The 83rd Annual Newport Area Chamber of Commerce Banquet will be held Thursday, January 31 at the Newport Country Club. The event will begin with a social hour at 5 p.m. Dinner starts at 6 p.m. Back by popular demand, a short auction will feature bids for the Christmas parade grand marshal as well as street sign naming at Newport Lake. This is a great way to honor someone from your business or organization! Annual awards will be given following dinner including recognition for small business, large business and Jackson County’s outstanding citizen. This year’s featured speaker will be Skip Rutherford, Dean of the University of Arkansas Clinton School of Public Service in Little Rock, the nation’s first to offer a Master of Public Service (MPS) degree.  The Clinton School differs from more traditional graduate programs in public administration, public affairs and public policy because a significant portion of its academic program is project-based learning. Clinton School students have worked on a variety of projects in Newport and are currently working on an education initiative in Tuckerman. The school’s curriculum is enhanced with a nationally recognized speaker series, recognized as one of the best in the country. A graduate of the University of Arkansas, Rutherford received the Journalism Department’s first Distinguished Alumnus Award. He has an extensive private sector background in communications and public relations and has served as a visiting professor at Lyon College, the University of Arkansas, the University of the Ozarks and the University of Central Arkansas. and was awarded an Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters Degree from Hendrix College. He serves on the Board of Trustees at Lyon College, the Board of Directors of the Foundation for the Mid-South in Jackson, MS; the Board of Directors of the Arkansas Cinema Society, the Advisory Board of the Arkansas Center for Health Improvement and the Board of Directors of the Arkansas Children’s Hospital System where he has promoted statewide children’s health advocacy through the formation of the Natural Wonders Partnership Council. He has been named Headliner of the Year by the Arkansas Press Association; Arkansan of the Year by the Arkansas Broadcasters Association; Arkansan of the Year by the Arkansas Times; and was recognized as Tourism Person of the Year at the Arkansas Governor’s Conference on Tourism. In 2018 he received the Friend of Children Award from Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families. A native of Batesville, he and his wife, Billie, are the parents of three adult children and one grandchild. They are members of Pulaski Heights United Methodist Church where he co-teaches a young adult Sunday School class; is a past chairman of the Board of Stewards and co-chaired the church’s centennial celebration.  He also co-owns and manages two family farms in Jackson and Independence counties. Cost to attend the banquet is $30 per person and is open to the public. Tickets will not be given, however pre-payment is mandatory in order to reserve your seat. RSVP at the Chamber office at (870) 523-3618 or email by Thursday, January 24.