Arthur D. Rhodes Named 2017 Varnell Award Recipient
“Art Rhodes resume and character demonstrates outstanding leadership in his profession, community service and church,” states nominator Bob Card, president Easy Auto Credit, Inc. Arthur (Art) Rhodes, president and chief executive officer for Church of God Benefits Board Inc. and the Church Loan Fund, Inc., received the Robert W. Varnell Jr. Leadership Award during awards presentations at the 92nd Annual Meeting of the Cleveland/Bradley Chamber of Commerce. Named for the late Robert W. Varnell Jr., the award is one of the top honors presented annually by the Chamber of Commerce which recognizes outstanding leadership for profession, religion/church and community.
Art has played an active leadership role in the community since he and his family moved to Cleveland in 1999. As a lawyer by training, Art has served in a variety of roles in his profession and business, since completing his education at the University of Mississippi Law School. Early on in his career, while serving as a prosecutor he was appointed by the Governor of Mississippi to serve as legal counsel for the State Department of Public Welfare. Following this stint of public service, Art went into private practice where he specialized in construction litigation with a firm in Jackson, MS.
“Art Rhodes brings a broad perspective to any organization he represents. His advice is generated by his experience at both the public and private level,” states Donald Lorton, retired executive from the Maytag Corporation. In 1988, Rhodes joined Mississippi State 4th District Representative Mike Parker’s staff in Washington, D.C., to serve as chief of staff and legal counsel for legislative matters. He served in that capacity for over a decade, until Congressman Parker retired. Art’s dedication to the institution of Congress was recognized in 1996 when he was named a recipient of a fellowship from the John C. Stennis Center for Public Service and the first Mississippian to receive the prestigious award.
“Everything he becomes involved with becomes better as he brings his own style of leadership to the table,” shared Cameron Fisher, communications coordinator for Church of God International Offices. In 1999, Art was named president and CEO of the Church of God Benefits Board, Inc. in Cleveland. The Benefits Board manages a pension plan for ministers and church-related employees and oversees the investments of the Board, now totaling $350 million. In 2010, Art was also appointed the president and CEO of the Church Loan Fund, Inc., an organization which currently services 135 church loans totaling over $35 million. Art has also chaired the Ecumenical Association, Denominational Investors and Loan Administrators Boards.
“Art models the spirit of service by his consistent and valuable contributions to the United Way and his community. Art has a way of bringing strong business sense to his volunteer and service work with the compassion and grace that has defined his leadership in our community. Wisdom and heart, Art represents leadership at its very finest,” states Matt Ryerson, president and CEO United Way of the Ocoee Region. Art previously chaired the United Way, served on the Executive Committee, led the Investment Committee and numerous other United Way committees. He also received the highest volunteer award designation from United Way as a William F. Johnson Award recipient in 2012.
“He is a thoughtful, sincere and committed community volunteer, as evidenced by his years of leadership and involvement in the United Way, Cleveland Rotary Club, Rotary Foundation and Gideon’s International,” states C. Louis Patten, Jr., Partner Cornerstone Insurance. Art became a member of the Cleveland Rotary Club in 1999 where he’s served as president and is recognized as one of the founders of the club’s foundation. In addition Rhodes is a member of Gideon’s International, serves on the executive committee of the Bradley/Cleveland Public Education Foundation, the Family Resource Agency Board, the Youth Counseling Service Board and president for the local YMCA.
Art is a life-long member of the Church of God and has been very active in church activities, which have included numerous mission trips around the globe. Art is a guest lecturer and author, providing training to ministers and church leaders from across the country. He has also chaired a Global Education Board for the Church of God denomination which oversees more than 120 educational institutions around the world.
Art and his wife, Angie, are the parents of Taylor and Katelyn.