By Bill Paddack
When he was a boy growing up in Carlisle, Robert Moery figured his future might center on either sports or agriculture. Maybe he’d be a coach. Or a farmer.
While he’s still involved in both of those interests today to a certain extent, his career path has taken a turn he undoubtedly never envisioned.
He’s worked for a U.S. senator and an Arkansas governor and now finds himself – as the principal at his firm, Broadview Strategies, and a partner at Shiloh Communications – leading the effort as campaign director to make permanent a half-cent sales tax that is dedicated to roads and highways. This means designing a comprehensive statewide campaign that keeps everyone involved “on message.”
Voter approval of the ballot issue known as “Vote for Roads Vote for Issue 1” will continue to provide more than $205 million a year of major funding to maintain, improve and construct nearly 7,000 miles of interstate and highway miles and repair and replace dangerous bridges throughout the state – all without raising taxes. Issue 1 will also provide $86 million in funding for county roads and city streets.
It’s a big task for the guy who says he “fell into governmental affairs,” but his peers believe he’s the right man for the job. They see – and respect – him as a hard-working, stand-up guy who will help accomplish a victory at the polls in November 2020 that will pay benefits in all four corners of the state. It certainly doesn’t hurt that his former boss, Gov. Asa Hutchinson, considers the effort to pass Issue 1 his “No. 1 priority” in terms of a 2020 campaign in Arkansas.
Arkansas Trucking Association President Shannon Newton said she and Moery began working together when Hutchinson was first elected and Moery served as the governor’s liaison to the Arkansas State Highway Commission.
“As we were both in new roles, Robert and I became fast friends during the 2015 legislative session,” she said. “I would describe Robert as a quick study, a straight-shooter, dedicated, loyal and genuinely liked by everyone that has ever worked with him.”
Newton, who is serving as chairwoman for the Vote for Roads campaign, said Moery “is uniquely equipped to lead the effort on Issue 1,” citing his background – growing up in rural Arkansas – combined with his personal relationship with the governor and professional experience working on transportation policy.
Association of Arkansas Counties Executive Director Chris Villines agrees with Newton. “Robert is an incredibly competent and capable person who has a visionary history from his work in state government,” he said. “I think the Issue 1 campaign is in great hands with his leadership.”
A member of Sigma Chi Fraternity at the University of Arkansas, Moery graduated in 2011 with a bachelor’s degree in kinesiology. He and his wife, SaraCate, have been married over three years. She’s an attorney with the Hilburn, Calhoon, Harper, Pruniski & Calhoun, Ltd., law firm.
Moery began his career working for Sen. John Boozman before going to work as then-candidate Asa Hutchinson’s personal aide for the 2014 gubernatorial election.
He served as the governor’s contact for agriculture, natural resources, transportation and waterways, game and fish, insurance, and finance and administration issues for nearly two years. During the 2017 legislative session, Moery was Hutchinson’s deputy director of legislative and agency affairs, overseeing the successful implementation of all 13 of the governor’s outlined initiatives.
Later in 2017, he moved into the role of director of legislative and agency affairs, tabbed with the responsibility of all legislative duties and relations. He followed that up by serving as campaign manager for the governor’s successful re-election bid.
When Moery left the governor’s office to start his own practice, he garnered praise from Hutchinson.
“Robert has been a key asset to me from my gubernatorial race in 2014, through the last four years of my administration, and as the campaign manager for my re-election team this past year,” he said at the time. “He brings together a great blend of knowledge and experience that I know will be valuable to Broadview Strategies’ success. I wish him all the best.”
Moery is definitely making a name for himself in the field of governmental affairs. Articles about him have graced the pages of local magazines such as Arkansas Money & Politics, Soiree and even Arkansas Bride, which featured engagement photos of him and SaraCate and noted that they were “on a casual trip to the Governor’s Mansion to see the First Lady’s rose garden when he got down on one knee and popped the question.”
He’s on the boards of some nonprofit organizations and enjoys giving back and trying to make a positive impact. “I like being involved and the feeling of knowing you’re helping your community,” he said. “I believe it’s important for everyone to do a little bit for their community.”
A member of the Arkansas Good Roads Foundation board, Moery also serves on the boards of The First Tee of Central Arkansas and the Arkansas Outdoor Society. When Soiree included him in a feature called “A Few Good Men,” he noted the impact First Tee has.
“The First Tee is a national organization that teaches kids from all backgrounds a wide range of life skills and helps them with personal development through the game of golf,” he told the magazine. “We have nine core values that our curriculum is built around: confidence, responsibility, perseverance, courtesy, judgment, honesty, integrity, sportsmanship and respect. All of those things are so important to teach at a young age.”
He’s also on the advisory committee for Arkansas Money & Politics and served as a board member of the Arkansas Game & Fish Foundation from 2016 to 2018.
Moery took time recently to answer some questions, including about working with the governor, getting involved in governmental affairs and running a campaign.
Tell us about your relationship with Governor Hutchinson – how you came to work for him, what it was like, what you have learned from him, what it means to have his support on an issue campaign.
The governor and I got acquainted in the fall of 2013 when he hired me to be his personal aide for his gubernatorial campaign. I had never met him before that fall or known a whole lot about him other than he ran for governor in 2006. Being completely honest, I was just a freshman in college when he ran the first time and I didn’t have any interest in politics at that point in my life so I knew very little about him until I went to work for him.
We got to know each other pretty quick. My third day on the job we got caught in an ice storm traveling from Northwest Arkansas to Little Rock that took us over eight hours. At one point, we were stuck on 1-40 in the same spot for over three hours, so we got to know each other well that day.
