never will forget the Republican [inaudible 00:33:54]. He couldn’t get it down, but he tried. His legislature actually would not expand Medicaid and I don’t think Tim [inaudible 00:34:02] expanded Medicaid to this day. He certainly tried.

[00:34:05] KM: Why do people sometimes say that you didn’t pass a lot of legislature in your name? instead you got it done by caring more about the greater good and kind of gave the credit away? It sounds to me like you did a lot of stuff in your name.

[00:34:18] MB: Well, yeah, when I was governor. That description was more applicable when I was senate, where I often described myself whose more of the traffic cop. Making sure that it all ran right and got passed, because I just not file a lot of bills. I thought a lot of major ones, some constitutional amendments and shepherded the school finance reform and all that kind of stuff. But in terms of sheer quantity of bills, sheer numbers, I didn’t do a lot of that. For the last 10 or 12 years I was in senate, I was running it and it was more effective for me to help other people shepherd their stuff or kill what needed to be killed.

Some of the best work we ever did was to kill bad stuff, not just pass good stuff. So that description of me not passing a lot of legislation in my name was probably applicable and appropriate, but it was for my time in the senate. As a governor, you have to go out there and put your stamp on more stuff. The description was applicable to the senate time, not the governor’s time.

[00:35:33] KM: In your PBS documentary that I watched, and if anybody hasn’t watched it, they need to go watch it. It’s great. Well-done. Representative Jay Bradford called you Atlanta. When asked why – Go ahead and tell our listeners why he called you Atlanta.

[00:35:47] MB: Well, Jay Bradford, when we were in senate, I guess in about ’99 or 2000. Somewhere along in there, he started calling me Atlanta, and the press asked him why he had called me Atlanta. He said because everything – He was referring to Delta Airlines, I think, because everything has to go through Atlanta. That [inaudible 00:36:09] got there. Jay Bradford calling that. He thought he [inaudible 00:36:14].

[00:36:14] KM: He was like. I like it. The PBS documentary was produced and directed by the husband and wife team, Kathryn Tucker and Gabe May Mayhan. It’s titled Let Beebe be Beebe. Tell us the story behind that slogan.

[00:36:28] MB: Oh yeah. Our dear long departed friend, Matt DeCample, who we stole when I was AG from KATV TV channel 7. He’s a reporter. We brought him on as our [inaudible 00:36:41] in the Attorney Jones office and obviously [inaudible 00:36:43] to the Governor’s office. I’m running for governor in ’06. We had a series of mistakes. We had some leaks where early on in the campaign and we made mistakes and got some bad press. I can’t even remember what all the subject matter was. But it wasn’t going the way you really wanted it to go. Matt was a great press [inaudible 00:37:06]. He would have been terrible in the campaign. So I didn’t take him with me to the campaign office. He stayed in the AG’s office while I was running for governor.

One afternoon after a few weeks of this, he calls and he says, “Let’s go have a beer [inaudible 00:37:21] about 5:00 this afternoon.” I said, “All right.” I was a little bit down and he said, “Look, we got all these people trying to handle you. You got folks telling you what you all have to say and how you all have to say it. You don’t need handlers. You just need to let Beebe be Beebe. Just be yourself,” was his advice.

From that point on, we never looked back. The mistakes went away. Everything got on a role and he advised about let Beebe be Beebe –

[00:37:53] KM: Made you the most popular governor of Arkansas.

[00:37:55] MB: He was right.

[00:37:56] KM: He was. I always think of the wives of politicians. Looking back, can you speak to your wife Ginger’s support sacrifice and strength?

[00:38:04] MB: Yeah. There’s a great story behind this. A very funny story. She’s a great lady, but she never really was involved in politics. For example, since I never had an opponent, she didn’t have to be, okay? As a state senator, there were occasions when she would be involved at some function, but they were pretty rare and they weren’t very difficult.

Then when I ran for AG, I also didn’t have an opponent. She was busy home raising kids and taking care of the house. Well, when I was elected AG, we bought a condominium in Little Rock. So I didn’t have to drive back and forth every day to Searcy. I just come home on the weekends and stayed in Little Rock during the week.

Fast-forward, I’m elected governor. We don’t need the condominium, because we were going to move in the mansion. We sold it. We’re having a brunch a day before the inauguration. Volunteers and campaign staff had worked so hard, and I get a phone call. Ginger is at the condominium packing up stuff [inaudible 00:39:12]. She said, “You need to get over here right away.” Ginger was in the floor crying. I said, “Gosh!”

