Arkansas Representative Carlton Wing has a secret: When he accepted a job televising Fishing League Worldwide’s annual tournament circuit 20 years ago, he did not know how to fish.
No matter. FLW wasn’t looking for a seasoned angler to host its programming.
“The organization was trying to legitimize bass fishing into mainstream Americana and wanted somebody to broadcast tournaments like a sportscaster would,” says Wing (R), a former sportscaster at television station KARK now serving his third term representing District 38, which includes parts of North Little Rock.
Covering sports was thrilling, but the hours weren’t compatible with family life. “I’d get home at midnight or 1 a.m. every weeknight,” Wing recalls. He was exhausted when his then 6-year-old daughter was waking up for school. Wing was ready for a change, and that’s when a spot at FLW Arkansas opened up.
FLW put him on the water with the “Michael Jordans of bass fishing,” says Wing, who has since become a talented angler—and a media mogul. After developing programs for Dempsey Film Group, Wing founded his own company, Wing Media Group, where he’s produced outdoors programing ever since.
From Viewers to Voters
Television experience easily translates to politics. “You learn how to condense your thoughts,” Wing says, adding, “You can get straight to the point, and I think that brevity with a purpose has helped me.”
In grade school, Wing polled classmates on various topics, including elections. “I was fascinated by the excitement of election night,” he recalls. So running for public office wasn’t a totally surprising career leap. And yet the representative’s segue into politics was spontaneous.
While driving back from Brigham Young University, where he earned a broadcasting communications degree, a friend and Arkansas representative called Wing to tell him there was an open seat in his district. “I’d always been interested in good government representing people,” Wing says. After a lot of prayer, and conversations with his wife, he decided to run for office in 2015. He wasn’t exactly a shoo-in.
“This was a seat that was designed and expected to be with the other party,” Wing says, adding, “I’ve got the most Democratic-leaning district in the state that belongs to a Republican.” According to Wing, that’s a good thing: It facilitates his style of courteous politics.
“My motivation for getting into politics was to improve civil discourse,” he says.
Last year, Wing introduced HR 1016, a resolution calling on all members of the House to respect and honor civil discourse. Wing thought 2015 was as bad as it could get. “That was tame compared to where we are six years later,” he says. In addition to chairing the House Management Committee, Wing serves on the Public Health, Welfare and Labor Committee. Through the pandemic, Wing has dealt with “a lot of core issues polarizing our society,” he says. While there hasn’t always been an easy answer, “We do as best we can to do what is right for Arkansas citizens.”
As the Safeguarding Against Financial Exploitation of Retirees Act was signed into law in May, Representative Carlton Wing, the bill’s lead sponsor, stood to the right of Governor Asa Hutchinson. (Courtesy Carlton Wing)
Working With Constituents
When asked about their contributions, a lot of representatives will point to specific bills. Wing has plenty of legislation he’s proud of, including the SAFER AR Act, a law protecting Arkansas retirees from financial fraud. But Wing’s greatest feelings of satisfaction come from working directly with his constituents.
Wing fondly recalls a time on the campaign trail, knocking on doors, when he met a voter who told him all about a loophole that existed at the state Department of Human Services. “I listened to him, then went to DHS and found out there was a complex loophole that DHS didn’t even know about it,” Wing says. “The end result was that, by the three of us working together, about 3,000 of our most at-risk seniors got medical care they weren’t getting before.
“That’s why I like serving,” he says.
Jamie Siebrase is a Denver-based freelance writer.