I spent at least five or six days a week with him in 2014. Many of those days we spent overnight in a hotel or at his house. He and the First Lady were very welcoming to me and we got to be close.
That position is something that many people would do almost anything to be in, and, at the time, I didn’t realize how fortunate I was to be there. I didn’t have the political resume to be in that position, but the governor took a chance on me and I think he’d say it worked out.
We still have a close relationship. He still trusts me to coordinate our weekly basketball games on Friday mornings and our paths cross regularly at work.
I’ve learned so much from him. His pragmatism, patience and willingness to work with everyone is something to admire and why I think he has so much respect from a lot of people.
It means a lot to have him leading the charge on Vote for Roads Vote for Issue 1. He told me a few months ago that he takes this campaign personally and wants to be heavily involved to make sure that it passes. Highway funding has been an issue we’ve worked on since his first day in office in 2015, and many others involved in this campaign have worked on it even longer than that.
You mentioned basketball. Tell us more, including about the weekly games with the governor. I’m assuming you played in high school and continue to play for exercise and fun.
When the governor first got into office, he wanted to get a group of guys together on a Friday morning to play pickup basketball before work. We had our picture taken by the staff at the school that morning and I still have that picture on my desk today. I think it was the second or third Friday of his first month in office, and we’ve kept it going ever since.
Our group has expanded from governor’s office staffers to legislators and people out in state agencies, too. The governor is competitive, Emmanuel Banks with ARDOT can play, Mike Preston with the Department of Commerce has way more energy than all of us others combined, and former House Speaker Jeremy Gillam is a hustler. It’s good to get to be around all of those guys in a setting where we aren’t wrapped up in policy or politics. I’ve played basketball since I was in the third grade and I love it. It’s all for fun and I for sure need the exercise.
You grew up in Arkansas and have spent time in both a small town and some of our largest cities, so you are obviously well acquainted with our roads and highways. Why do good roads matter? Why should improving and investing in our infrastructure be a priority?
Logistics is everything in Arkansas. We have the most important east-west interstate in the country running right through the middle of us. We have two extremely important north-south interstates connect here in I-49 and I-55. We have multiple Fortune 500 companies located here. We have world-known parks, hunting and other attractions all over the state. Our farmers provide food that has to be transported all over the world. Our policemen, firefighters, paramedics and other first responders have to have access to every corner of the state in times of need. A reliable road system is so critical to every aspect of Arkansas.
Tell us about your farming background, what you did and what you liked about it, and if you’re still involved in the family farm today.
Technically, I grew up around the farm. The guys at home that actually grew up on farms would call me out on it if I said I grew up on the farm! We have a row crop farm that’s been in our family since 1909 and my dad and granddad still farm it together today.
We grow rice and soybeans, but this year was our first year to try out corn. Our farm is smaller compared to others so I had different odds and ends jobs around the farm in high school and when I worked out there during college. I definitely have gotten more interested in it all as I’ve gotten older.
The sense of accomplishment you get from farming is what I like most. You can actually see your hard work take effect right in front of your eyes. I’m around the farm a lot still, but I can’t say I’m overly involved because of how busy I’ve been with the governor and now Broadview. I definitely hope there’s an opportunity to get more involved in the future, but time will tell.
How did you get involved in governmental affairs and what do you like best about this line of work?
I have to admit that I really fell into governmental affairs. I grew up around farming and sports so I always wanted to – and thought I was going to – land in a career in one of the two. After working for the governor for five years, I had gained enough experience in policy and established the relationships to go into governmental affairs, so I gave it a shot.
I’m officially one year into working in governmental affairs and it’s been great. I’ve learned so much but I am fortunate to have the lessons learned from working for the governor that have made this first year a success. But, I tell people all the time that what I do is a lot like farming. Just because it’s been a good year this year doesn’t mean next year will be the same. You’ve got to buckle up and go do it again.
What is a modern issue campaign like?
The main component of any campaign is the same – messaging. When voters go to the polls next year, we have to make sure they understand the need for long-term highway funding.
The methods of messaging, obviously, have modernized. Digital media and social media have changed everything. The voting public in Arkansas is still a little behind nationally on being so reliant on those platforms compared to other states, but it continues to evolve every election cycle.
Running TV ads is still the biggest portion of an issue campaign budget. We will run a lot of ads next fall. That’s still the most effective way of educating the public on why we need support for Arkansas roads.
The Good Stuff
Full Name: Robert Matthew Moery
Family: Wife is SaraCate and we have two dogs, a lab named Ernie and a French bulldog named Carl.
Hobbies: Golfing and hunting.
Favorite Pro Golfer: Justin Thomas
Favorite Music: I listen to everything. It’s not unusual for my playlist to go from classic rock to blues, to modern rap, then finish with ’90s country.
Favorite Movie: Forrest Gump
Favorite Vacation Spot: Anywhere along the Gulf Coast.
First Car: 2004 Chevrolet Silverado
Favorite Sports Teams: The Razorbacks and the New Orleans Saints
What’s Always With You When You Travel: My navy blazer.
Favorite Stretch of Highway in Arkansas: That’s a tough one. For western Arkansas, Highway 10 from Perry to Greenwood when the leaves are changing. For eastern Arkansas, Highway 79 from Stuttgart to Hughes during harvest.
At a Glance
About: Broadview Strategies is a full-service government relations, legislative consulting, and business development practice based in Little Rock. The firm offers a variety of services for its clients, such as executive and legislative branch advocacy, strategic messaging, public policy oversight, and business to business relations.
Address: 1301 W. Capitol Ave., Little Rock, AR 72201