June 2, 2017
Tommy Jameson of Jameson Architects P.A. is a native Arkansan who graduated from the University of Arkansas in 1977, and has lived in Little Rock since that time. After becoming interested in historic architecture during his senior year of college, Tommy purchased his first historic home shortly after graduation. Since that time, he and his wife have rehabilitated three more historic homes, including the firm's offices in a 1904 Colonial Revival cottage near the Arkansas State Capitol and the 1936 Werner Knoop House in Little Rock’s Hillcrest neighborhood. Licensed since 1981, Jameson is deeply engaged in each project and provides design direction and project management.
In 1996, Jameson founded Jameson Architects P.A., which focuses on the development of thoughtful, creative preservation solutions for the community, the workplace and the home. In addition to basic architectural services, his team offers programming, existing building analysis, master planning and historic structure reports. The firm’s website states, “Our collaboration with a variety of specialized consultants offers unique, multidisciplinary insights for complex preservation issues that go beyond just architecture. Our goal for every project, large or small, is to fulfill the highest client expectations by creating sensitive design solutions for historic buildings, homes, or sites.”
Jameson Architects P.A.’s award winning work has helped to save many of the state’s irreplaceable historic structures. He is committed to an ongoing effort to preserve Arkansas’s architectural heritage.
Up In Your Business is a Radio Show by FlagandBanner.com
[0:00:02.7] TJ: Welcome to Up in Your Business with Kerry McCoy. Be sure to stay tuned till the end of the show to hear how you can get a copy of this program and other helpful documents.
Now, it's time for Kerry McCoy to get all up in your business.
[0:00:17.9] KM: I’m Kerry McCoy and like Tim said, it’s time for me get up in your business. For the next hour, my guest Tommy Jameson and I will be getting up in the business of how we maneuver the path of leadership and entrepreneurship in pursuit of our dreams.
My business experience began over 40 years ago when I founded Arkansas Flag and Banner. During the last four decades, Arkansas Flag and Banner has grown and morphed from door to door sales to telemarketing, to mail order and catalog sales and now relies heavily on the internet.
Each changing self-strategy required a change in company thinking and procedures. My confidence, leadership knowledge and my company grew. My initial $400 investment now produces nearly four million in annual sales. I think we’re going to hit four million this year.
Each week on this show, you’ll hear candid conversations between me and my guest about real world experiences on a variety of business and topics that I hope you’ll find interesting.
Running a business or organization is like so many things. It takes persistence, perseverance and patience. I worked part time jobs for nine years before Arkansas Flag and Banner grew enough to support just me. It’s now grown and expanded so much that to operate efficiently, we require, are you ready for the list? A purchasing, manufacturing, graphic, shipping, technology, accounting, marketing, sales and customer service department, plus a retail store.
25 people make their living from working at Arkansas Flag and Banner. I hope you’ll take advantage of this unique opportunity to ask questions or share your experience by calling or emailing me and my guest on today’s show.
Before we start, I want to introduce you to the people of the table, we have Tim Bo, our art technician who will be taking your calls and pushing the buttons. Say hello Tim.
[0:02:03.5] TB: Hello Tim.
[0:02:05.0] KM: He does that every week. I love that. My guest today is Tommy Jameson of Jameson architects. Tommy became interested in historic architecture during his senior year of college. So much so that not long after his 1977 graduation from the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville, he moved back to Little Rock and bought his first historic home.
I guess in your 20’s..
[0:02:30.1] TJ: And one block away.
[0:02:31.5] KM: Wow, neat.
[0:02:32.3] TJ: From where we are.
[0:02:33.0] KM: Cool. You like to tell us about that in a minute. Since that time, he and his wife have rehabilitated three more historic homes, including the office of Jameson Architects and 1904 Colonial Revival Cottage near the Arkansas state capital and the 1936 Orner Nupe house in Little Rock’s Hillcrest neighborhood.
In 1996, almost 20 years after Tommy graduated from college, he founded Jameson Architects PA. Which focuses on the development of thoughtful creative preservation solutions for homes, office buildings and neighborhoods.
The firm’s website states. Our collaboration with the variety of specialized consultants offers unique, multidisciplinary insights for complex preservation issues that go beyond just architecture.
Our goal for every project, large or small is to fulfill the highest client expectations by creating sensitive designs, solutions for historic buildings, homes or sights. Jameson’s architects, award winning work has helped to save many of our state’s irreplaceable historic structures. Tommy is committed to an ongoing effort to preserve Arkansas architectural heritage.
Thank you Tommy. Welcome to the table Tommy Jameson, founder of the award winning firm Jameson Architects PA, tell everybody what PA means?
[0:04:05.1] TJ: Professional Association.
[0:04:07.2] KM: I googled it, I thought it meant professional architects.
[0:04:10.0] TJ: No, it’s like another way of saying incorporated.
[0:04:12.8] KM: Really?
[0:04:13.6] TJ: In Arkansas.
[0:04:14.2] KM: I learn something every day on my show. When describing yourself, you said you and your wife rehabilitated your home and office, is there a reason you used the word rehabilitated and not renovated?
[0:04:25.3] TJ: I prefer rehabilitation and that it…
[0:04:26.4] KM: I feel like it’s on drugs or something.
[0:04:26.9] TJ: It conotates keeping things that are significant possibly and adding things that make structures more livable. It’s not a restoration, renovation makes it sound like you’re making it new.
[0:04:43.6] KM: Speaking of renovation and restoration. There is a difference when you – yes. I didn’t know this till I bought an old – tiborian hall in the downtown Little Rock. When you call for your tax credits, they ask you, are you renovating or restoring? I was like, “I don’t know, what’s the difference?”
[0:05:04.8] TJ: Well restoration is when you are taking a structure to a particular date in time.
[0:05:11.0] KM: Now that’s which one?
[0:05:12.5] TJ: Restoration.
[0:05:13.3] KM: You’re restoring it…
[0:05:14.1] TJ: You're restoring to a particular time. If you’ve got a structure that is – for example, we’re working on a structure that was built in 1846, it was moved in 1886, our first photograph and good documentation is about 1914 so we’re using a date of interpretation of 1914, 1910 to 1914. Early turn of the century.
Because we can’t move it back to where it was.
[0:05:41.9] KM: Because you don’t have a picture?
[0:05:43.0] TJ: Because it moved. It’s been moved about 80 feet, it was on the banks by Bartholomew and the bank was sloughing off so they moved the structure.
[0:05:50.2] KM: Is that Ann Bryant’s home?
[0:05:51.7] TJ: No, that is Hollywood Plantation the Taylor House at Hollywood plantation.
[0:05:56.4] KM: Look at me.
[0:05:57.2] TJ: University of Arkansas in Monticello owns it now.
[0:05:59.3] KM: Okay.
[0:06:00.4] TJ: It’s in Drew County near Winchester, close to Selma, 10, 15 minutes form Dumas.
[0:06:07.6] KM: You’ve moved it and because you’ve…
[0:06:08.7] TJ: No, it moved, it was moved before the turn in 1880’s. So, we can’t restore it to 1846 because you have to pickup, for restoration, you have to pick a particular date in time. Most residential work, houses that people live in are not restorations per se.
Now, there are exceptions to that, I mean if you look at Carl Miller’s Liberal house, that’s a restoration. Anything that’s added that’s modern is very hidden and concealed. But typically, restoration is taking a structure to a specific date and time, as accurately as possible where rehabilitation is taking those sensitive things about the structure and adding modern conveniences or uses or code compliancy issues or you think of the Old State House.
It’s a restoration. Those rooms are going back to the way they were although some rooms are rehabilitated because some are turning to galleries and extra walls are added.
[0:07:07.1] KM: Yeah.
[0:07:08.2] TJ: There are differences.
[0:07:10.5] KM: The dreamland Ballroom on the third floor of the Arkansas Flag and Banner building, I am not taking it back to any time, any particular time, I’m leaving it just as raw…
[0:07:20.7] TJ: Well you can throw in another word and that will be conservation. To conserve it like it like it is.
[0:07:26.5] KM: Oh, is that new?
[0:07:27.5] TJ: No. it’s not used very often.
[0:07:30.7] KM: Because that wasn’t a question they asked me.
[0:07:32.5] TJ: Right, but that could be a good answer for you.
[0:07:34.9] KM: And all three of those are eligible for tax credits?
[0:07:37.5] TJ: Yes.
[0:07:40.8] KM: Can very many people do that without hiring you? I don’t want to get too much into this because of the second part of our show but.
[0:07:45.8] TJ: Sure.
[0:07:46.0] KM: They can do that on their own?
[0:07:47.6] TJ: it can be done on your own, there’s folks at the Arkansas Historic Preservation that will help through those processes.
[0:07:55.2] KM: Did you go to college to be an architect?
[0:07:58.4] TJ: Yes.
[0:07:58.8] KM: How did you know you want to be an architect, nobody goes to school for what they think they’re going to be when they grow up to be. You are one of the few people I’ve interviewed that actually got a degree and working that degree.
[0:08:09.0] TJ: I was in 11th grade at Hall high and sat down for the first time with a guidance counselor and she looked at my grades and what I was doing and I was acing all the mechanical drawing classes. I was doing well in math and sciences and she said, “What do you want to do?”
I said “Well, I was thinking about commercial art because I had always been – my mother had been an art major and I was – got a lot of ribbons in elementary school doing elementary art and that kind of thing. I’m thinking maybe commercial art.” She said, “Have you ever considered architecture?” and I went, “No.” But started thinking about it.
About that time, my dad was with Union National bank and they were building their new tower and got some tours of that and I started thinking “yeah, this can be pretty neat.”
[0:08:57.8] KM: Your father was in construction?
[0:08:59.6] TJ: Banking.
[0:09:00.6] KM: Your father was in banking?
[0:09:01.1] TJ: He was with the bank. As they we building their new building and so we ended up moving to Melbourne Arkansas for my senior year high school and I applied at Two Lane to go to architecture school, started looking at architecture schools and Two Lane was one of the better schools in the country at the time and my grades weren’t quite good enough to get there so they put me on a waiting list and I basically said, “I didn’t really want to go there anyway.”
I applied to Fayetteville and went to Fayetteville.
[0:09:31.5] KM: That’s a great story, did you write that counselor a thank you note or whatever?
[0:09:35.2] TJ: I couldn’t tell you her name right now to save my life.
[0:09:38.8] KM: Well, you know, that’s a – if any guidance counselors out there listening, they do make a difference in children’s lives. Absolutely. Well this is a great place to take – one thing I want to ask you, is Architecture a four year degree?
[0:09:50.3] TJ: Five. I think it’s basically six now but it was five. To get a Bachelor of Architecture when I was there, 72 through 77, it was five years.
[0:10:00.9] KM: Right, this is a great place to take a break, when we come back, we’re going to hear from Tommy who went from being an employee to opening his own architecture firm and what that was like, what mistakes he thinks most homeowners make when they’re renovating and about the strict preservation laws, tax credits and how to apply.
You’re listening to Up in your business, my guest is the architect and preservationist, Tommy Jameson of Jameson Architects.
You’re listening to Up in your business with Kerry McCoy. I’m speaking today with the highly knowledgeable preservationist, Tommy Jameson of Jameson architects. He’s making a roll in his eyes when I said highly knowledgeable, you are.
Just that first intro shows how much you know. You worked for somebody for 20 years, who did you work for, tell us about those years?
[0:11:05.5] TJ: Well, I ended up having a great opportunity to work for Blast Firm Showcoat, one of the three big firms in town in the summer of 1976, between my fourth and fifth year. It made my last year in college great because they wanted me to come back. I had a job.
[0:11:22.2] KM: When you graduated college? Wouldn’t kids love that today?
[0:11:25.1] TJ: That last semester, all my friends were putting resumes together and getting ready to go look at and I’m going, “Let’s go to Dixon street.”
[0:11:34.4] KM: I don’t have to do that.
[0:11:36.3] TJ: I worked for the Blast firm for two years, just under two years and had bought a house, I decided I wanted to come back and buy historic house. I graduated, I moved back to little rock was living with my parents in Jacksonville at the time and started looking and found a house actually one block away from where we’re sitting right now, at 2119 Scott and purchased it, moved in on the fourth of July and started rehabilitating.
