George Hopkins, executive director of the Arkansas Teacher Retirement System, told the board he was retiring at the end of the year.
Though Hopkins enjoyed broad support on the board for his work, some questions had been raised in recent weeks about the system’s involvement in class action lawsuits where federal courts have raised questions about fees paid to a law firm that introduced a winning law firm to ATRS as a client. Hopkins has defended those arrangements, begun before he arrived, and the value to the system from being a lead plaintiff in the suits, which have recovered money for the system.
Hopkins sent this notice today to system members:
Today I informed the ATRS Board that I will retire in December. After 10 years as ATRS executive director, I decided now is a good time to leave to allow new leadership while ATRS is in calm waters. I have been eligible to retire for over 6 years but never felt the timing worked until now.
ATRS has strong benefits, a great investment portfolio that delivers among the VERY highest (top 1%) investment returns of public retirement plans in the United States, and has no significant legislative agenda for the 2019 session (for the first time in 10 years). This is the calm that is good timing for a leadership change. Thankfully, the member elected ATRS Board is the real leader of ATRS. You can always trust the member-elected ATRS to protect all members
I am so grateful for the opportunity I have had to serve ATRS members. It has been a life changing experience for me. Words cannot express the depth of respect, gratitude, and love I have for all who have dedicated their lives to improve the lives of the children of Arkansas.
ATRS has been an active place for the last 10 years. Benefits were closely examined and changed to ensure a few did not benefit at the cost of the many. ATRS weathered the 2008 and 2009 financial crisis without even an employer contribution increase. ATRS totally changed the investment mix to bring strong returns with relatively lower risk. ATRS focused on a direct farmland program, real assets, opportunistic investments, and direct investments like Big River Steel.
No word on replacing Hopkins. But last year, when Rett Hatcher, a top aide to Gov. Asa Hutchinson, was hired as deputy director, many took that as a sign he could be in line for the job someday.