By Ray King

The outgoing chairman of Downstream Development and the Quapaw Tribe, in a wide-ranging interview Wednesday, said he was in Pine Bluff to check on the progress of the Saracen casino which is expected to open in October, and to see old friends.

John L. Berrey, who lost a recent election, appeared on Talk Back Live with Floyd Donald and said he will be chairman of the tribe until Saturday.

The casino is planning to hire about 800 people in the next few weeks and Berrey said “we are ready to put them to work. We’re excited about it.”

Berrey was also asked what he believed his greatest accomplishment was and answered this way.

“The growth (of the tribe) I’ve seen over the last 20 years is a great legacy I’m going to leave but I think the best part of what I’ve done is create a lot of relationships that I think will last a lifetime,” he said. “There’s people here in Pine Bluff and Jefferson County and in Arkansas, all over that I’m very proud of the relationships developed and I look forward to continuing those relationships in a different role.”

While there have been disagreements in Pope County, which was one of four counties authorized to receive a casino and only recently did the State Racing Commission approve a group to operate a casino, it was smooth sailing in Pine Bluff and Jefferson County. Berrey was asked how he was able to get all the various entities together.

“The idea and the plan made sense,” he said. “It made sense to the people of Jefferson County and Pine Bluff, it made sense to the State of Arkansas. I think the limitation of four (casino) licenses was the right thing to do but I think the reality is we do what we say and we say what we do and we’ve held to that from the git-go.”