Tuesday, February 16, 2016

TOP STORY >> Trustee grew up in area

Leader senior staff writer

When Gov. Asa Hutchinson appointed Kelly M. Pace Eichler last week to the powerful University of Arkansas System Board of Trustees, at least one old Jacksonville friend says she wasn’t at all surprised.

“She was a great leader and a great friend,” said Kim Crook, chief financial officer for First Arkansas Bank and Trust.

“We’ve known each other all our lives,” said Crook, who was in the Jacksonville High School class of 1982. “We’re probably the oldest of friends.”

Eichler, who was appointed to a series of important jobs by Republican governors Huckabee and then Hutchinson, was “always very smart, very funny and fun to be around,” according to Crook.


“I always knew she would do well. She was a very good student and a strong leader.”

Crook and Eichler were on the Red Devils cheerleading squad. Eichler was the captain and became a University of Arkansas cheerleader.

Growing up, she was involved in church and was on student council in school.

She also went to Girls’ State.

“I have so many good memories,” Crook said. “She was a lot of fun, outgoing and I always enjoyed being around her. I’m very proud of her.”

Jacksonville attorney Mike Wilson says he’s known Eichler’s family for decades.

“She’s bright as a new penny,” he said.

Eichler replaces Mary Rogers of Little Rock on the board.


Meanwhile, Eichler won’t give up her day job as director of policy for Hutchinson.

She agrees that the job is demanding, “but I love it.”

“I had a great life in Jacksonville,” she said. “I wouldn’t trade growing up there for anything.”

She said she grew up living in one of the first houses in Foxwood.

The year she graduated, the Red Devils football team was 14-0.

While she now lives in Little Rock with her husband, Brad, and two sons, she said she stays in touch with old friends like Crook.

One son is a 17-year-old senior at Catholic High and the other, 13, attends Episcopal.

Of her appointment to the U of A board, she said, “This is more than a meet and eat. It’s a governing board.” She said the U of A system has several campuses and is a big business. She’ll be sworn in March 1, but said it would take a while to get a good base of knowledge.


Eichler is a graduate of the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville, where she was a Razorback cheerleader and member of Pi Beta Phi sorority, which was founded by her aunt, Mary Campbell Gregory. She earned her juris doctorate from the UALR Bowen School of Law in 1991.

Eichler has served as a law clerk at the Arkansas Court of Appeals, as a Pulaski County deputy prosecutor, a partner in private practice and special judge in circuit and juvenile courts. She began working for the state during the Huckabee administration.

Eichler served two years on the Arkansas Commission on Child Abuse, Rape and Domestic violence and was a criminal justice adviser to Huckabee, who then appointed her to a seven-year term on the state Board of Corrections. At end of that term, she returned to serve as his legal counsel.

In the 2014 Republican primary, Donnie Copeland defeated Eichler for the House Dist. 38 seat.

She also serves on the Centers for Youth and Families foundation board.


Eichler’s ties to the University of Arkansas System run deep, starting with her great-grandfather, Sy Campbell, who graduated from the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville in 1910.

Her grandmother, Erline Campbell Pace, was president of Pi Beta Phi and crowned Razorback Homecoming Queen. She graduated in 1936. Her father and brother, Jim Pace, are also alumni.

In addition, her husband is a graduate of UALR and currently serves on the foundation board. He was recently named a distinguished alumnus and member of Beta Gamma Sigma, a business school honors society.