Sharon Priest

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Sharon Priest is current executive director of the Downtown Little Rock Partnership and a former Arkansas Secretary of State.

Priest has been active in Arkansas' political scene since the 1980s. Although born and raised in Montréal, Quebec, Canada, Priest moved to Arkansas in 1974. At this point Priest married and started a family, two things which greatly influenced her move to the political stage. Indeed, it was after the birth of her first son that she began to explore politics as a neighborhood activist. Later she addressed city-wide issues such as gang problems and public safety when she worked on the Little Rock Board of Directors from 1986 to 1990. During this time Lottie Shackelford was serving as Little Rock's first woman Mayor with Priest as her Vice-Mayor. In 1991 Priest stepped into Shackelford's place, becoming Little Rock's second female Mayor.

Many of the programs that Priest developed during her time on the Board of Directors and her time as Mayor, such as "a half penny dedicated to public safety, and police, and public safety" are still in place today.

In 1994 Priest was the first woman elected as Arkansas' Secretary of State. It was during her time in this position that the initial planning process of the Clinton Presidential Library took place. After the project’s realization, Priest helped out during the Clinton Presidential Center dedication by directing those unfamiliar with the downtown area. She also arranged two parties to draw more publicity for the event; the soirees were attended by celebrities such as Al Franken and Nancy Sinatra.

Currently Priest is executive director of the downtown partnership, tasked with the responsibility for taking "care of a forty-four block area downtown." Together with seven additional aides, Priest is "trying to tell people why downtown is a good place to be, why downtown is important, period, to the city and to the state."

Priest cites the presence of the Clinton Library as one of the main explanations for Little Rock's recent revitalization. As the former Little Rock mayor noted in a 2006 interview, "Little Rock is now becoming a destination." She went on to say that, "Before [the library] people would come here on there way to somewhere, and now they are coming here to visit, to see what's going on, and the city and the state have a lot to offer visitors no matter what their interest is."


  • Edward Klump, "Clinton Center Adds to District's Flowering River Market Area; Took Vision, Time," Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, November 14, 2004.

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