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Paula's Story

I was born in Fayetteville, Arkansas in 1955 while my parents were living in Clyde, a small community about 30 miles southwest of there.  My dad’s grandfather homesteaded land there in the 1800’s, and it was in our family for seven generations.  My mother grew up a mile up the road in Cane Hill, Arkansas, a small historic town where both my parents remained dedicated to its restoration until their deaths in 2008 and 2017.  We moved to Springdale when my dad went to work for Tyson Foods in 1960, but his love for the family farm never ended.  Until his death, he spent many hours there. He absolutely loved that farm!


Moving to Springdale in 1960 was wonderful for my two brothers and me who benefitted from nearby Murphy Park, the swimming pool, youth center, and baseball field.  We walked to Westwood Elementary School, the junior high (which was at that time across the street from Springdale High School) and Springdale High School.  My brothers were excellent athletes, so much of our growing up years were spent following them in baseball, football, and basketball, and I was involved in cheerleading, student council, honor society, and music.


While at the University of Arkansas, I majored in music education.  I began playing the piano at seven years old and had a wonderful innovative teacher who incorporated both music theory and playing skills into our lessons.  I became involved in sorority life after pledging Chi Omega in 1974.  While there, I developed many leadership skills, serving as an officer, and being involved in campus activities.  I continued my music education degree and taught one year in Elkins and 24 years in Springdale at Jones Elementary, Springdale High School, Smith, and Walker Elementary.


I married in 1982 and had two daughters, Hannah Kay and Hailey Ann Herdlinger, born in 1983 and 1984.  It was a whirlwind with two babies that close together!  I stayed home with the girls the first few years but remained active in several community organizations.  I later raised Hannah Kay and Hailey in Springdale as a single mother until they attended the University of Georgia.  They, too, enjoyed all the opportunities Springdale had to offer in their childhood and youth.


I continued to teach music in Springdale Schools until 2007 when I retired and went to work for Yamaha Music Corporation (Music in Education Division) as a consultant/educational representative covering Arkansas, Missouri, Kansas, and Oklahoma.  I loved this dearly as I interacted and encouraged music educators to incorporate keyboard labs into their classroom to improve students’ music literacy.


I’ve always enjoyed my friends.  I spend time with my Springdale and Fayetteville friends in church and social/civic organizations, and enjoy my college friends, sorority sisters, neighbors, and many teacher friends.  I love to travel, and most of my travels include my daughters.  Hannah Kay worked for Senator Mark Pryor in Washington, DC after college and then went to work for Facebook in California.  I loved visiting her in Palo Alto and surrounding areas.  Hailey has lived in Charleston, South Carolina; Maui; Sydney, Australia; and New York City; I’ve had fabulous places to visit! Hannah Kay currently lives in Charlotte, North Carolina where she owns her own company, Thread Talk, that benefits survivors of domestic violence.  Hailey lives in Pittsburgh, PA and works as an independent contractor for start-up companies.


Life is good!  This new chapter of life will open a whole new realm of responsibilities and opportunities for meeting people and working to make Arkansas a better place!  I know I will represent everyone in District 19 well and am so looking forward to it.

-Paula Irwin

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