[0:12:04.3] KM: What year was that?
[0:12:05.7] TJ: 1977.
[0:12:06.7] KM: It really was the – wasn’t that the same year you graduated?
[0:12:09.4] TJ: It was two months after I graduated.
[0:12:10.9] KM: You’re like 21 or two or something?
[0:12:12.9] TJ: Three, five years of college.
[0:12:14.1] KM: That’s right.
[0:12:15.5] TJ: Started getting involved in the QQA and…
[0:12:17.8] KM: Tell everybody what QQA mean.
[0:12:20.4] TJ: Quarter Association, Greater Little Rock’s Preservation Organization. I was doing some volunteer work, I was driving a bus, a van one afternoon for some small tour or something, one of the individuals, given it, what are you doing and all that sort of thing and I explained that I was a young intern architect and what not and that I’ve had my house on Scott street and she said, “I’ve heard of this two guys that left the Cromwell firm, starting their own firm to do historic work and in fill projects and historic name roads.”
I said, “that sounds neat,” she said, “I hear they’re looking for people. Looking for a person.” That was Charles Wood and Don Evans. I joined them in 79 and spent 15 years working directly with Charles and of course with Don also. The firm grew up from there were four of us, five of us to a 20 person firm, 18, 16, 18, 20 somewhere around in there.
I was happy, I grew up as – I became, I got licensed while there, became an associate, a senior associate and then a junior partner.
[0:13:24.6] KM: Really?
[0:13:25.6] TJ: That was up until 94 and in 94, things were fine at WR but I ran into an old friend and we spoke about work and he said, “We ought to talk” and we talked every other night for a couple of weeks and I resigned and joined him.
That was Robin Bourne.
[0:13:48.6] KM: Yeah.
[0:13:48.9] TJ: We were Bourne and Jameson for two and a half years and then that led up to 96 when we decided to part and I started Jameson Architects. Took one of our employees and moved down twelve feet and over 20 feet above café Bosa Nova. We were there for several years until I had a great landlord, I just hated writing that check every month.
I started looking around to develop an office and that’s when I found 300 Pulaski. It will be 19 years this 4th of July that we completed the renovation, rehabilitation and moved in to 300 Pulaski.
[0:14:28.3] KM: Is there anything about starting your own firm that you were surprised to know that you didn’t expect?
[0:14:34.6] TJ: Well, I suppose in a way, I sort of eased into it by having the two and a half year partnership with Robin, we had a thriving little business but our practices were so different. We were like two small firms working under the same roof.
[0:14:49.6] KM: Because you did preservation.
[0:14:51.0] TJ: And he was doing medical oriented work. We shared a staff and so – it was really quite easy when I started my own business. I had a sort of a breaking in period and I had never aspired to have my own business, it was just suddenly at that point in my career at nearly 20 years out, I thought I can do this.
[0:15:13.1] KM: Yeah, you had the confidence.
[0:15:15.6] TJ: Just sort of came upon me, yeah.
[0:15:16.9] KM: So there wasn’t one catalyst that just said “today’s the day?”
[0:15:19.5] TJ: Nope.
[0:15:21.8] KM: You didn’t have any real surprises about it but what’s the most challenging thing you think probably today about owning your own small business and how many employees do you have?
[0:15:29.7] TJ: Well, I have three full time employees and a part time office manager. There’s five and a half, four and a half of us. I think the – I love to say the phrase, “owning your business is great, you only have to work a half a day and you get to pick which 12 hours.”
All of the things I have the managers hat, I have the janitors hat, I have the landlord hat, I have the HR hat, I have the IT hat. Then I’ve got projects to do.
[0:15:59.7] KM: Yeah.
[0:16:00.9] TJ: The demands on your time are significant because you don’t have anybody to dole those responsibilities out to or at least I don’t have 25 employees such as you do.
[0:16:11.0] KM: Yeah. I like having more employees, some people are like, “I don’t want to grow, small is beautiful, I don’t want to grow” because you do end up doing HR work and really, that’s about all I do anymore.
I love having a lot of employees because you get to delegate and do other things, you're not like you said, having to be everything to everybody.
[0:16:33.0] TJ: Right, in a small architectural firm though, I’m the only licensed architect so I am the ultimate responsible party. There’s liability issues and all those kinds of things so growing a small architectural firm with a lot of people under you still, It all still has to funnel across my desk.
[0:16:52.0] KM: I was going to ask you if how, who the four employees were and were they independent architects that are just kind of renting a space at your office, they all actually work for you – on your projects that you're working on?
[0:17:03.0] TJ: Yes. They each have three to four projects a piece.
[0:17:06.1] KM: That are your projects?
[0:17:07.5] TJ: So I’ve got 12.
[0:17:09.2] KM: Right. That is a lot of work.
[0:17:12.2] TJ: Yeah, generally, I’ve had a lot of employees over the years and I don’t know that i’ve done anything to run anybody off but I’ve gotten, my senior employee has been with me 10 years, I’ve got a young lady that’s been with me four years, a young lady that’s been with me two years.
One’s just passed all the tests and two are in the queue to do their intern development program to gain the experience that you have to have before you sit for the exam to be a licensed architect.
[0:17:44.3] KM: Well that’s nice of you, you’re kind of paying it forward.
[0:17:47.3] TJ: Well, that’s how the profession generally works, I mean, college teaches you how to design, you really – once you get out, you start learning how buildings go together.
[0:17:57.6] KM: And how to work with customers.
[0:17:59.0] TJ: By doing the drawings and also how to work with people.
[0:18:03.1] KM: The city.
[0:18:03.9] TJ: And the city.
[0:18:04.4] KM: Working with the city is a big deal..
[0:18:05.9] TJ: And the state.
[0:18:06.5] KM: And the state. If you’re doing task, the federal government.
[0:18:10.0] TJ: Via the state. The state’s sort of the gate keeper for that.
[0:18:13.1] KM: Good, we’re going to talk about that in the next segment but right now…
[0:18:15.8] TJ: I don’t do federal work.
[0:18:17.3] KM: You don’t?
[0:18:19.6] TJ: No, I find it frustrating.
[0:18:21.8] KM: Thank you, I even wrote that, that when every time I call the federal government I’m frustrated and I edited it out before I came on the show because I thought, I don’t want to talk negatively about the federal government but it is frustrating to call up.
[0:18:33.4] TJ: It’s a big operation and I’ve always, when I was in my career at the Whitsel firm, I was sort of known as a small projects guy. But worked on a prospectus development study for expanding the capital avenue post office in Courts building. Well you know how long ago that got done. Not many years ago.
[0:18:52.1] KM: Where is that?
[0:18:53.2] TJ: Capitol in Broadway. The huge courts expansion. I started working on that in 1994 and it got finished about five or six years ago.
[0:19:04.9] KM: As an artist person, it’s probably frustrating.
[0:19:06.6] TJ: It took a very long time and I personally just prefer the more rapid turnover of smaller projects.
[0:19:13.0] KM: Well, I think you can be more creative.
[0:19:15.2] TJ: Well, and you get more opportunity too and you get bogged down in less bureaucracy.
[0:19:19.0] KM: What are you most proud of speaking of projects, is it a project you're proud of, your company mission, your management style, what would you say you’re most proud of right now?
[0:19:27.9] TJ: I’d suppose, when I go back and look through the projects we’ve done, it’s what we’ve accomplished. We’ve managed to work on some of the oldest log structures on the state from the Jaga Wolf House built in 1829 to the Rice Sub Shaw house up in Round Off County in the 1828 and 1832 structure up there, now the 1846 Taylor House at Hollywood Plantation.
Those projects have – those buildings were not going to be here much longer and so they’ve really been saved and I feel good about that. I enjoyed seeing John Cane just a minute ago because Mosaic Templars is one of my favorite projects, I feel that that was a pivotal project at the corner of 9th and Broadway, the fire was tragic but you know, the legacy of the building lives on.
[0:20:19.9] KM: It looks beautiful.
[0:20:21.7] TJ: I did my first cost test on that building in 95 working for John and a group of volunteers that were trying to save it.
[0:20:29.3] KM: It looks beautiful.
[0:20:29.6] TJ: Thank you. It was beautiful before. It was, it looks very similar to what it looked like before, you did a great job, John did a great job.
[0:20:37.7] KM: I think John did a great job.
[0:20:38.3] TJ: I think the administration, that department of heritage and I came up with the term, it’s a Faithful Facsimile.
[0:20:43.3] KM: Was there anything in the corner stone? You know how they said, the corner stones are awful hollow and they have stuff in them, was there anything in Mosaic Templars corner stone?
[0:20:49.6] TJ: There were a couple of things and I can’t remember exactly what all was there but the one thing I do remember was there was a letterhead from Frank Blazedale the architect.
[0:20:59.7] KM: Really?
[0:20:59.8] TJ: It was just a letterhead.
[0:21:01.0] KM: No words?
[0:21:01.8] TJ: No words on it.
[0:21:02.8] KM: He didn’t say a thing about build the…?
[0:21:04.5] TJ: Not a thing but he put a piece of his letterhead in the cornerstone.
[0:21:07.4] KM: I can’t believe he didn’t say “fun to work on this project.”
[0:21:11.1] TJ: They have the other – well, we did some things like that to go on the new cornerstone.
[0:21:15.8] KM: Good. Can you tell us what’s in the time capsule on the new cornerstone or is it a secret?
[0:21:20.1] TJ: I really don’t’ remember everything about it. I mean, I remember I put a piece of letterhead.
[0:21:25.0] KM: I was going to say…
[0:21:25.1] TJ: I wrote some words.
[0:21:27.1] KM: Thank you Tommy. You're going to live long afterwards. I wonder what’s in the corner stone of my building. Can you X-ray it?
[0:21:37.0] TJ: Yeah, but you know, something like paper doesn’t show up.
[0:21:41.9] KM: Do you just have to leave it forever?
[0:21:42.4] TJ: I’m not sure you can X-ray through stone.
[0:21:44.1] KM: Do you have to leave it forever? Does anybody ever take it out and look at it?
[0:21:48.0] TJ: I think that’s done, I’m not sure what the protocol is there.
[0:21:53.6] KM: I went to your website, I’ve been to your website a lot of times but I just went to it today, oh my gosh, you’ve updated it and I love how you have on your website dates that you can click on the date like 1840 to 1880 and you click on there and you see all the renovations from that time.
[0:22:13.0] TJ: That was the best way we could – we found that we could organize the body work. It’s also organized by building types but so many things, you can click like, residences but those are buildings that are or once were residences for example, the office is under residences because it was a house.
But the dates are particularly interesting and I thought that would be a good way for a potential client if they had a structure, if you have a craftsman structure, you’re not necessarily interested in the 1840’s structures. You could just go to that time era and see the projects that we’ve done.
[0:22:51.3] KM: I love it, you’ve got like five or six eras, it’s like 1840 to 1880.
[0:22:57.2] TJ: Sort of naturally clustered themselves into styles. Yeah.
[0:23:00.5] KM: There’s so many new projects in there since the last time I looked.
[0:23:04.1] TJ: Well, we updated the website a year and a half ago.
[0:23:07.4] KM: The body of work is incredible, those log cabins that you’ve done are just remarkable.
[0:23:13.5] TJ: Thank you, they’ve been – it’s rather like forensic architecture. Because when something’s been around that long, it’s always been changed and then majority of those structures, we were trying to restore to a particular date as in early construction era and so finding those clues within the building of how old the nail is.
You can look at a nail and you can tell if it’s a modern wire nail or if it’s an old cut nail or if it’s a hand rot nail. There are things about the way things go together that help you understand when things happen so you know, if we’re going to this date then that’s later, I need to take that out.
[0:23:52.2] KM: You’ve done that into my house, you went into my house because you added an addition to my back room and I called you and I said, ”I’m going to put a room over here” because my home is actually older than the Tiborian Hall. Hard to believe but it’s six years older.
It’s an old frame craftsman house and I wanted to – didn’t have a TV room, a media room. I called you and asked you if you do a media room for me and I was going to put it over here and you were like, “no. It needs to go over here” and then you did a walk around the house, you matched all the windows, nobody can tell it’s an add on.
