BY MELANIE BUCK –
Following the devastating loss of Floyd Clark, Polk County Farm Bureau has placed their faith in Tony Hooper to lead the company that has a hand in the lives of almost half of the county’s citizens. Hooper, born and raised in Mena, said he is honored to serve in his new position and plans to continue the community involvement foundation that was laid out before him. “I am truly honored by the confidence they have placed in me as the new Agency Manager.”
After spending more than 27 years as an agent, Hooper has stepped up to become the Agency Manager. Hooper graduated from Mena High School in 1980 and earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Business and a Minor in Economics from Henderson State University in 1985. After a small stint in Fort Smith, he moved back home in 1989.
On January 1, 1990, he began his lifelong career at the local Farm Bureau office as an Insurance Agent. He explained that William Deramus was Agency Manager at that time. “Mr. Deramus approached me and asked if I would like to work for him. The rest is history,” he smiled, “It’s been a pretty good gig.”
He admits the foundation laid before him was a key to his success. “Most of the credit for the success of our agency belongs to those who have dedicated much of their lives to help build Farm Bureau into what it has become here in Polk County. I have been very fortunate to have had the opportunity to work with them, but more importantly, to have learned from them all.”
As a hometown boy, in a hometown office, Hooper said it’s his “dream job” and likes the personal connection that comes with working in a small town. “I feel very fortunate to do what I do in the community where I know a lot of people. It gives us the opportunity to build long term, lasting relationships with our clients. I don’t see how agencies in bigger cities are able to do that. They don’t see people as often like we do here. It’s a personal connection.”
Hooper’s experience at the agency should bring a source of confidence to the office and their clients. His lifelong career there is certainly coming around full circle, in a number of ways. “I can remember children that were born since I’ve been working here that are now starting their own families. One girl in particular, her daddy called me the day she was born and said you need to come see my new daughter. So, I left the office and went over there is he was so proud. Now she has a daughter that is three years old and she and her husband are building their first new house.”
He also said that Farm Bureau is one of the largest promoters of agriculture in the state, an industry that forms the backbone of Arkansas. He is proud to be a part of the organization that gives back to the community. One of those ways is a scholarship program. This year, two Acorn seniors and three Cossatot River seniors will each receive a $600 scholarship. They also help sponsor youth sports, support students through livestock shows, and many other programs.
Hooper is a family man as well, being married to Gwena, who teach Psychology at UA-Rich Mountain. Two of their children are employed at local banks, his daughter Alyssa, and his son Tanner. Their daughter Bryna, is married to Paul, who both teach, and have the Hooper’s only grandchild, Sara Elizabeth. “Gwena and I are very excited about this opportunity and we first and foremost give God the glory in this career advancement for me. All good things come from Him and we acknowledge that he has made all this possible for us. I am fortunate to get to work for a company that begins each meeting with a prayer and that recognizes God for who He is and what He has done to restore us unto himself.”
Hooper said the staff at Polk County Farm Bureau is like family. “We currently have an awesome staff here. Having quality personnel with such vast experience will make this transition much easier for me. We really are like family here and that helps make it a great place to work.”
“This agency is not about me, never has been,” said Hooper. “It’s about us. We try to take care of our people. We thank all of our clients for their loyalty to Farm Bureau and look forward to protecting what is important to them for generations to come. I am very fortunate to get to be a part of the Farm Bureau family and I hope that when my career is over, it will be said that I did a good job and that I left it better than when it was placed in my charge.”