The enormity of what was about to happen and changing her life as first lady had obviously hit her. I jumped in the car, left [inaudible 00:39:27] and drove to the condominium and looked at her and I said, “[inaudible 00:39:32]. Why now? Why are you so upset?” She looked at me and she said, “I didn’t think you’d win.”

[00:39:42] KM: Oh! The nice vote of confidence from your wife.

[00:39:45] MB: [inaudible 00:39:45].

[00:39:46] KM: Yeah, she will.

[00:39:48] MB: But, you’re talking about being popular. She may be as popular anybody that’s ever sat in that first lady seat, because she opened that mansion up. She thought it was a people’s house. She was caring and kind. I never will forget. She did a listening for several months about children and foster children and children services or a lack thereof. They’d go around the state to different towns, Monticello, or Magnolia, or Jonesborough or lots of different places. The first part would be including the media. They were publicizing the needs and what was going on. The second half of the day would be just parents and usually just mamas talking about the problems that they were having, accessing services for their children. Usually it was very poor people.

One day she came in and she shared this African-America lady had said to her at the end of their discussion. She said, “You are going to do something about this, aren’t you?” She came back to the mansion that night. She told me the story and she said, “Now, you are going to do something about this, aren’t you?”

The next morning I called the head of [inaudible 00:41:08] I said, “You are going to do something about this, aren’t you?” [inaudible 00:41:16] she ended up being extraordinarily popular she always had class and grace way beyond what I could understand.

[00:41:26] KM: This is another great place to take a break. When we come back, we’ll continue our conversation with Arkansas’ retired Governor Mike Beebe, attorney-at-law who also served 20 years in the Arkansas senate and four years as attorney general. We’ll be right back.


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[00:42:48] KM: You’re listening to Up in Your Business with me, Kerry McCoy. I’m speaking today with Arkansas’ retired Governor Mike Beebe who served between 2007 and 2015. Governor Beebe, your approval rating never slipped below 70% in all your years as governor. Your crossover appeal had to make you a much talked about candidate for the presidential elections. Did you consider it?

[00:43:13] MB: No, and I never considered a senate race. The impression has always been congress, governor, senate and that was an impression for me to run for the senate. In fact, there was a poll that I think [inaudible 00:43:29] did that came out like in October before I left office. [inaudible 00:43:39] incumbent senator. But I never had a desire to go to Washington. I did when I was young. Didn’t know any better, but it [inaudible 00:43:47]. I’ve done – I don’t know that there was a better job politically in the world than being governor. I was ready to come home. I was ready to relax a little bit. I never considered yet.

Interestingly enough, I don’t know where this people come up with this stuff, but there’s a deal on YouTube that somebody had put on there. I’ve never been able to figure out who it was. It was well-done. It looks like a real Fox News election night, because they advertised, but could have been any network election night with me in front in 2020. They go through each state. I mean, it’s pretty realistic how the polls have now closed in state-x and state-y.

If you went to YouTube and you hit my name. Then there’s 50 [inaudible 00:44:42] in the entries, but one of them me and Trump and you walk through it and it’s like a real election.

[00:44:51] KM: Funny. What do you think about politics today? You were right about it. It’s gotten to be dirty politics.

[00:44:57] MB: It’s sad that we’ve gotten so polarized, and I’m talking about both parties, extreme left and the extreme right. Part of it is a legislature’s fault and not just Arizona legislature. All 50 states legislatures. The reason I say that is what happens with the decennial census every 10 years when we do a census. Congressional has districts, are redistricted, but they’re redistricted by the state legislatures. For example, Arkansas’ state legislature redistricts are congressional boundary lines. What these legislatures had done across it’s country had created real safe democratic seats and real safe republican seats so that there’s not much in the middle.

When these people are running for the house, they’re in Washington, they’re not worried about the November election. They’re either going to be a republican because it’s a republican skewed district and they’re going to be a democrat because of the democratic skewed district. When they’re running, they’re afraid of their own people and their own primary. Republicans run farther to the right. The democrats run farther to the left. When they get elected, there has not been anything in the middle. There’s not been any desire to run towards the middle. There’s no way to want to crossover and work with other party and it’s polarized to the point barely talk to each other. They don’t like each other. They don’t get along with each other.

[00:46:27] KM: You think dependent on the swing?

[00:46:29] MB: Ultimately. The beauty of this country is people are the boss. When they get tired enough of this extreme partisanship, they’re start voting for folks that don’t exhibit that extreme partisanship. I’m an internal optimist and I have faith in the American electorate, and I think ultimately when they get peed off enough about it, they’ll demand change.