Then you went to my side porch and you told me stuff about my side porch I didn’t realize. It was exactly like you said, it was forensic work, you were like, “This is an add on.” I was like, “Really?”
[0:24:36.6] TJ: That’s just from experience, that’s just working on a variety of structures and paying attention and looking for the clues.
[0:24:41.4] KM: You did the same thing at the Tiborian hall. You said, “This is the old building built in late 1800’s, this part was added on the 1916,” I was like “what?” You’re like, “see that roof underneath? See the change in the brick” and I was like, “absolutely,” made total sense once you pointed it out to me.
Has Tommy Jameson or Jameson’s Architect won awards for all the work you’ve done?
[0:25:06.5] TJ: We have won some awards.
[0:25:07.5] KM: I bet you have.
[0:25:08.7] TJ: Yeah, there’s a number of venues that that architects can submit their work to get awards.
[0:25:14.0] KM: You don’t have time to do all that.
[0:25:16.2] TJ: Well, that is very time consuming and it’s expensive.
[0:25:18.9] KM: You know how great you are.
[0:25:21.3] TJ: To enter a project and say the Arkansas Chapter AI Awards, you have to prepare a large board that is 30x40 inches and with text on it and colored glossy photos and you’ve got to hire professional photography and so we’ve only received one state award, the other thing that happens in big award projects, you’re often times not necessarily in competition with new work, which is sort of in competition with new work.
It all depends I believe on the jury. Whether the jury is in tune with preservation work or not.
[0:25:56.6] KM: That’s right.
[0:25:57.7] TJ: Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t. The majority of our awards are from preservation entities such as Historic Preservation Alliance of Arkansas. We’re doing the work that they appreciate and so that’s where we gotten the bulk of our awards.
[0:26:11.7] KM: How do you get new customers? Word of mouth?
[0:26:13.6] TJ: Probably our work right now is averaging over the last 10 or 15 years, it’s probably averaging about 70 to 75% repeat clients.
[0:26:23.1] KM: Really?
[0:26:23.3] TJ: In the state of Arkansas is one of our best clients, the Department or Heritage, we’ve worked for all four of their museums, currently working for two. Mosaic Templars was part of Department Heritage, women on call contract at The Old State House, we’ve been working for the Delta Cultural Center for 22 years.
And have done virtually all of their work in the last 22 years. That’s been ongoing work, it’s a lot of repeat work and it’s word of mouth, it’s internet and it’s website and…
[0:26:51.5] KM: Well with that website, you ought to do good Tommy, that’s beautiful. I look at a lot of websites, that’s a beautiful website. The listeners are interested in architecture, they need to go there and look at it.
[0:27:02.2] TJ: We were working on the rehabilitation of the Folk building at third and main for a development company called Tera Forma and CJRW Advertising was going to be the tenants, we were working very closely with the staff at CJRW as well as working for our owner who is paying the bills.
Developed a great Rapport with them and they do website design and…
[0:27:26.0] KM: Well, no wonder it looks good. Yeah, no wonder you got the big dogs to make it, it’s really nice. This is a great place to take a break. When we come back, Tommy is going to tell us all about preservation laws, historical tax credits and how to apply and who can help you apply.
We’ll also get him to tell us what mistakes he sees most home owners make when renovating. You’re listening to Up in your business with Kerry McCoy, my guest is the architect and preservationist Tommy Jameson.
You’re listening to Up In Your Business with Kerry McCoy. I’m speaking today with the highly knowledgeable, he’s going to roll his eyes again. Preservationist Tommy Jameson of Jameson architects. Tommy, I love this quote from the national trust of historic preservation. I got it off your website.
The greenest building is the one that is already built.
[0:28:31.7] TJ: Right.
[0:28:32.4] KM: That’s just so true. People just want to go and tear an old wonderful building with old wonderful wood and beams that are like – you know, when I was doing a dreamland ballroom, I have in the ceilings this 12x12 inch wood beams that were cut from an oak tree and they were going to burn them and put in 2x4’s and I was like, “no, don’t throw those right there to me are pieces of art, you can’t even get trees like that anymore.”
[0:29:07.2] TJ: I was going to say, it’s better material than you can go buy now.
[0:29:11.8] KM: How do we change those mindsets of people?
[0:29:14.4] TJ: Well I think slowly it’s working, I mean, the preservation movement started in the late 60’s. The 60’s was an era that was not kind to historic buildings between urban renewal and the thing that things that everybody else did.
Preservation started in the late 60’s here in Little Rock with Cromwell and John Trumper from the Cromwell Firm and that got Charles involved and interested and so it’s grown and so you look at this neighborhood now versus when I would in this neighborhood in 77.
You see the impact of the positive side that capital zoning district commission has had, that the McArthur Park Historic District Commission has had in protecting that neighborhood down around McArthur Park.
Things are looking a lot better. The frontiers are moving westward and there’s central high neighborhood and the movement is going west. There’s been a lot of progress made, the part that I find challenging I suppose right now are in towns like in east Arkansas where they Agrarian economy has changed and the population is down. I mean Helena, one of my sayings about Helena is Helena has more historic buildings than people to take care of them.
I think it’s related to how many people did farm to take a thousand acres 60 years ago and how many it takes now and it was probably like 50 and it’s like three now. That’s frustrating for me because we’ve done a lot of work in east Arkansas and there’s been wonderful architecture that’s been lost there.
[0:30:44.4] KM: Yeah, some of it is burned accidentally from abandonment.
[0:30:47.6] TJ: And when families been in town a long time and then they want their children to move elsewhere and have a better life or whatever and then they own property and then that generation passes on and then you have a building that’s owned by multiple descendants all over the country and it’s hard for them to put money into that building. It substantially is demolition by neglect is the largest…
[0:31:12.8] KM: that’s what happened to 9th street.
[0:31:13.6] TJ: Losing buildings.
[0:31:15.1] KM: That’s what happened to 9th street.
[0:31:16.1] TJ: Nobody can afford to keep them up.
[0:31:17.6] KM: Right and I know a lot of people like the government should come in and save them but they can’t go around doing that.
[0:31:23.5] TJ: Tax base isn’t that great.
[0:31:24.6] KM: Right. Let’s talk about tax credits. You can start at that.
[0:31:28.9] TJ: Okay, there’s two major sort of avenues of tax credits, one is federal tax credits and to do any tax credit project or to get tax credits on any project, the door is opened by being on the national register or being a contributing structure in a national register district. If you’re not there, it doesn’t work, you have to start there.
You have to have a structure that’s significant that the government feels like it significant. Federal tax credits have been around since the preservation tax laws went in like 76 and weren’t substantially used until the end of 80’s and 90’s.
They are a little unwieldy, you can use them, not everybody can use a federal tax credit, for example, my wife and I did tax credits on my office but because of alternative minimum tax, we’re getting the tax credits at a very small amount per year and are probably going to expire in another year before I get to use them all.
[0:32:28.3] KM: Because they last 15 years right?
[0:32:30.0] TJ: I think 20.
[0:32:32.2] KM: Oh okay.
[0:32:32.3] TJ: Now, that’s the federal tax credits and the federal tax credits are not transferable.
[0:32:37.8] KM: I thought you could buy them.
[0:32:38.3] TJ: You can’t sell them.
[0:32:39.1] KM: You can’t sell your tax credits?
[0:32:40.8] TJ: Federal
[0:32:41.6] KM: You can sell your state?
[0:32:43.2] TJ: Correct. Which is a new thing and I’ll get to that.
[0:32:45.8] KM: Okay.
[0:32:46.3] TJ: The federal tax credits are just a little more burdensome, my understanding has been, they always work best for a larger developer that may have a lot of passive income. As supposed to the working stiff like me. You have to be careful with federal tax credits that you’re really able to utilize.
[0:33:02.1] KM: You have to be really rich.
[0:33:03.7] TJ: Well, or, do a lot of development and have a lot of passive income. I mean, I think that’s…
[0:33:08.9] KM: You can still take your tax credits but they’re just not going to be as anywhere near offsetting the cost of renovation.
[0:33:17.3] TJ: Well, that’s 20% for federal tax credits and you know, I have clients fortunately that can use them. They are good and they do play a big role in leveraging larger projects.
[0:33:29.6] KM: But you don’t ever get to use your full 20% a year because of the minimum tax.
[0:33:33.4] TJ: Alternative minimum tax. I spoke with Blanch Lincoln, Vic Snider for years, I’ve talked about that, the story always comes back that alternative minimum tax was as I understand which may or may not be fully correct is that it was legislation in the 60’s to close loopholes and what were then wealthy people.
It’s a way that sort of make sure they don’t slide through. Well, it was not index for inflation. What was wealthy in the 1960’s as my wife and I are working now both having full time jobs. It was not indexed for inflation and I think what Vic used to tell me was there’s so much revenue that comes from alternative minimum tax that in the federal government, if you’re going to do away with something, you got to find another way to make up their revenue and so that way, it hasn’t changed.
It’s not right as it seem but it hasn’t changed. Arkansas, I can’t remember exactly when Arkansas tax credits came in six or eight years ago or something like that. It might even be older because time passes fast.
Arkansas has now a 25% historic tax credit and that is for your state taxes. That legislation was passed in recent past, recent memory which is layered on top of federal tax credits if you do both but it was modeled, our legislation was modeled after other states to where those tax credits are marketable and there are entities that when you get your state tax credits, if you choose not to use them yourself, they can be sold for roughly 85 cents on the dollar or something like that and it can be an instant revenue generator to help offset cost of your project. Just recently just this year, the tax credit base has been elevated. It was 25% of up to half a million dollars.
Well as an entry level legislation that worked pretty good because that meant you could get up to 125,000 in tax credits and it could work for residential which federal tax credits don’t. Federal tax credits have to be for income producing property where you own your house, if you rehabilitated your house now and it would be a contributing structure in the Hill Crest Historic District, you could get tax credits for it.
So there’s a whole lot more people getting state tax credits now than there were in the past with just federals and it’s working so well that our legislature saw to raise that limit of the 125 max credit is now 400 and so it’s working better for a larger projects instead of the first 500. Say you have a project that is $3 million. Well, if you applied for state tax credits, you only get your credit on the first 500. Now it’s more.
[0:36:24.9] KM: So the Debohrian Hall if we decide to put in an elevator could get tax credits that way?
[0:36:31.5] TJ: Most likely, yeah.
[0:36:32.3] KM: That might even pay for an elevator.
[0:36:34.3] TJ: It will pay for 25%. It’s 25% of your rehabilitation cost.
[0:36:38.7] KM: Every time I have this show I learn something.
[0:36:42.4] TJ: And so you –
[0:36:43.5] KM: Can it be retroactive for any work you’ve done in the past?
[0:36:45.8] TJ: No.
[0:36:46.0] KM: It’s only going forward.
[0:36:47.1] TJ: Because then you need to get an approval first and then go forward.
[0:36:50.0] KM: And you can double up your federal tax credits and your state tax credits.
[0:36:53.4] TJ: Yeah.
[0:36:53.7] KM: Who do you call to do that?
[0:36:54.8] TJ: Arkansas Historic Preservation Program. The young man there named Tom Mar, well he’s not so young anymore. He was when he used to work for me but.
[0:37:03.7] KM: So that’s where he’s gone to work huh?
[0:37:05.7] TJ: Yeah.
[0:37:06.8] KM: So you can use those up to 20 years?
[0:37:10.1] TJ: Federal.
[0:37:11.4] KM: Federal and the state can be used instantly because you could sell it.
[0:37:14.8] TJ: Because you could sell it.
[0:37:15.7] KM: And then when you talk about consultants, you say you’re a full project manager. You manage the whole project on your website you say you’re not just an architect, you’re a project manager.
[0:37:25.4] TJ: Correct.
[0:37:25.5] KM: Which separates you from a lot of others, you don’t just do drawings and then walk away.
[0:37:29.3] TJ: Right.
[0:37:30.1] KM: Is a consultant part of your project management? Do you have a consultant that helps people with their tax credits? Is that part of your project management or do you give them to the guy that worked for you at the state and say?
