A graduate of the University of Arkansas at Little Rock with post-graduate studies at the University of Washington, Richardson applied his degrees in Environmental Health and Bacteriology to the Executive Directorship of the Arkansas Federation of Water and Air Users, Inc. (now known as the Arkansas Environmental Federation), where he quickly mastered the responsibilities of maintaining and managing an office, preparing budgets, promoting public relations, coordinating statewide meetings, publishing newsletters, lobbying the state legislature, and traveling the state representing environmental interests.
Determined to use his knowledge pragmatically, Richardson also operated an independent business, Zephyr Enterprises, based in Clinton, Arkansas, his adopted hometown. As a member of the private sector, Richardson conducted air quality monitoring programs, performed percolation testing, and designed septic systems. Yet his interest in and enthusiasm for “making a difference” immersed him time and time again in the lifestyle of public service.
Over the decades Don founded, chaired, served on the boards, held office, and administered the executive affairs for many non-profit organizations, state advisory councils, civic activist leagues, federal agencies, and community development efforts, including having served a 4-year term as Mayor of the City of Clinton.
Clinton is a rural community of 2400 people in north central Arkansas to which Don’s administration brought productive change. Still recovering from a devastating flood of the early 1980s, the city needed to relocate its industry to higher ground and improve its waste water treatment system. Don’s leadership brought the acquisition of an 80-acre industrial park, the conversion of the City’s sewer system to a land application system, a cleaner river, and more jobs.
Don has served with the Arkansas Water Resources and Wetlands Task Force, the National Advisory Council for Environmental Policy and Technology, the State Mapping and Land Records Modernization Advisory Board, the Governor’s Animal Waste Task Force, the Arkansas Rural Development Commission and, most recently, by Presidential Appointment, as the Confidential Assistant to the Chief of the Natural Resources Conservation Service of the United States Department of Agriculture.
One shining example of Don’s proactive impact as an advocate and lobbyist came in 1997 when, as the Executive Vice-President of the Arkansas Association of Conservation Districts, he led an effort that resulted in a 3-fold increase of funding to the organization’s statewide environmental and constituency building efforts.
Mr. Richard served as President of the Gates Rogers Foundation until July, 2016