[00:46:50] KM: Last question. Now that you’re no longer running for office, we can talk candidly about anything, I think. I read where you said you’ve done more than 700 pardons of mostly nonviolent offenders. Thank goodness, in 2014, you pardoned your son from a 2003 felony drug possession conviction. Your son did 9 years, I think, for marijuana that is now legal. I imagine you learned a lot during that time.

[00:47:17] MB: He’s got more punishment than he would have gotten if he’d not been my son.

[00:47:23] KM: Yes.

[00:47:24] MB: They didn’t send him to jail or the prison because they weren’t first offender marijuana folks, but they’d put him on probation for three years or something like that. I rarely granted commutations, very rare. It shortened people’s sentence. But I was really liberal about granting pardons for folks that had already completed their sentence or their probation and paid their fines and what others they’re supposed to do if some period of time had elapsed and they hadn’t reoffended, because particularly nonviolent and particularly young people that were convicted with drugs, because I thought they deserved a second chance.

I’m now faced with a lot of criticism from doing that for my son when I did it for everybody else. Why would I treat him worse? I can understand not treating him better. He deserved what everybody else deserved.

[00:48:17] KM: That’s right.

[00:48:18] MB: A lot of people [inaudible 00:48:19] about it, but I wasn’t going to treat him worse than everybody else. One of the most heart-wrenching things that happened to me was a lady drove 100 miles at an event one night where I was speaking out in the open, in the old, when [inaudible 00:48:33] had done a scholarship deal, much like [inaudible 00:48:36] had done and it was so big, so many people. They had to do it outside on the football field, and it was cold winter time and I already had cold. Of course, everybody had to speak and I’m the last to speak. I’m ready to get back to the car. So I’m walking back to the car and this lady wrapped up and she’d been standing there [inaudible 00:48:56] cold. Young woman. She said she drove 100 miles to thank for me for her husband who couldn’t get off work. He was working, supporting the family, but wanted to thank me for his pardon. You never forget that.

[00:49:11] KM: That just almost brings tears to my eyes. That’s a wonderful story. Is it a big hard to let go?

[00:49:17] MB: No. It’s been hard to let go of the people. I love the job. I don’t remember bad days. I’m sure I had bad days. You remembered mostly good days. But I don’t miss all of that. But what I do miss and what is hard to let go are the huge number of people. Not just your staff. Not just the troopers who become part of your family, but the friends and supporters and the folks that you used to see once or twice or week or triple times a month. Now you may not even see them all year. That’s what I miss.

[00:49:52] KM: And you don’t get to solve problems.

[00:49:54] MB: Mm-hmm. Yeah. When I was in the senate, the most enjoyable time I had was constituency work, when you know the wall down to get somebody sent and they deserve. Now, about half the time, people are asking for stuff they didn’t deserve and you have to be able to limit those out. People asking for stuff too is ridiculous or it wasn’t appropriate. But about half the time, they were folks that were just caught up and resisting and nobody was listening to them and being able to pick the phone up and call an agency head or call a department or call somebody and get relief for somebody that truly deserved it was probably the most rewarding part of being a senator.

[00:50:35] KM: Working together in groups to solve problems and get things done. It’s just so gratifying. I think if I ever quit working, that’s the part I would miss the most.

Thank you, governor, for all your service.

[00:50:48] MB: Oh, it’s my pleasure. Thank you.

[00:50:49] KM: For all you’ve done for all of us. For being smart. Figuring out all that Medicare, Medicaid, Affordable Care Act. That was complex.

[00:50:57] GM: No kidding.

[00:50:58] KM: That was good though. That was really, really good. Thanks for being a great example.

[00:51:01] MB: Appreciate it.

[00:51:02] KM: You’re welcome. In closing, thank you for spending time with us. We hope you’ve heard or learned something that’s been inspiring or enlightening, and that it, whatever it is, will help you up your business, your independence or your life. I’m Kerry McCoy and I’ll see you next time on Up in Your Business. Until then, be brave and keep it up.


[00:51:20] GM: You’ve been listening to Up in Your Business with Kerry McCoy. For links to resources you heard discussed on today’s show, go to flagandbanner.com, select radio show and choose today’s guest. If you’d like to sponsor this show or any show, contact me, gray@flagandbanner.com. All interviews are recorded and posted the following week. Stayed informed of exciting upcoming guests by subscribing to our YouTube Channel or podcast wherever you’d like to listen.

Kerry’s goal is simple, to help you live the American Dream.


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