[0:37:44.1] TJ: No, he’s a state employee and he’s the gatekeeper. He’s who you give the forms to and he’s who approves it locally and sends it onto the National Park Service for federal. So he’s the gatekeeper from where you start to get approval for your tax credits. If we have a client that wants to do a historic tax credits, we often times will, as sort of an additional service, assist them in their application for tax credits, yes and it’s a situation where you are documenting your building as it stands now.
And then you document through drawings and photographs what you’re going to do to the building and that’s your application basically. There’s a lengthy wordy description process that goes in where you describe windows, what’s there now and what are you going to do to them. Are you going to repair them or replace them, update them or whatever you’re going to do and you describe exterior surfaces and the roof and windows and the doors and the masonry and the paint and the walls inside and the floors and everything that’s there.
It’s a snap shot of what you’re building in this now and then what you’re going to do to it. You submit that at the state and or National Park Service approves it, the project goes out and you build the project then that’s the part one and the part two to get to there and then part three is when the project is over. You document everything again and you show them that this is what we said we’re going to do, here’s what we did and then you get your tax credits.
[0:39:14.5] KM: And you can’t get this tax credits unless you follow specific rules that they –
[0:39:19.0] TJ: Correct. The guideline for all restoration rehabilitation work is called The Secretary of the Interiors Guidelines for Historical Buildings.
[0:39:29.0] KM: And is that firm or is it every project specific?
[0:39:34.6] TJ: Every project is different but there are if you cook it down to a few key things it is. It is better to repair than replace. If that neck could go for windows, for siding, for brick, for flooring, for anything. They are encouraging you to keep your historic fabric and to make changes, if you have to make changes, make changes that are sensible. For example the Folk Building. That has been a military surplus for 40 plus years. It had been former retail on second floor and third floor.
They were big open spaces to rehabilitate it for business office use, we added an elevator, we added a bathrooms, yet it was done in a way where you see significant fabric of the building. The cast iron columns that went down the middle are still there and you still see them. You have some sense of the open volume of those spaces and that was a federal in state tax credit project and then that one we did do the application for the owner.
[0:40:36.7] KM: I think that seems like the federal in state liked to see all the exposed new work that you do.
[0:40:42.5] TJ: Yes, well you know, it depends and it depends on what design element you’re saying or you’re referring to.
[0:40:49.0] KM: And once you’ve done the project are you forever held and you’ve got your tax credits, next time you want to do something do you have to go back and get it approved or are you forever held at that?
[0:40:58.9] TJ: For a federal tax credit, you have to hold the building for five years because its income producing you have to keep it. You can’t just flip it the next year. So for Federal you have to keep it and I think there are similar rules on state.
[0:41:12.7] KM: After five years if you decide you want to do something that is not completely approved by the National Park Services is that okay or would you get in trouble?
[0:41:21.9] TJ: Unless you want to get tax credits again for it.
[0:41:24.3] KM: You could do it again then?
[0:41:25.1] TJ: Yes.
[0:41:25.5] KM: That’s really interesting.
[0:41:27.4] TJ: You can do another phase or you could have a whole other project. Now with that being said, if you have any grant money involved, generally there are strings put on a conservation these men have put on the building to get the grant money. If you had a non-profit that owned Debohrian Hall and you applied for a grant and you got a grant as a non-profit or whatever then they would give you that grant money but there would be a conservation with these men on the building saying that:
“This building needs to stay the way it is unless you come to us and seek approval first” in other words, you couldn’t go do what you wanted to do. You’d have to say, “This is what I want to do. Guys here’s what I am going to do but I am doing it properly” and it would be approved and then you could do it.
[0:42:13.4] KM: So it’s an open – if you get a grant to do your work which is free money.
[0:42:17.0] TJ: There’s strings tied to it.
[0:42:17.7] KM: There are strings tied to it and it usually isn’t open ended strings forever.
[0:42:22.6] TJ: True.
[0:42:23.0] KM: So there’s not like you only have five years.
[0:42:24.9] TJ: True which is similar to a conservation that you might do on your house which is an option. You can donate an easement on your house to the State of Arkansas, to the Arkansas Historic Preservation Program and say that this structure won’t be changed without their approval.
[0:42:42.9] KM: Donate an easement, what does that mean?
[0:42:45.3] TJ: Well it means you are giving away some value of your house because you’re saying it won’t be changed without their approval. So you are tying the same strings that you would with a grant around it and for that you get somewhere between a 10 or 15% charitable contribution of the appraised value.
[0:43:02.3] KM: Meaning they will give you money?
[0:43:03.9] TJ: No, you get it like you gave it to your church. It’s a tax deduction.
[0:43:08.6] KM: Oh a charitable contribution like you gave it to a non-profit.
[0:43:13.4] TJ: Yeah, exactly.
[0:43:14.1] KM: But then you would be forever tied to that?
[0:43:18.8] TJ: It’s a conservation easement that goes in perpetuity.
[0:43:20.9] KM: And what does perpetuity mean?
[0:43:22.4] TJ: Forever.
[0:43:23.0] KM: Oh gosh, why are my guests so smart? Well I think that’s all really, really –
[0:43:30.6] TJ: So that’s federal tax credits, that’s state tax credits, that’s conservation easements, those are the three tools. The three primary tools that can assist in renovating, rehabilitating, restoring historic structures.
[0:43:44.5] KM: What do you think is the biggest mistake most homeowners make? I can’t imagine working with a homeowner in their personal home space and they seem like they’d be hysterical all the time.
[0:43:57.2] TJ: Probably the biggest single thing is replacing their windows and everybody is bombarded by marketing where folks want neither change those energy wasting windows for their new vinyl triple glazed yada-yada-yada. Replacing windows is a high – windows in a historic structure are a major character defining element and when those are changed there is a lot lost. If a structure has had its windows replaced, it may not be eligible for the national register.
It’s that strong. It could prevent you from doing any tax credits because the windows have been replaced. So windows are a mistake that everybody thinks that because the guys on TV say they’re energy wasting that they can’t be fixed. Well a historic wood window is just in the symbol-age of parts and any part of that window can be repaired and that window can be scrapped down and the sails primed and painted and upper sash sealed and put a stone window on it and it can perform every bit as good if not better than a brand new window.
[0:45:08.8] KM: You know, I don’t ever have to worry about carbon monoxide poisoning in any of my –
[0:45:14.2] TJ: You got some fresh air.
[0:45:15.1] KM: I’ve got a fresh air and if you’re used to fresh air, you go into these really tightly sealed homes and you will get an allergy attack because it is old dust and chemicals that they clean their house in.
[0:45:28.9] TJ: There could be those issues.
[0:45:30.2] KM: Fresh air is nice and the people don’t seem to think it’s valuable because it is chillier in the winter and it is warmer in the summer.
[0:45:38.8] TJ: Well and it’s not as critical in Arkansas as it is say in Wisconsin. We’re about 50% heating and 50% cooling. In the extreme climates it is more important to have less infiltration for example when your temperatures are extreme. Here we’re about 50-50 and spring and fall are great.
[0:46:01.5] KM: Did any architects have any influence in your design? Well besides the ones you worked for but we have some famous architects from Arkansas, Fe Jones.
[0:46:12.4] TJ: Well when I was in college Fe was Dean of the School of Arkansas.
[0:46:15.2] KM: No way.
[0:46:16.7] TJ: Yeah and I took a theory class with him in I believe fourth year and I wish I could do it again.
[0:46:24.3] KM: Now that you’re smarter?
[0:46:24.5] TJ: I would take that same class over, yeah.
[0:46:26.4] KM: Ain’t that the way?
[0:46:27.5] TJ: I would pay more attention than I paid when I was 20 years old.
[0:46:32.0] KM: And then we got the – so he’s known for the Thorn Crown Chapel in Fayetteville.
[0:46:38.2] TJ: Right.
[0:46:39.0] KM: And I’m sure he’s known for everything.
[0:46:40.7] TJ: His body work, yeah. It’s amazing.
[0:46:43.1] KM: And then we have the Charles Thompson Homes.
[0:46:46.7] TJ: Right, the other architect that was influential to me was a fellow named Cyrus Sutherland. Cy was one of my professors in second year but Cy taught two of the ancient history courses. When I was going through we had to take four semesters of architectural history and Cy taught two of them and I just loved his style and that he was the guy when I was in 5th year when I took an elective called Restoration and Preservation.
A three hour elective and Cy taught that and so Cy really got me interested in historic architecture. So he was a major influence.
[0:47:22.7] KM: What did he do? Has he got some famous houses you said?
[0:47:26.1] TJ: No.
[0:47:26.4] KM: He’s just a great teacher?
[0:47:28.1] TJ: He has written some great articles and a book or two and passed away a few years ago but he left quite a legacy.
[0:47:36.2] KM: And then we had Frank Lloyd Wright which actually has a building. He didn’t do anything in Arkansas, one of the few states he didn’t do anything and I looked him up and I was like, “Wow he didn’t build anything in Arkansas” there’s like Arkansas and Michigan, the only two states almost that he didn’t build something but –
[0:47:52.5] TJ: But we got Fe so Fe is like a prodigy from the Frank Lloyd Wright legacy. He studied under Frank Lloyd Wright.
[0:47:59.0] KM: Oh really? I didn’t realize that.
[0:48:00.6] TJ: He has, yeah.
[0:48:01.8] KM: But Crystal Bridges brought in Frank Lloyd Wright house, it is up there right now.
[0:48:07.3] TJ: Correct and it’s really neat.
[0:48:08.8] KM: Have you been able to see it?
[0:48:09.9] TJ: Yes.
[0:48:10.6] KM: Is it permanent?
[0:48:11.2] TJ: Yes.
[0:48:11.8] KM: Oh I love it. I looked at it online and if anybody wants to see some great architecture go to the Crystal Bridges in Bentonville.
[0:48:18.7] TJ: And it was one of Frank Lloyd Wright’s. He had an era where he did what were called The Usonian House which weren’t big and grand houses like you find outside of Chicago. They were for blue collar, smaller that houses only probably, I don’t recall exactly 1600 feet or so.
[0:48:38.7] KM: Oh is it? Yeah it looks small. Yeah it maybe 1200.
[0:48:41.7] TJ: Yet it’s got all of his design elements in so he felt like good design should be, everybody should have access to it.
[0:48:49.7] KM: He did the waterfall wing house in Pennsylvania.
[0:48:54.2] TJ: Falling Water.
[0:48:54.7] KM: Falling Water house in Pennsylvania.
[0:48:56.6] TJ: Right, iconic.
[0:48:59.1] KM: Iconic. I want to live in a house like that and when I was reading about it, I read about his rival Phillip Johnson who was always dishening, they had two completely different styles and they were competing architects and one of the funny things that Phillip Johnson said was, “What do you think about…” some reporter was goading Phillip Johnson and said, “What do you think about famous Frank Lloyd Wright, would you call it Falling Water house?” and he said, “He just makes me want to pee”.
[0:49:32.5] TJ: I haven’t ever heard that quote.
[0:49:33.7] KM: I know, I loved it. I am glad I got to share that today. Look, Tim is over there cracking up. You have a period or a style you like?
[0:49:43.5] TJ: No.
[0:49:44.0] KM: You don’t?
[0:49:44.8] TJ: No.
[0:49:45.6] KM: I’m surprised.
[0:49:46.7] TJ: I –
[0:49:47.1] KM: Well but not really, when I looked at your bodywork I’m glad you’re really not.
[0:49:49.9] TJ: That’s the thing, I feel more chameleon like, like I turn the color or the style that I am working on.
[0:49:57.3] KM: That’s a true artist for you. So every project runs over budget right?
[0:50:02.1] TJ: No.
[0:50:02.8] KM: Does it?
[0:50:03.5] TJ: No.
[0:50:04.0] KM: Every project I’ve ever done has run over budget and I was going to ask you if there is an average.
[0:50:08.8] TJ: I don’t know if I could quote that. I mean when there’s a defined budget sometimes it can’t go over. There’s no more so the project adapts rather than the budget.
[0:50:21.1] KM: Oh that would be nice because I just always say, “Sure do it. Yeah okay”. Yeah so how do people get in touch with you?
