The Arkansas Advanced Energy Association surprised Policy Director Ken Smith with recognition on Tuesday, and he surprised everyone else with the news that he will be retiring.

As part of Arkansas Energy Advanced Energy Day at the Capitol, Smith received a plaque recognizing his “outstanding dedication and steadfast commitment to advocating for policies that strengthen Arkansas’ advanced energy economy.” Smith, the trade group’s policy director for about five years, said he expected his retirement to begin about June 1.

A Hot Springs native, Smith established the first Nature Conservancy office in Arkansas in the 1980s and was a natural resources assistant for Gov. Bill Clinton in the early 1990s. He was deputy chief of staff at the U.S. Department of the Interior during the Clinton presidential administration. But he always had a love for energy, he said.

“Whatever Morris Jenkins was doing at the Arkansas Energy Office, I was interested in,” Smith said, calling the plaque a “total surprise.”

“I’ve been real lucky in the twilight of my career over the last five years to work on the most important environmental issues: sound energy policy, reducing carbon emissions, improving energy efficiency by working with utilities and the PSC [Arkansas Public Service Commission], and then more recently on all the progress the state has made in renewable energy development.”

He thanks AAEA Executive Director Katie Laning Niebaum, former Director Steve Patterson and other colleagues, including Mollie Merry Campbell.

He and his wife, Mary, plan to “spend as much time as possible with their sons, daughters-in-law and grandkids scattered between Missouri and Hawaii,” said Gary McChesney of FutureFuel Chemical Co., speaking as chairman of the AAEA board of directors.

“Renewable energy is really an incredible opportunity,” Smith said in his closing remarks. “Thank you all so very much.”