At first, Huckabee’s relations with the state’s Democrats ran rough.
But the Baptist minister and masterful salesman — who gained celebrity at one point by shedding more than 100 pounds — took steps to find common ground with Democrats and get things done.
Example: Huckabee restructured the state’s education system, streamlining what he called “essentially a parking place for retired superintendents and school executives.”
Although he couldn’t reorganize the entire state government similarly, Huckabee did create an agriculture department for the state’s leading industry and merged the health and human services departments, along the way making Arkansas one of the few states to dedicate all its tobacco-settlement money to health care.
Huckabee also persuaded voters to pass a $1 billion transportation package, only a few years after his predecessor’s roads bill went down in flames.
Last year, the governor found temporary shelter for 75,000 survivors of Hurricane Katrina by setting up a statewide command center in his office and pressing into service Christian camps across the state that were closing at summer’s end.
Lesson: Especially in ticklish political situations, look for great ideas everywhere, find consensus on your main problems and then go after the most practical solutions.
—Adapted from “Trim Waist, Hefty Record,” Alan Greenblatt, Governing.