[0:50:29.0] TJ: Well I’m at my office 12 hours a day.
[0:50:32.9] KM: Well what’s the name and the name of the website is?
[0:50:36.0] TJ: www.jamesonarchitects.com
[0:50:38.7] KM: And Jameson is spelled interestingly.
[0:50:41.3] TJ: Like the Irish whiskey.
[0:50:42.8] KM: Oh, that’s exactly right.
[0:50:45.3] TJ: Jameson with an E.
[0:50:46.0] KM: With an E, do you drink that?
[0:50:48.1] TJ: Right, occasionally and my grandfather was John.
[0:50:51.4] KM: John Jameson, no.
[0:50:53.3] TJ: It’s not the John Jameson but.
[0:50:56.9] KM: That is funny, is that not Jingle Heimer Schmidt? Is that the same thing?
[0:51:01.0] TB: John Jacob.
[0:51:01.3] KM: Oh that’s John Jacob. You can tell I read a lot of children’s books when I was, you know, a few years ago. So people can get in touch with you, Jameson Architects and I recommend everybody go to that website. It is so good, anything you want to tell our listeners before we head out? We’ve got two minutes left.
[0:51:19.7] TJ: Thank you for having me.
[0:51:20.5] KM: Thank you Tommy for coming on KBF. You are awesome and for coming on, you get a cigar from the Humidor Room at Colonial Wine and Spirits on Malcolm Street in Little Rock, Arkansas and that is for birthing Jameson Architects and for caring about all of our historical homes and buildings in Arkansas and really outside of that. Who’s my guest next week Tim?
[0:51:42.8] TB: Next week is going to be the station director here at KBF as well as local legend, Mr. John Cain.
[0:51:49.4] KM: Can you believe that John Cain is coming on? He is a local legend. He has done and seen a lot. I cannot wait to hear his stories. I hope he’s listening to his own radio station right now so he can hear me talking good about him. Look, is he listening? He’s not paying attention. Okay, if you have a great entrepreneurial story that you would like to share, I would love to hear from you. Send a brief bio and your contact info to firstname.lastname@example.org and someone will be in touch.
And finally to our listeners, thank you for spending time with me. If you think this program has been about you, you’re right but it’s also been for me. Thank you for letting me fulfill my destiny. My hope today is that 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 am Kerry McCoy and I’ll see you here next time on Up In Your Business. Until then, be brave and keep it up.
[END OF INTERVIEW]
[0:52:49.4] TB: You’ve been listening to Up in Your Business with Kerry McCoy. Want to hear today’s program again or want someone else to benefit from it? Jot this down. Within 48 hours the podcast will be available at flagandbanner.com. Click the tab labeled “Radio Show”, there you’ll find today’s segments with links to resources you heard discussed on this program. Kerry’s goal: to help you live the American Dream.
[0:00:09.1] TB: Welcome to Up in Your Business with Kerry McCoy. Be sure to stay tuned till the end of the show to hear how you can get a copy of this program and other helpful documents.
Now, it's time for Kerry McCoy to get all up in your business.
[0:00:21.9] KM: Thank you Tim, I’m Kerry McCoy and like Tim said, it’s time for me to get up in your business. For the next hour, my guest Skip Rutherford, Dean of the Clinton School of Public Service and I will be getting up in the business of Arkansas politics, public service opportunities and of course the business of the Clinton Library and School.
Through our storytelling, you will hear how we maneuver the path of leadership and entrepreneurship in pursuit of our dreams. And, we’ll be answering questions or giving advice via phone and email. My business experience began over 40 years ago when I founded Arkansas Flag and Banner, during the last four decades, Arkansas Flag and Banner has grown and morphed form door to door sales to telemarketing, to mail, order and catalog sales and now relies heavily on the internet.
Each change in sales strategy required a change in the company thinking and procedures. My confidence, leadership knowledge and my company grew. My initial $400 investment now produces nearly four million in annual sales. Each week on this show, you’ll hear candid conversations between me and my guest about real world experiences on a variety of business and topics that I hope you’ll find interesting.
Running a business or organization is like so many things. It takes persistence, perseverance and patience. I worked part time jobs for nine years before Arkansas Flag and Banner grew enough to support just me. It’s now grown and expanded so much that to operate efficiently, we require, are you ready for the list? A purchasing, manufacturing, graphic, shipping, technology, accounting, marketing, sales and customer service department, plus a retail store.
25 people make their living from working at Arkansas Flag and Banner. I hope you’ll take advantage of this unique opportunity to ask questions or share your experience by calling or emailing me and my guest on today’s show.
Before we start, I want to introduce you to the people of the table, we have Tim Bo, an art technician who will be taking your calls and pushing the buttons. Say hello Tim.
[0:02:29.1] TB: Hello Tim.
[0:02:31.5] KM: My guest today is a familiar name to many. Mr. Skip Rutherford. Dean of the Clinton School of Public Service and a long standing and influential person in Arkansas politics with an impressive bio.
It was 1978 when Skip began in politics by volunteering for David Prior’s first run at the senate. When Prior won, Skip hired on for five years as his director in Arkansas. Though Skip’s next career move was to Arkla Gas company under Mack McLarty, he stayed active in politics by founding The Political Animals Club.
A non-partisan organization of political activist and community leaders. A decade later in 1989, Rutherford was named chairman of The Democratic Party of Arkansas while his friend Bill Clinton, whom he had met in Fayetteville during college, served as governor. The next year, Skip would become the president of Little Rock School Board where he worked on a state funded plan that would end lingering segregation in Pulaski County Schools.
Only two years later in 1992, Skip would go to work as a senior adviser on Bill Clinton’s presidential campaign. Again, his candidate won.
Following president Clinton’s election, Rutherford took an executive job as Vice President of Cranford Johnson Robinson Woods Ad agency where he created a public policy division for them. Skip, being an ardent supporter of revitalization of downtown Little Rock began the work of planning, the William J. Clinton Presidential Center and Park.
In 2004, his accomplishments would be recognized as he was named Arkansan of The Year by the Arkansas Broadcasters association and the Arkansas Times. Named Headliner of the Year by the Arkansas Press Association and received the Tourism Person of the Year award at the Arkansas Governor’s Conference on Tourism.
In 2006, Rutherford became Dean of the Clinton School of Public Service which offers the first master’s degree in public service in our whole country. And he’s developed one of nation’s most outstanding college speakers series. If you haven’t gone down there and heard him, you need to and you’ll find out today how to get on the list and hear who’s coming.
In 2014, the American Red Cross of Greater Arkansas named Rutherford the Clara Barton Distinguished Humanitarian of the Year. If that’s not enough, Skip Rutherford also co-owns and manages two family farms in Arkansas. It is an honor and a privilege to welcome to the table, Mr. Skip Rutherford.
[0:05:13.1] SR: Thank you Kerry, I’m glad to be here and it’s always good to visit and I look forward to a good, candid, fun conversation.
[0:05:20.2] KM: That’s right. You were the first president of the Clinton Foundation and are now the Dean of the Clinton School of Public Service. Are you still the president of the Clinton Foundation?
[0:05:29.3] SR: No, I haven’t been on the Clinton foundation board in several years. My role in 1997, when the foundation was started was to plan the Clinton Presidential Library. It’s interesting because we’re 20 years from that, it doesn’t seem…
[0:05:46.3] KM: What? No it’s not really.
[0:05:48.0] SR: 1997, 2017. 20 years.
[0:05:50.4] KM: Since you started planning the Clinton Library?
[0:05:53.3] SR: Since I started planning the Clinton Library.
[0:05:54.7] KM: While you were at Cranford Rock?
[0:05:56.4] SR: Yes. President Clinton and his team asked me to coordinate the planning. I didn’t go to Washington like many Arkansans did when he was elected. My three children were young at the time and I couldn’t figure out how to make Washington work and still go to dance recitals and soccer games, I couldn’t make that work.
So I stayed, that was the Arkansan who stayed, glad I did because I had the opportunity to work on the Library project and as you mentioned in the introduction, I was really interested in the revitalization of downtown little rock which by the way, congratulations on 25 employees.
[0:06:31.6] KM: Thank you.
[0:06:32.7] SR: four million sales, great job ma’am. I’m one of your customers.
[0:06:36.0] KM: Yeah, you said you just went in there a few days ago, thank you.
[0:06:40.3] SR: It gave me an opportunity to look at downtown little rock and to think, we can do better than this, the Clinton Library was a huge economic catalyst. You put a 165 million dollars and plant that on what was an old warehouse district on the east side of the freeway and you can make monumental change.
When we started, we had four major goals on that library, number one was archival, preserve the records, build up partnership with the Butler Center for Arkansas Studies so that Arkansas History and American history were right down the street. The second was education to develop an educational program which we did with the Clinton School which again had no thought at the time that I would be dean.
Also, for the thousands of school children that come through every year to the library and visit the programs. The third thing was economic development because my real goal in this thing was how can we shape the future of Downtown Little Rock?
Other presidential libraries, most of them have been located in sentimental locations or remote locations or land that was just given to them and we chose to do a different model, not saying we were totally correct but, we had a lot of controversy but we got it done.
Then the fourth was tourism because Arkansas needed a major new tourism project. I do think the Clinton Library taught people how to think big and I think it inspired a whole bunch of things including not directly but indirectly, Crystal Bridges and other aspects that have come into it.
Education, archival, economic development, tourism. 20 years later, I can sit back and say that overall it’s been a good deal.
[0:08:31.2] KM: What’s the difference between the Clinton Foundation, the Clinton Library and the Clinton School?
[0:08:36.2] SR: Well, all three separate entities.
[0:08:38.0] KM: Really?
[0:08:38.8] SR: The Clinton Foundation is a private, nonprofit foundation for philanthropic and charitable work. The Clinton Library belongs to the National Archives and Records Administration. It is an official government agency where the papers that are at the Clinton library belong to the government.
The gifts belong to the government and they’re managed by federal employees who are on site in Little Rock. The school is, through the University of Arkansas system. While we all share names and locations, we have three completely different reporting structures.
[0:09:21.8] KM: Wow, I had no idea.
[0:09:23.3] SR: It’s complicated when you have foundation, library, center, park, school, it gets complicated.
[0:09:27.6] KM: Yes it does.
[0:09:29.4] SR: Yeah, but there’s three separate deals.
[0:09:30.6] KM: Well, I think this is a great place to take a break? When we come back, we’re going to hear how Skip’s career developed and evolved into what it is today. We’ll talk about the Clinton School course offerings and its degrees, how you can apply and we’ll hear Skip’s favorite success story from the students. And, we’ll get his views on the future of Downtown Little Rock, Public Schools in Arkansas and if we have time, Politics in America.
You’re listening to Up in your business with Kerry McCoy. I’m speaking today with Mr. Skip Rutherford, dean of the Clinton School of Public Service, let’s start at the beginning Skip. Did you study political science in school?
[0:10:17.9] SR: I studied journalism, though I did a lot of — I took a lot of political science courses, was inspired by a lot of people, including Kay Goss.
[0:10:27.5] KM: Who?
[0:10:28.5] SR: Kay Goss who later worked for Governor Clinton and President Clinton. She taught political Arkansas Politics course for me at the University of Arkansas and she was a young teacher at the time and really had a positive impact and me to say, “I really like this stuff. I really think I want to be around it.”
I was inspired by a lot of good teachers so journalism concentration, public relations and by the lot of political courses and environment.
[0:10:58.2] KM: Wow, I noticed when you came out of school, you went to work at a PR department at a bank in Fayetteville.
[0:11:03.6] SR: I did.
[0:11:04.1] KM: What made you decide to leave the private sector and move into politics? Was there an event that happened?
[0:11:10.0] SR: Well, I loved my time in Fayetteville, I loved living there, it was a great place and I’m grateful to Hayden Macilroy who gave me an opportunity to be a young PR director at a young age but I volunteered on the 1978 David Pryor campaign and after that, I got a call from him one day on the phone and said, “Would you be interested in coming to Little Rock and talk with me about a position.”
