Gov. Asa Hutchinson was named the 2018 Rural Advocate of the Year on Thursday.

The honor was presented by Mike Preston, executive director for the Arkansas Economic Development Commission (AEDC), on behalf of the agency’s Division of Rural Services and the Arkansas Rural Development Commission at their annual Rural Development Conference held this week at the Statehouse Convention Center in Little Rock.

“Throughout his distinguished career, Governor Hutchinson has made rural communities one of his priorities,” Preston said. “His leadership has improved life greatly for rural Arkansas.”

The governor said: “My childhood in rural Arkansas is a vital part of who I became and everything I do. My appreciation for the people who live in our rural communities figures into almost all of the decisions I make. I am honored and humbled to be selected as the Rural Advocate of the Year. I haven't forgotten where I came from, and I will continue to stand up for rural Arkansas.”

The award recognizes Hutchinson for his leadership on initiatives that directly benefit rural communities, including distance learning, computer coding, high-speed internet, and economic development that has led to the creation of 62,000 jobs.

Last year’s recipient was Arkansas Sen. Missy Irvin. Past recipients include Rex Nelson, former U.S. Senators Dale Bumpers and David Pryor, and Gov. Mike Beebe.

For information on AEDC, visit www.ArkansasEDC.com.