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Kane Webb will resign his position as head of the state Department of Parks and Tourism at the end of the year, as the department prepares to merge with the Department of Arkansas Heritage.

The departure was announced in a press release from Gov. Asa Hutchinson's office, which said that Webb is taking a job as the director of executive communications at Walmart Inc.

Cynthia Dunlap, the chief fiscal officer at Parks and Tourism, will take over as interim director of the agency once Webb leaves, according to the governor's office.

The Heritage Department also announced the hiring of a new deputy director.

Webb could not be reached for comment Wednesday evening, though in a statement released through the governor's office, the director said the job at Walmart "was something I could not turn down."

Hutchinson tapped Webb to head Parks and Tourism in October 2015. Webb served various stints as an adviser and speechwriter for the Republican governor. He previously worked in public relations and once worked for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette in various positions, including as a writer and editor.

Webb's salary as parks and tourism director is $137,094 annually. Dunlap will continue to make her current $115,137 annual salary.

The planned merger of the Department of Parks and Tourism and the Department of Heritage is part of the Hutchinson's plan, announced earlier this year, to reorganize and consolidate state government. Under the governor's plan, the two agencies will join with the Capitol Zoning Commission and the State Library Board under the newly created Department of Parks, Heritage and Tourism.

J.R. Davis, a spokesman for the governor, said Wednesday that Webb's departure did not signal that Hutchinson had selected someone else to lead the consolidated agency.

Hutchinson will not make decisions regarding leaders -- to be dubbed "secretaries" -- of the new departments until the state Legislature passes a government transformation plan next year, Davis said.

Stacy Hurst, a former Little Rock city director, has led the Department of Arkansas Heritage since 2015, when she was appointed at the start of Hutchinson's term. In 2016, at the direction of Hutchinson, the Legislature transferred the Arkansas History Commission from the Department of Parks and Tourism to the Heritage Department.

The governor also led a reshuffling in 2017 that placed Little Rock's War Memorial Stadium under the authority of Parks and Tourism.

In Wednesday's press release, the governor offered praise for Webb's handling of the agency.

"Kane has been a wonderful staffer, director, adviser, and friend over the course of the past four years," Hutchinson said. "As director of Parks and Tourism, he led the agency to new heights and successfully managed the 2017 War Memorial Stadium merger into Parks and Tourism."

Dunlap, Webb's successor, has worked at the Parks and Tourism Department since 2004, according to the governor's news release. Prior to that, she worked at Alltel, the former communications company, for 23 years.

"Working for Parks and Tourism has been the highlight of my professional career," Dunlap said in a statement Wednesday. "I look forward to working with our amazing staff in doing everything I can to promote its mission and serve the dedicated team of employees that makes this agency shine."

Also on Wednesday, Hurst announced that she had hired Jim F. Andrews of El Dorado to serve as deputy director and general counsel for the Department of Arkansas Heritage. He starts in January.

Andrews replaces the outgoing deputy director, Rebecca Burkes, who is moving to northwest Arkansas. His salary will be $112,434 a year, according to a Heritage Department spokeswoman.

Andrews served as vice president, general counsel and corporate secretary for Deltic Timber Corp. from 2010-18 and was corporate attorney and assistant secretary for the company from 2001-10, according to a department release.

Andrews has an undergraduate degree from Southern Arkansas University in Magnolia, an MBA from Baylor University in Waco, Texas, and a juris doctorate from Southern Methodist University in Dallas. He served 12 years in the U.S. Navy Reserve and received an honorable discharge as lieutenant commander in 2006. His community service includes serving on the SAU Rankin College of Business Advisory Council since 2017 and on the DeSoto Area Council of the Boy Scouts of America advisory board from 2001-07. His four-year term on the Arkansas Economic Development Commission expires in 2022.

Metro on 12/13/2018

Print Headline: State Department of Parks and Tourism director quits at tourism agency, accepts post at Walmart

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