When David Pryor called me on the phone, I thought it was one of my friends playing a joke. I was 28 years old, I thought this guy sure sounds a lot like Governor Pryor but why would Governor Pryor be calling me? It turned out to be Governor Pryor.
[0:11:52.9] KM: It was because you had volunteered in Fayetteville on his campaign for the senate race?
[0:11:59.0] SR: Which is one of the advises I would give to young people and to others who in positions of work and leadership, you never know who is watching. You don’t know who is watching your performance. I wouldn’t volunteer to get a job, that never — we love living in Fayetteville, we loved our house, we liked everything about it. There wasn’t a job there but people who were close to Pryor, big donors to Pryor, big supporters of Pryor said as he was filling out his staff, “You ought to take a look at this young kid and give him a chance.”
I’ve learned that’s a valuable lesson and I always say to our students, when you’re in the field working or to my own children, look, you know? You don’t realize who is out there watching the work you’re doing so professionally, even if you’re having a bad day, do a good job.
[0:12:52.2] KM: I think that is such good advice because you never know where your next job’s going to come from.
[0:12:58.1] SR: Or who is going to make that offer. I mean, every position that I’ve had has been someone has seen me on the job.
[0:13:07.6] KM: Well, is that how you got your job at Arkla with Mack McLarty, he saw you working for Senator Pryor? Because you stayed with Senator Pryor for five years because he got elected and you stayed with him. Then you went back into the private sector at Arkla Gas for Mack McLarty. I guess Arkla Gas is called a private sector. Is it a private?
[0:13:26.2] SR: Well it was public utility but it was a private sector, yeah.
[0:13:29.6] KM: Did Mack McLarty see you working for Senator Pryor?
[0:13:34.7] SR: Yeah, Mack McLarty graduated from Fayetteville in May of 1968 and I entered in September of 1968. Our paths at the University of Arkansas never crossed. When we moved back to Little Rock, he was very good friends and worked closely with David Pryor.
We also attended Pulaski United Methodist Church where the McLarty’s attended. I would see him professionally at work on variety issues and then Sunday at church and developed a friendship with both he and Donna.
When he moved to Arkla Gas, he called me and said, “You want to come over here and come to work with me here?”
[0:14:22.5] KM: Did Senator Prior win his next election?
[0:14:23.9] SR: He did, he won, he was reelected in 1984, he defeated congressman Buffoon in that race.
[0:14:31.0] KM: But you didn’t want to stay?
[0:14:33.5] SR: Well, it wasn’t that I didn’t want to stay, it was just that…
[0:14:36.3] KM: A bare opportunity.
[0:14:37.2] SR: Well, and a different opportunity and it was — I had an enormous respect for David Pryor and have, well always have succeeded him as Dean of the Clinton School. But Mack McLarty offered me an opportunity to advance both personally and professionally and I had a great deal of respect for Mack McLarty who is one of my very closest personal friends.
[0:15:01.4] KM: While you were working for Mack, you did keep your hand into politics a little bit because you started the Political Animals Club that I mean, what is that and is it still around?
[0:15:12.3] SR: Yeah, it’s still around.
[0:15:12.9] KM: Good.
[0:15:13.5] SR: Rex Nelson heads it up now.
[0:15:15.5] KM: Why did you start it and what does it do?
[0:15:19.2] SR: I was having withdrawal from politics and one of the things I missed from Pryor’s office and the Pryor campaign was the opportunity to sit and have political discussions with my friends and even with people that we were campaigning against, just to talk about the state of politics both in the state and in the country.
I thought, okay, their rotary clubs are BNPW clubs, they’re all sorts of civic organizations, why don’t we do a Political Animal’s Club where people just get together and have a meal and talk politics and bring a speaker in or just talk among themselves and I thought, hey, if Kaunas and Rotary and Lion’s club and BNPW could do this, I think I can give it a shot.
[0:16:02.5] KM: I love the name political — I mean, you got Lion’s club, you all are the political animals.
[0:16:06.9] SR: Yeah, we’re the political animals.
[0:16:08.0] KM: that was clever, whose idea was that?
[0:16:09.8] SR: Well it was mine.
[0:16:11.4] KM: Good job, I love the name of it, you all are political animals.
[0:16:15.4] SR: We are.
[0:16:16.4] KM: Kaunas and lions and…
[0:16:18.1] SR: No it’s great but what we got was we got all this people at non-partisan, it didn’t matter what party you were in, it doesn’t matter. We got people together, our first meeting was at the Old Coachman’s Inn in downtown where the post office is now.
[0:16:32.3] KM: Okay.
[0:16:33.1] SR: It was the Stevens own the Coachman Inn, it was the capital hotel of its day. We met there, the first speaker was Judge William J. Smith of the Friday Law firm who was Orville Father’s attorney during the 1957 central high crisis.
[0:16:49.3] KM: I bet he had a good story.
[0:16:50.5] SR: It’s a great story and I wish I had taken copious notes but I didn’t because everything at that time was off the record.
[0:16:57.9] KM: Right. It just wasn’t readily available recording devices and audio and video to record everything.
[0:17:04.9] SR: He didn’t — I mean, we didn’t record speakers because we wanted them to be totally candid and totally relaxed.
[0:17:10.6] KM: Relaxed, yeah.
[0:17:12.9] SR: I thought, wow, this man knows so much about history and so much about the city and I had not grown up in Little Rock, I had grown up in Batesville and then went to the University of Arkansas and Hayden Macilroy gave me an opportunity and so I really sort of thought my life would be planted in Fayetteville that that’s where it would be.
[0:17:35.6] KM: You did some other things, you were the school board but we’re going to save that for the next segment but you did meet Bill Clinton in Fayetteville and when he started talking about running for the president, you became on the committee to decide whether to do it or not.
[0:17:52.9] SR: Well, that’s not quite factual.
[0:17:56.2] KM: Okay, you were an Arkansas traveler first?
[0:17:58.4] SR: I was, no, the white apple was is the real story was that Bill Clinton was asking several people for advice and one day, he invited me out to the Governor’s Mansion and we were sitting, we were there and he asked — there were several others there but he asked, wanting about running for president, what do you think about that idea? This was 1991.
I said, “Governor, that’s the worst idea I’ve ever heard in my life, you do not have the chance, with the highest respect, nobody form Arkansas can raise a type of money that it takes to compete, you’re going to lose the democratic primary to Governor Cuomo of New York and George H. W Bush is so popular, there’s just no way.The only justification I could see doing this is if you’re planning to set the groundwork for 1996 but I think this is a really shot in the dark.”
[0:18:58.5] KM: that’s what I thought, I wondered if you advisers were, really thought he could get, accomplish the presidency or if you all were just trying to get him on a national level to get name recognition for future opportunities?
[0:19:09.3] SR: I think each person he talked to had a different opinion. I think there were some who thought “Yeah, let’s go for this.” But my advice on the front end was I don’t know how you could make this work but guess who was wrong with that issue?
[0:19:24.9] KM: You met him in Fayetteville.
[0:19:26.3] SR: Yeah, a friend of mine called, said “What are you doing after work?” and I said , “Nothing, well come over and sit on my patio,” which will show you how old we are Kerry. At least how old I am.
“Come over and sit on our patio, I want you to meet a friend of mine who is moving back to Fayetteville” and I was like, “Who is it?” “Well, it’s a guy named Bill Clinton?” He said, “Well. You know, he graduated from Hot Springs High School, he went to Georgetown, then was a Rhode Scholar and then went to Yale Law school.”
I said, “Well what in the world is he doing kind of back to Arkansas?” Thinking, this guy can make a trillion dollars on Wall Street and said, “Well, he’s going to teach at the law school and he wants to run for office?” I think. I said, “Really?” I said, “Yeah I’ll come by and visit with you” and that was the first time I met him.
[0:20:17.0] KM: Could you tell he was going to be the governor and a president of the United States?
[0:20:20.9] SR: You know Kerry, I wish talking about recording, I could have been rich if I could have recorded that conversation because people ask me that all the time .
I don’t remember the specifics, what I do remember was walking away like “Wow, this guy is really smart, he’s well read, he’s well versed, he’s well thought-out.” I mean, it was like he knew more about the third congressional district that I did. Just thought, wow, this guy’s smart.
[0:20:51.9] KM: That’s the Fayetteville district?
[0:20:53.0] SR: That’s the Fayetteville district.
[0:20:54.8] KM: and he brought with him, did you meet Hilary at the same time?
[0:20:56.7] SR: Not at the time, I met her later when she came down and she thought she was giving up her whole career and go into…
[0:21:03.9] KM: She was a rock star in California.
[0:21:05.5] SR: Well they both could have been rock stars, they both ended up being rock stars nationally but you know, again, she came and I didn’t get to know her immediately at first, I really got to know her better when Bill Clinton was Attorney General, she was practicing law at the Rosewell Firm and David Pryor was in the Senate and I was directing his Arkansas office and where we really got to know each other was that Hill Crest Softball League because our daughters Martha Lewen and Chelsey were on the same team.
We would be spending a lot of evenings at the ball park and that’s where I really got to know her personally. I mean, I knew her and she knew who I was and we were friends but nothing but boy, at the ball park, we bonded over girls softball.
[0:21:57.5] KM: Tell us about when you decided to quit Arkla and to go on the campaign trail and work for Bill Clinton for his presidential run in 1992?
[0:22:06.5] SR: I’ve done a lot of volunteer work for Clinton.
[0:22:09.8] KM: As an Arkansas Traveler?
[0:22:11.1] SR: Yeah, and during the campaign and it was getting to be where I was spending more and more time on that campaign than I was on my job at Arkla, you could feel the pull and people were calling not just after work but it got to where people were calling during the day, reporters were coming in to town.
They wanted to talk to Arkansas people and finally I just said “Look, you know, I need to make this break and go do this.” thinking you know, I don’t know what I’m going to do when the selection is over.
[0:22:46.5] KM: He loses.
[0:22:48.6] SR: As it turned out, even if he won because I remember after the election and the transition, one night I was working late and so is Vince Foster and we were both talking about whether to go to Washington or not.
When Mack McLarty was named chief of staff, Vince told me that was the real decision that pushed him over to go to Washington because he and Mack were good friends and he knew Mack and I were good friends and I said, “Yeah, that’s kind of where I’m leaning” but I couldn’t get there and I just talked it over with my family, we couldn’t get there, no matter how much I thought it would be fun, it couldn’t make it work, added up the numbers…
[0:23:33.3] KM: Still, your family came first?
[0:23:35.1] SR: It did and it was just — if my kids had been older and there might have been a different story but I just — about two days before I was going to leave, I went over to Mack’s house and knocked on the door and said “I’m not going.”
[0:23:51.0] KM: Wow, you were down to the wire that far, two days?
[0:23:54.2] SR: Yeah.
[0:23:54.3] KM: And said I’m not going.
[0:23:55.4] SR: I’m not going.
[0:23:58.0] KM: How long was it before you started working at Cranford Johnson?
[0:24:00.7] SR: Well this is a great funny story is that I thought, Mac asked me that, “What are you going to do?” I said “I don’t know, I have no idea.” I just made the decision not to go so I hadn’t gotten that far. Ron Robinson had been a friend of mind for a long time, we had done a lot of things together, a lot of projects together.
I thought he was, and still do think he was one of the greatest public relations geniuses of our time. I thought he was absolutely extraordinary. I went to see him for advice, I just went in and said “I got to talk to you in confidence,” he said, “Okay what?” I said, “I’m not going to Washington” and he said, “What?” I said, “I’m not going. Nobody knows.”
He said, “Why?” I said,” I got three kids Ron, I’m not going to — I can’t make it work. I’m not going to look back.” He said, “Well, what are you going to do?” I said, “That’s why I’m here. What do you think I should do, where should I look?” He said, “Will you give me 24 hours?” He said, “How about here?” I said, “I never even thought about this,” he said, “Will you give me 24 hours before you talk to anybody else?” I said, “Yeah.”
[0:25:13.5] KM: Wow.
[0:25:15.7] SR: I came back the next day or shortly thereafter and he said, “Here’s an offer, will you do it and would you start this policy division, would you do this?” I thought, I’ve bounced from the public to the private, the bounce wasn’t near as hard for me.
