Staff Contact Information

Alex Johnston

Director, Alex Johnston

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Alex Johnston is the Director of the Division of Rural Services. She started working at the agency in 2012 as a Grants Analyst then served as the Assistant Director for nearly two years. Alex holds a Bachelor of Science degree from the University of Central Arkansas in Communications with a minor in Marketing.  

After graduation, Alex went to work as a general-assignment reporter for the local NBC station in Monroe, LA.  Before landing at the Arkansas Department of Rural Services, she traveled the southern part of the state working as a field representative for United States Senator John Boozman. 

As part of her work with Rural Services, Alex serves on the Joint Rural Fire Study Legislative Committee, Feral Hog Eradication Task Force, Arkansas Tobacco Settlement Commission, Water Provider Legislative Task Force and The Arkansas Department of Emergency Management Federal Surplus Property Advisory Board.  Alex is a graduate of the Delta Leadership Institute, the Community Development Institute (CDI) and has attained her Mid-South Economic Development Professional (MSEDP) certificate.  

Alex was born and raised in El Dorado.  She now lives in Little Rock with her husband, Brian, and their daughter, Kate. 

Jill Gray

Grants Manager, Jill Gray

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County Fair Building Grant Program
Game & Fish Wildlife Conservation Education Grant Program

Jill Gray has joined our team from the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission where she was Administrator for the Witt Stephens, Jr. Central Arkansas Nature Center.  As a native Arkansan, born in Magnolia, she has been an advocate for the state all her life. 

Jill obtained a bachelor’s degree (2011) in Speech Communication and a master’s degree (2013) in Applied Communication from the University of Arkansas at Little Rock.  She began her professional career with Systematics, Inc. in 1985 as a relocation coordinator; spent a number of years in training and development in outdoor education as a sailing instructor; and enjoys the Natural State through hiking, sailing and archery. 

Tonya Hass

Grants Manager, Tonya Hass

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Rural Community Grant Program
Rural Services Block Grant Program
General Improvement Grant 2- Fire Protection 

Tonya G. Hass comes to Rural Services from the Institute for Economic Advancement at UALR where she served in Community Outreach and Grants. Her service to the state has included working for U.S. Senator Mark Pryor and working for various non-profit organizations.  

Tonya is a graduate of the Harvard Executive Leadership Academy program at the Kennedy School of Government, Delta Regional Authority Delta Leadership Institute, OU Economic Development Institute (EDI), and has attained her Mid-South Economic Development Professional (MSEDP) certificate.  She received her Master’s in Public Administration from the University of Arkansas at Little Rock and holds a Bachelor of Arts from the University of Arkansas.  

Tonya is a native Arkansan, born in Hot Springs National Park, AR.

Brenda Rowell

Grants Manager, Brenda Rowell

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General Improvement Fund-1, Community Enhancement
Arkansas Unpaved Roads Grant Program

A native of White Hall, Brenda is a graduate of the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff with a Bachelor of Science Degree in Business Administration. Additionally, she earned Master Degree’s in Business Administration and Human Resource Management from Webster University. 

Brenda started her professional career in 1993 at the Central Arkansas Chapter of the American Red Cross in Little Rock administering a grant to assist elderly and handicapped individuals with utility assistance.   In 1999, she worked as a Federal Contractor at the Pine Bluff Arsenal, and in 2008 she joined the Outdoor Recreation Grants Program at Arkansas Parks and Tourism.  Brenda spent five years working as a project officer in the grants program assisting rural communities around the state to create or improve local parks and trails. During her time at Parks and Tourism she also became the State Trails Coordinator.  

Brenda joined the Arkansas Economic Development Commission in 2013. 

Loretta Weathers

Administrative Specialist, Loretta Weathers

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Loretta Weathers was born and raised in the Little Rock/North Little Rock area where she has lived and worked all her life.

A true Arkansan, Loretta has devoted her entire career to the state of Arkansas and its citizens. Spending a total of 28 years in the Department of Finance and Administration, Loretta was an integral part in the areas of Revenue and Procurement. 

Loretta joined the Division of Rural Services in 2013.