The Next Generation of Leaders in Arkansas

By Katelyn Allen, Maci England and Madeline Martin on Wednesday, October 25, 2023

Arkansas is a state full of talent, and the next generation of young professionals might be the most impressive yet. Arkansas is home to the youngest mayor in U.S. history, trendsetting young entrepreneurs, architects building the future, inspiring NBA Champions and even a New York Times bestselling author (and Netflix producer!)—there is no shortage of aspiring young leaders!

Young Arkansas Leaders

Aidan Eslinger Takes Center Stage

The Conway teen is CEO of his own company and has served as a writer, playwright, filmmaker, producer and director.

Arkansas Travelers Hit Home Run With New GM Sophie Ozier

Sophie is the first female GM of the Arkansas Travelers.

Anna Caroline Strickland Conquers Hurdles to Advocate for Others

Speech pathologist Anna Caroline attended Easterseals Arkansas as a child. Now, she enjoys helping others reach their goals.
Find more disability resources here.

Young Arkansan Ross Owyoung Pursues Forward-Thinking State

Ross is a Little Rock Racial & Cultural Diversity Commission member, a Chancellor’s Race & Ethnicity Advisory board member and an Arkansas Alumni Association board member.

Miss Arkansas Cori Keller Fights Food Insecurity in Home State

Corrie is traveling the state to spread awareness about her community service initiative, Feeding the Future: Collaborative Solutions for Hunger.

NYT Bestselling Author Ayana Gray Brings Stories to Netflix

Ayana, who lives in Little Rock, anticipates the debut of the third book in her popular series in January 2024.

NWA Entrepreneur Kendall Meaders Sets the Latest Trends

Kendall first started her online retail shop, KenzKustomz, on social media.

Amber Banks is Building the Future in a Male-Dominated Field

After graduating, Amber was hired by Cromwell Architects Engineers in Little Rock and has built an impressive career.

Achieving Star Attorney Robbi Riggs Shines Bright

After a life-changing experience shadowing former circuit judge Rhonda Wood in Conway, Robbi became determined to go into law.

NBA Champion Moses Moody Motivates the Next Generation

In 2023, during just his second year in the NBA, Moses launched Motivate One, a foundation dedicated to supporting Arkansas youth to seek a better future.
Read about another hometown hero, Bobby Portis and see what it takes to go pro!

Jaylen Smith Makes His Mark as the Youngest Mayor in U.S. History

Elected to office when he was just 18 years old, Jaylen Smith is making history as the youngest mayor currently serving in the United States and the youngest Black mayor ever.

Real Talk with Real Bosses

Dreaming about becoming a young executive? Take it from these two leaders.

Vice President of Client Experience at Apptegy

High School: Pleasant Grove High School in Texarkana
College: University of Arkansas

What was it like stepping into a leadership role for the first time?

Ashley: “...It’s very challenging. You're no longer responsible solely for your work, but also for the work of a group of people who may or may not have been your peers previously. I experienced a fair amount of imposter syndrome, but I had a lot of support from my [manager] to help me bridge the gap.”

Is it tough having to call the shots?

Ashley: “What seems like an obvious solution in the short term could have detrimental ripple effects in the future. Leadership requires that you take a short- and long-term view, and that's a skill you have to develop over time.”

Director of Communications at North Little Rock Chamber of Commerce

High School: Rison High School
College: Arkansas State University

What was an unexpected responsibility that came with your leadership role?

Reynardo: “Taking on responsibilities that don’t necessarily fall within my expertise. For example, my work with our military presence here in NLR. However, I’ve been able to grow tremendously and acquire additional relationships that are greatly beneficial to my overall career trajectory.”

What makes someone a good leader?

Reynardo: “Good leaders possess self-awareness, garner credibility, focus on relationship-building, have a bias for action, exhibit humility, empower others, stay authentic, present themselves as constant and consistent, become role models and are fully present.”

What Defines a Great Leader?

"The ability to cultivate, develop, and retain an outstanding team.”

–Annemarie Dillard Jazic
Vice President at Dillard's

"A great leader needs to be a thoughtful coach, needs to communicate clearly and needs to get out of the way and let talented staff members do their magic.”

 –Mitch Bettis
Owner and President at Arkansas Business Publishing Group

"Great leaders are genuine, consistent, respectfully honest, self-aware, have strong emotional intelligence, focus on building real relationships, excel at developing credibility for their ideas and the ideas of their team, have a bias for action, passionately empower others and are fully present.”

–Burt Hicks
President and Chief Strategy & Growth Officer at Encore Bank

"Leadership is based on great communication and having an excellent team. Communication starts with listening, and then understanding when to speak up. It’s very importantto understand that everyone makes mistakes—including you. As a leader, it is your job to find the teachable moments in those mistakes, so that you and your team are continually improving.”

–Spencer Jansen
Deputy Director at the Arkansas Museum of Fine Arts