[0:25:36.0] KM: You started there, public policy division, with all your experience and I bet it did great.
[0:25:41.8] SR: We had a good run.
[0:25:42.4] KM: Do they still have that division?
[0:25:44.0] SR: They don’t call it that way but they still do that kind of work, they still do the advocacy work, they still do governmental relations work.
[0:25:51.2] KM: And this is when you decided to do the Clinton Library? While you were still there at Cranford Johnson.
[0:25:57.3] SR: Yeah, I get this call saying, “Will you head up this library project?” and I said “Yes” and then I hung up the phone and thought, what in the world is a presidential library?
[0:26:07.6] KM: That’s what I thought the first time I heard it.
[0:26:09.2] SR: Well, that’s exactly what I thought. I thought, what have I done? I started studying, I just started researching and studying and figuring out what all we had to do and where it was going to be and sight selection and all the hoops we had to go through in terms of the political criticisms of Clinton and all the issues of those that didn’t like him.
It was a tough project but all along, I kept saying, “This thing’s going to be good for Little Rock, this is going to be a great new venue, this is going to be an anchor downtown.” My friend Richard Allen, the late Richard Allen, I loved, he’s a writer. I love Caroline on his — I think they’re just great people.
Richard called the area where we are, Murky Bottoms and he would write all this columns about, You’re going into Murky Bottoms and I’d call him and I’d say “Richard, we’re going to transform this, well it’s Murky Bottoms.”
[0:27:04.3] KM: That’s what he called downtown Little Rock?
[0:27:05.3] SR: That’s what he call the side of the Clinton library.
[0:27:08.0] KM: Because it is.
[0:27:10.5] SR: It’s all Murky Bottoms.
[0:27:11.9] KM: Murky Bottoms.
[0:27:14.7] SR: I said, “Well Richard, give me a break, we’re going to transform this area” but…
[0:27:19.2] KM: Now those Murky Bottoms are really popular environmental.
[0:27:23.5] SR: We did it right, 165 million dollars did it right.
[0:27:25.8] KM: Boy you did, this is a great place to take a break. When we come back, Skip’s going to tell us about the mission of the Clinton School of Public Service, its courses, degrees, how you can apply and his favorite success story of one of his students, we’ll be thinking about this Skip.
[0:27:37.1] SR: Got it.
[0:27:38.0] KM: Also, we’ll get his thoughts on the future of Downtown Little Rock, our Public sShools and politics in America today.
[0:27:49.9] KM: You’re listening to Up In Your Business with Kerry McCoy. I’m speaking today with Mr. Skip Rutherford, Dean of the Clinton School of Public Service. I know there is much discussion about where to put the Clinton Library in Park, what was the deciding factor to put it in downtown Little Rock?
[0:28:04.0] SR: Well, ultimately Bill Clinton made the final decision.
[0:28:07.4] KM: I know fate wanted it, hope wanted it.
[0:28:08.6] SR: Well the first battle we had to fight was, was it going to be in Arkansas or some other place? Yeah, Yale wanted it.
[0:28:14.4] KM: Oh really?
[0:28:15.6] SR: Yeah, Washington DC wanted it so there was that fight, Arkansas or somewhere else and then once you got through Arkansas, where in Arkansas?
[0:28:25.1] KM: Murky Bottoms.
[0:28:25.7] SR: Right, Murky Bottoms won but it really narrowed down to Little Rock and Fayetteville and once that decision was made, where do you put it in the central Arkansas area and it narrowed down to the runner up site for the library is now where Dickey Stevens field is. That was the runner up site.
[0:28:44.9] KM: Oh really? That would have been a good one too.
[0:28:46.2] SR: It was a great choice, it would be wonderful yeah. It wasn’t a bad thing, the advantage of the site that was picked is that it’s not directly on the interstate, you got now that pedestrian bridge. You for an opportunity for a big park, a green space and you’re within walking distance of the convention center and hotels and restaurants.
[0:29:10.4] KM: Was the River Market already?
[0:29:12.5] SR: The River Market was there, Jimmy Moses in deem comparison with others have done the River Market.
[0:29:18.2] KM: Did they use for housing tax credits to do it?
[0:29:20.3] SR: I don’t know. I don’t know how they did that.
[0:29:21.7] KM: I’m going to have them on, I want to know how they did it.
[0:29:23.3] SR: But they deserve a lot of credit but the River Market itself was struggling. There wasn’t an anchor and when we started the project, it was interesting Kerry because I thought my whole effort would be geared just building a library and working through all the easements and money raising and all of these that you’ve got to do but quickly got into other things like we brought in some tourism experts and they said, “Look Skip here’s what’s Little Rock is missing”.
“You are missing brand name hotels on the interstate” and I said, “What do you mean?” they said, “Look when people are traveling through they want brand names” and I said, “Well like what?” like Comfort Inn and Holiday Inn and I said, “But we’ve got the Capital Hotel” and the Peak Body was coming in and they said, “That’s not what the tourism and the tour buses want.” So we went out working with the Little Rock convention and Business Bureau and others and recruited Comfort Inn and Holiday Inn.
The Comfort Inn took the over Masters Inn and the Holiday Inn took in what was the old Sheraton. Yeah, it was vacant and so that was important. Then Charles Morgan at the time was looking at expanding his Axiom operation and we went to him and said, “Why don’t you build it downtown?” and at the time, this young talent that he was trying to recruit wanted to be downtown rather than in the suburbs. So he made this big investment in this new building.
First big new office building in downtown Little Rock that I think 25 years or so which is now going to be the Simmons Bank Tower.
[0:31:10.6] KM: What is?
[0:31:11.0] SR: The Axiom, Simmons Bank is moving into the Axiom building.
[0:31:13.9] KM: Where is the Axiom Building? Where is Axiom going?
[0:31:16.6] SR: Axiom has consolidated its operations in Conway but at the time it was big for us and the fact that the building was there and Simmons is able to come in and move is really big and then one afternoon I got a call Rhett Tucker said, “What are you doing at lunch?” and I said nothing and he said, “We’re going over to make a presentation to the Heifer Board. They’re thinking about moving to Chicago. They are going to build a new facility” and I said, “What?”
He said we need to go make a presentation about locating next to the Clinton Center and so Rhett and I met with the Heifer board at lunch and made the pitch.
[0:31:58.5] KM: And they liked it.
[0:31:59.9] SR: Well it helped that we got Bill Clinton on the phone calling someone I’m saying.
[0:32:03.3] KM: People don’t realize that a lot of success goes to people like you that just pick up the phone and go down there and do it and ask somebody from lunch and the next thing you know you’re having your goals met, your dreams come true.
[0:32:17.9] SR: Well give Jo Luck a lot of credit on this, the former CEO of Heifer. She was very strong on this so I give her an enormous…
[0:32:25.4] KM: But if you have not gone down there and just said, “Let’s go down there and talk to him at lunch”.
[0:32:28.7] SR: Well if Rhett Tucker hadn’t called and Rhett and I haven’t gone there…
[0:32:31.5] KM: Dream big, think big.
[0:32:33.2] SR: But again, there are a lot of other factors in there. We got Bill Clinton on the phone and so there were a lot of things that were happening positive but think, you can understand why Heifer was looking at Chicago because O’Hare was a lot easier. Yeah, we offer their international connections all over the world. It makes a lot of sense. You can see why they were doing that so we were fighting that battle but fortunately and I think every time I drive by that Heifer building, I smile.
[0:33:01.7] KM: I bet you do. Were there any surprises after the opening?
[0:33:04.4] SR: After the library opened? Yeah, there were several surprises. The first, I really had done a lot of due diligence with the other presidential libraries and I thought I had covered every potential issue that might have happened. In the morning that library opened I stood up the first day, not that grand opening but the first really opening day.
[0:33:26.2] KM: Not the rainy grand opening.
[0:33:27.8] SR: Not the rainy grand opening which I’ll tell you a funny story on that one. So I was sitting over there and I saw all these recreational vehicles pulling up and I thought, “Nowhere in all my planning had anyone mentioned recreational vehicles.”
[0:33:42.0] KM: And you had no electric outfit.
[0:33:45.4] SR: Yeah and we had no parking. People were coming up saying, “Where’s the closest park?” we had no idea and I thought, “Boy, Skip you really messed up on this deal”.
[0:33:55.4] KM: I can’t believe nobody in tourism. They are talking about hotels and they are not talking about all the people that travel with their recreational vehicles?
[0:34:01.5] SR: Yes but I don’t think people and it was my fault, not anybody else’s fault.
[0:34:07.2] KM: That’s the sign of a good leader, taking responsibility.
[0:34:10.1] SR: We were directly on the interstate so it was easy for recreational vehicles in the neighborhood so I just started standing up there and looking and seeing the numbers that were passing by thinking, “Oh my goodness, boy did you mess this up” but thanks to Pat Hayes who came through on the other side of the river. If you drive by there and you look at that RV Park, it’s full a lot of times. I go over there on a regular basis just to walk through and say thank you.
[0:34:36.7] KM: And they got the walking bridge and people love that RV park on the north of the rock side of the river.
[0:34:42.9] SR: There are people who are regulars that come up.
[0:34:44.8] KM: I have friends that use it, yeah they love it.
[0:34:46.8] SR: And they go to the Arena, they go to events in downtown Little Rock, it’s wonderful and so now when people drive up I’d say, “Right across the river.
[0:34:56.6] KM: There it is, you could see it from here. It met it’s visitor projections the first year and then some didn’t it?
[0:35:02.7] SR: Yeah, it’s been meeting its projections all along. It’s one of the great things and part of that is through the emphasis and it’s a great job and Joyce Willis who works for the Clinton Foundation does really great work of reaching out to the education community and getting schools of children and school kids in there. We tried to help with our Speaker Series where we bring in a lot of people to come to Clinton School’s Speaker Series but yeah, we’ve been pleased with it.
[0:35:33.2] KM: I was a volunteer when it very first opened and I went through all the classes and stuff at the very beginning and I remember everybody being amazed at how well it was doing and I was too. I didn’t understand presidential libraries and how much draw there is and there’s people that travel around and go see all the president’s libraries just because they’re history buffs and you know what I always tell people to do?
Go down there because there is a bank of what he did every day, a book of every year of what he did and you can go and flip this book open and see what he did on every day of the year. I will always tell people, “Go look and see what he did on your birthday.”
[0:36:10.9] SR: Yep, I still do that but the funny thing about the grand opening, let me tell you something funny. I was down there that morning, we were getting ready and it was starting to rain. I was doing a bunch of interviews and I looked up and they had a cover over the speaker’s stand that they were taking down and I just ran and I said, “What’s this?” I mean “look at the forecast.”
[0:36:33.4] KM: This is the rainy grand opening.
[0:36:35.1] SR: “Yeah and so why are you taking this down?” “Well the TV visual will be better”, I said, “In a rain storm?” and they said, “Well we have checked with Air Force One and during the window of the program it’s going to stop raining, according to the weather on Air Force One”. Well who am I to take on Air Force One? Maybe they got…
[0:36:58.8] KM: A word from God.
[0:37:00.1] SR: Yeah, I mean so many weather bureaus. Well during that program it rained the hardest that it did the entire day.
[0:37:06.6] KM: I know. I thought Bush was going to die of pneumonia.
[0:37:09.0] SR: Well I thought and Clinton looked over at me in the middle of the program and said, “Who made this thing so long?” he was talking about the actual program and I looked back and said, “You did”.
[0:37:21.2] KM: Oh good job. You are the President of the Clinton Foundation when you started and now, did you ever and David Pryor, your friend was the first Dean of the Clinton School of Public Service and you are the second, did you ever think you’d be that?
[0:37:36.0] SR: No and I’ve been teaching at the college level. I’ve been volunteer teaching at the college level so that’s several years of teaching experience but Allan Sugg I was president of University of Arkansas System, he asked several people for suggestions on who should be considered for dean and I submitted some names, not myself. I submitted some names. One day I was at home working on a speech and he called my house and he said, “I’ve been trying to find you”.
