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Shields to become North Little Rock parks director

by Stephen Simpson | December 18, 2020 at 7:49 a.m.
Steve Shields. is shown in this file photo.

A former men's basketball coach at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock will be the next Parks and Recreation director for the city of North Little Rock.

Mayor-elect Terry Hartwick announced Thursday during a Rotary Club meeting that Steve Shields accepted the job Wednesday night. Shields, 55, will begin his new job in January.

"He is the perfect fit for the job," Hartwick told the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. "He is the perfect person to run our parks, and he is very excited to come home."

Shields is currently an assistant coach for Tarleton State's men's basketball team in Stephenville, Texas. He joined the team earlier this year.

UALR parted ways with Shields in 2015 after the Trojans finished the season 13-18. It was the team's second-consecutive losing season and its third in four seasons.

Shields was the school's all-time winningest men's basketball coach with a 192-178 record over 12 seasons. That included six winning seasons and an unexpected run to a Sun Belt Tournament title in 2011 that advanced UALR to the NCAA Tournament for the first time in more than two decades.

Shields said he told Billy Gillispie, Tarleton State's head coach, of his decision Wednesday afternoon and said he is excited to get to work helping the people of North Little Rock.

"I am excited to come back to North Little Rock. This will be a good thing for me and my family," Shields said. "I love North Little Rock and I was fortunate to be a director of special projects a year ago for Mayor Joe Smith, and I appreciate Hartwick is giving me a chance to build on the great things he has done at the Parks and Recreation Department."

Shields replaces Hartwick as the city's Parks and Recreation director. Hartwick had served as its director since 2016 before being elected mayor Dec. 1, when he defeated Tracy Steele in a runoff.

Shields said the decision to leave college basketball was a difficult one.

"You love the team sport. The team unity and working to help young men achieve their goals, that will be the tough part of leaving," he said. "Billy Gillispie and I have been great friends for many years, so leaving will be tough.

"It was a tough decision from the standpoint of helping young people, but an easy decision for my family. My wife is from the Little Rock area, and my son is a cheerleader at the University of Arkansas, so I am looking forward to being able to drive up and watch him cheer."

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