(Town Crier photo/Nan Snider)
David Fletcher, 65, of Monette, received an appointment from Governor Mike Beebe on Friday to head the state Department of Veteran Affairs in Little Rock. Fletcher will assumed his duties Monday.
"I feel the experience I gained from my 29 year Air Force career, combined with almost 14 years as Craighead County veterans service officer, and eight years as mayor of Monette, qualifies me and has prepared me for the many challenges in front of me as state director," Fletcher said. "I was asked if the funding crisis regarding the veterans facility in Fayetteville was going to be my toughest job, and I said 'no.' I have a positive outlook about the fix-ability of the problems at the nursing home, and feel I can work through it with help from Gov. Beebe, his staff, the legislature, as well as the other veterans organizations. I'm not going into this dreading anything. It will all be a part of the learning process and facing challenges head on.
"I accepted this appointment because I thought I could help veterans and their families. The Department of Veterans Affairs provides training and guidance to veterans service officers in the state's 75 counties, and I'm familiar with that already. Through this effort, assistance is provided to veterans, dependants and widows of veterans in processing claims for entitlements."
"I am no stranger to hard work and perseverance. I grew up working in the cotton fields around Black Oak and Monette, worked in a small town grocery store, drove a school bus, worked as a substitute school teacher, so I have seen life from many different angles. My military training has taught me not to panic easily, but rather to look for solutions."
Fletcher is the youngest child of Earnest and Vivian Fletcher. Even his birth had military significance as he was born at home in Black Oak on Dec. 7, 1941, the day Japan attacked the U.S. fleet at Pearl Harbor.
He and his wife, the former Macel Ann Yarbro Adams, plan to move to Cabot soon, and chose that location as it would be distanced between relatives and work.
"Ann's mother, Thelma Lee, lives in Harrisburg, my son Andy lives in Paragould, a brother Carl, in Cherokee Village, and I have a brother Royal and a sister Pat Eggers that live in Monette," Fletcher said. "Family is very important to us and we want to remain close to Northeast Arkansas. I have always seen my job in working with veterans as just an extension of my family, as I am related to them through our shared experiences in military service."
The Arkansas Department of Veterans Affairs has approximately 200 employees and a budget of $12.5 million. They provide veterans related services to the more than 270,000 state veterans. The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs spends more than $1.1 billion annually in Arkansas, with $521,422,305 paid to veterans who qualify for disability or pension.
"I realize my new job as state director is no small feat," Fletcher said, "but one I am prepared to do well. I have a lot of experience working with budgets, grants, applications and the veteran benefit process as a whole. What I don't know now, I will learn. What I already know, I'll put to good use.
"When Mike Beebe was running for governor he visited Monette and told me that no other place in the state has a better network of mayors and county officials than Craighead County. I agree with him. I hope to promote that same network of cooperation and support in my new job as state VA director. I know that this philosophy has worked well for me in the past, and I know it will work during any tough times ahead."