I said I’m working on a speech and he said, “Can you come up to my office?” he said, “I’ve only got an hour” I said, “Allan I need to clean up. I haven’t shaved, I hadn’t cleaned” he said, “No, just throw a pair of jeans and come up here. Let’s talk” and I thought what he was going to do is say, “Here is the person I’m going to recommend and will you be supportive of that choice?” and so I walked in and he said, “Like a cup of coffee?” I said sure and he reached some small documents.
He said, “Well I’ve got a question” that’s what he said, “How would you like to be dean of the Clinton School?” and I said, “Allan you’ve got to be kidding?” and I said, “I don’t know anything about being a dean” and he said, “Did you know anything about building a presidential library because you built a good one” and I said, “Well, no”. He said, “You’ve got 48 hours”.
[0:38:52.0] KM: Tell me what you want to do? So what’s the mission of the school?
[0:38:56.6] SR: The mission of the school, it’s the nation and the world’s first master of public service degree.
[0:39:03.8] KM: The world?
[0:39:04.9] SR: The world. And how it differs from more traditional programs in public administration, public affairs and public policy is that our students, a significant portion of the academic credit is direct field service work. So over the course of two years of study, our students perform team based international and individual projects all over Arkansas, America and the world and so students are actively engaged. It’s a model of leadership through civic engagement. It is sort of what I call “Academics for the real world.” So our students are out there all over whether it be in villages in Africa or in schools in Arkansas, making a difference in people’s lives.
[0:39:57.7] KM: And how many students are there?
[0:39:59.3] SR: We take between 35 and 45 every year.
[0:40:02.9] KM: Every year and they come from everywhere ,don’t they?
[0:40:04.5] SR: All over the world.
[0:40:06.2] KM: Right, where are some from right now?
[0:40:07.8] SR: They are from everywhere, I mean some of our…
[0:40:12.4] KM: What’s the qualification to get in there? I mean I know you have lots and lots of applicants. How do you decide who’s going to come in? Does it have anything to do with their BS degree or BA degree?
[0:40:25.2] SR: In last year’s class Kerry, we had 27 different undergraduate majors. So you have finance sitting next to archeology and English sitting next to French. It’s just all over the board. The common denominator is public service and whether that issue is education, environment, economic development, there’s a wide public health, there’s a wide variety of different issues. One of things that I did when I became dean, because we saw a lot of students who said:
“I would like to get an MBA or I would like to get a master’s in public health or I’d get a law degree” and we developed concurrent programs. So if you come to the Clinton School, you can get your masters of public service but concurrently you can get a law degree at the William H Bowen school of law at UAE at Little Rock. You can get a master of public health along with a masters of public service. You can get that MPH degree at the Fay Boozman College of Public Health at UAMS.
And you can get an MBA in conjunction with your masters of public service at the same Walton College of Business at the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville.
[0:41:38.1] KM: Well how would they do that, that far away though in Fayetteville?
[0:41:40.8] SR: They do a year in Little Rock, a year in Fayetteville and then split the third year.
[0:41:43.3] KM: Oh if they’re getting…
[0:41:46.0] SR: If they’re getting a concurrent degree it takes two and a half to three years, yeah.
[0:41:49.9] KM: Those are some ambitious kids.
[0:41:51.5] SR: Yeah and we’ve got about 15% of our student body that’s doing that.
[0:41:55.8] KM: Really?
[0:41:56.6] SR: Yeah.
[0:41:56.8] KM: Tell me a good success story.
[0:41:58.6] SR: Well there’s several and I hate to just have one but I could tell you a success story because it’s one I’m really proud of. I was reading the Chronicle of Higher Education one day, Instant Guru magazine on higher ed and on the front page was the cover about student loan debt and there was a picture of a young man named Deamus Espanola. He was at the College of the Holy Cross in Massachusetts, a long way from Little Rock, Arkansas.
So I’ve read the article, he was quoted about his student loan debt, how he didn’t realize the impact that it was deferring his dream to go to medical school that he was going to move back in with his parents and get a job and start paying off his debt. So I read that article and I looked over at the masses and I said, “Look, if you get a chance let’s find Deamus Espanola. I want to talk to him” so a few minutes later it said the College of the Holy Cross will not give out his information.
Which I said, “Well can you ask them? Can you give them mine and can they pass the message on so maybe he’ll call me” and they did. So the next day I got this phone call and says, “Hello, this is Deamus Espanola and you were trying to find me” and I said, “Deamus, let me introduce myself. I read about you” he said, “Oh Dean Rutherford my colleagues are not happy with me because I’ve talked about student loan debt”.
I said well it impacted on me and I said, “I wanted to talk to you about The Clinton School of Public Service” and he said, “Well Dean Rutherford I can’t afford another round of debt”. I said, “Deamus, I just want you to look at the program, get in the website, spend the day looking at it, you let me worry about funding right now. You look at this program because nothing tugs at my heart any more than a kid who can’t do what he or she wants to do because of student loan debt so call me back after you look at this program”.
The next day, he called me back and the first thing he said, “Why didn’t I know about your program?” and I said, “Well next year you will”. Deamus Espanola applied to the Clinton School. I picked him up at the Little Rock Airport, his first visit south. The first thing he says to me was, “You talk funny” and I said, “So do you” and so we checked out of the Little Rock Airport and we were paying the money at the attendant and I say, “You’ve been all busy, have you had a nice day?”
And then he said, “You’re talking to the attendant?” and I said, “I always talk to the attendant” he said, “We don’t do that” and I said, “Welcome to the South Deamus” I said, “Not only do we talk funny but we do have this sense of” so anyway he said, “I’m here because I want to go to a top tier med school and I want to do well here and my goal is to make a four point and to do very well here so I can up my antic” all of his three projects he did in the relation of health.
His international project he went to Ghana. He worked on eye testing the villagers and giving villagers glasses. He’s interviewed for UMMS, they called him. He wants UMMS medical school. He calls me after his interview and says, “I just had the best interview at 95% of the time just talking about Ghana and I just wanted to thank you”.
[0:45:25.6] KM: You know he’s going to speak at your funeral.
[0:45:28.0] SR: Let me tell you what, he is named the Outstanding Pediatric Resident at Walter Reed Medical Center. A month ago he received a Pediatric Endocrinology Residency Fellowship. He is on the trajectory to be one of the finest young pediatric specialists in the country and I’m already recruiting him to come back to Arkansas. That’s a success story.
[0:45:55.3] KM: That’s a God story. That is wonderful, I’m speechless. I’ve got goose bumps. That is a success story. You’re going to go to heaven, there’s no doubt about that.
[0:46:05.2] SR: I don’t know about that but I want Deamus back to take care of me when I am approaching that.
[0:46:09.8] KM: Oh I’m betting he’s a great doctor because he’s been in the trenches. Sending thank you cards is a tip that you give to everybody that comes and then you write them. You are a champ. I can’t take you up and show you the dream land bar and the next day I get a thank you card from the very busy Skip Rutherford saying “Thank you for showing me the dreamland” and I try to copy you and be as good as you but nobody is as good as you at writing thank you cards.
[0:46:30.9] SR: No, there are. Ron Robinson is better than I am.
[0:46:32.5] KM: He just wrote me one the other day over the Dreamland documentary.
[0:46:35.2] SR: Oh I’m telling you, he’s Mack McLarty and George H.W. Bush is as good as anybody, he writes them too. Yeah, I think it’s very important and in fact, I tell my students. In fact in one of the classes I teach I have them writing a thank you note.
[0:46:50.2] KM: I’ve heard you’re wonderful at it.
[0:46:52.1] SR: Well because look, I think it sets people out. You know at least in our generation or generations around us, the thank you note makes a big difference.
[0:47:02.2] KM: I was humbled that you took the time to do it for me. I think I kept it too. I think I still have it.
[0:47:05.7] SR: Well I really believe it makes a difference and our students, I’ve got several stories from students who’ve told me it’s made a difference in their careers too.
[0:47:15.2] KM: It absolutely does. Now we have five minutes and we have four things to talk about. You want to talk about schools in Arkansas today, you want to talk about the future of the River Market, you want to talk about I think people probably want to hear what you think of Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign, why her campaign went awry and then of course, you’ve got the farm business but I want to ask you why Hillary Clinton, you think Hillary’s campaign went awry?
[0:47:39.6] SR: Well number one, this was a change election and I think the Clinton people knew that but didn’t realized how significant the change was and you look at change elections. Bill Clinton in ’92 won on a change election. Barack Obama in 2008 won on a change election. So change elections are not unusual. I think everybody including the Clinton campaign underestimated Donald Trump. I think you can talk about what happened.
And the fact she did win three million more popular votes and that’s a fact but he won a convincing victory in the Electoral College and that’s a fact. So I think number one, he was underestimated. Number two, I think that in spite of everything that was going on the email server, The Clinton Foundation pay for play issue, those were really taking their toll in a change election. I think they did far more damage than the Clinton world ever thought.
I think you’ve got to give Trump credit. We saw those big crowds at rallies, we saw those big crowds and everybody said, “Oh those are just people” well guess what? They voted. They came up in Rural Pennsylvania, they came out in Iowa, they came out in Wisconsin, they voted so there was this total underestimation I believe by the Clinton campaign of the Trump campaign. The other thing that I think happened which told me a lot, I went home to Batesville, my hometown.
Which is America’s best hometown by the way and one of my friends at Batesville told me before the election that we were going to lose, that Clinton is going to lose and said that everybody he knew including most of my high school friends were voting for Trump and part of it was that they just didn’t relate to her and he also said, “I just want you to know that I’m not a deplorable” and I don’t know with that one what she meant. I knew that, we know that but it was how it was interpreted.
[0:49:38.1] KM: But how can he say so many deep things that are wrong and it doesn’t seem to bother anyone?
[0:49:42.3] SR: Change election.
[0:49:43.5] KM: And do change elections come every certain amount of years because I was thinking about tracking that. It seems like they’re like every eight years or something.
[0:49:52.1] SR: Well most of them are. There had been some that we went from Ronald Reagan and George Bush, won the third term of Reagan and Clinton came back invading but in 2000, George W. Bush in a change election beat Al Gore. They wanted the shift, they don’t want Al Gore even though Al Gore won the popular vote in.
[0:50:10.7] KM: Do you believe in the electoral vote?
[0:50:12.7] SR: You know I would prefer a direct election of the present. I would prefer the popular vote wins but I understand the argument but in my own personal way, I would rather have whoever gets the most votes because I think, one vote per person, one state should not get…
[0:50:29.9] KM: More than another.
[0:50:31.2] SR: Yeah because whether you live in Fresno, California or Batesville, Arkansas your vote ought to be the same.
[0:50:38.2] KM: That is a very good point. We’re at the end of the show, thank you. You’re getting a cigar, you don’t look like you smoke but you could pass it on.
[0:50:44.2] SR: I don’t smoke but I’ll give it to somebody who self-flagging back.
[0:50:49.1] KM: You’re getting that for birthing politicians, birthing great ideas and for birthing the Clinton Center.
[0:50:53.7] SR: Thank you. Thank you very much.
[0:50:54.8] KM: You’re welcome. Who’s our guest next week Tim?
[0:50:57.3] TB: Next week is going to be Ty Jameson of Jameson Architects.
[0:51:01.4] KM: Skip, it’s been an honor to have you on today.
[0:51:03.3] SR: Kerry thanks for having me, it’s great.
[0:51:04.5] KM: I am telling you, you are the cat’s pajamas. Now I’m really dating myself. Also if you have a great entrepreneurial story and you would like to share, I would love to hear from you. Send a brief bio and your contact info to email@example.com and someone will be in touch and finally, to our listeners, thank you for spending time with me. If you think this program has been about you, you’re right but it’s also been for me.
Thank you for letting me fulfill my destiny. My hope today is that 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 Friday at 2 PM. Be brave and keep it up.
[END OF INTERVIEW]
[0:51:49.7] TB: You’ve been listening to Up in Your Business with Kerry McCoy. Want to hear today’s program again or want someone else to benefit from it? Jot this down. Within 48 hours the podcast will be available at flagandbanner.com. Click the tab labeled “Radio Show”, there you’ll find today’s segments with links to resources you heard discussed on this program. Kerry’s goal: to help you live the American Dream.