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Director of Arkansas Heritage plans to retire at the end of June, spokesperson says

Exit 1 of several at department by Will Langhorne | June 10, 2023 at 7:20 a.m.
Jimmy Bryant, director of Arkansas Heritage, is shown at the Governor's Arts Awards at the Robinson Center in Little Rock in this April 26, 2023 file photo. Shealyn Sowers, a spokesperson for the Arkansas Department of Parks, Heritage and Tourism, said Bryant was retiring after serving as head of the state agency for more than three years. Bryant's last day will be June 30, 2023, Sowers said in an email dated Friday, June 9, 2023. (Arkansas Democrat-Gazette/Cary Jenkins)

Arkansas Heritage Director Jimmy Bryant will retire at the end of the month after serving as head of the state agency for more than three years.

Bryant's last day on the job will be June 30, Shealyn Sowers, a spokesperson for the Arkansas Department of Parks, Heritage and Tourism, said Friday in an email statement.

Bryant, 68, joined Arkansas Heritage, a division of the Arkansas Department of Parks, Heritage and Tourism, in January 2020. He accepted the job after working at the University of Central Arkansas in Conway for more than 20 years.

In 2019, Bryant told the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette he had already made arrangements to retire from his position as the university's director of archives and university historian when Stacy Hurst, then-secretary of the department, contacted him about serving as head of Arkansas Heritage.

Bryant did not immediately return phone calls from the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette Friday afternoon.

News of Bryant's retirement plans come a week after Mike Mills, secretary of the department, resigned from his position.

In recent days, the directors of Arkansas Tourism and Arkansas State Parks, the two other major divisions of the department, have transitioned to other roles or announced plans to leave state government.

Travis Napper, director of tourism, has said he will step away from his position later this month to take a job in tourism consulting.

Last week, Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders shifted Shea Lewis, who was serving as director of the Arkansas State Parks division, to serve as interim head of the department after Mills resigned.

After news of Mills' resignation broke, Bryant described the former secretary as "a first class executive" when commenting on a social media post.

"I can tell you that when the employees of Arkansas Heritage who worked in the Headquarters building heard about his resignation they recoiled in disbelief," said Bryant in the social media comment. "There was absolute stunned silence when word got out. It was as if the employees had lost a relative and I am not exaggerating."

In response, Mills commented that he "was doing fine until I read this."

"I couldn't even read it to my wife because my eyes were full of tears. My heart was breaking," said Mills in the social media comment. "Thank you and every single person who you represent for your energy, your respect, your dedication to Arkansas, and your heart felt love!!!! I will always be a part of this great Department of Parks, Heritage, and Tourism."

Mills, who served as secretary for less than six months, has not responded to repeated requests for comment made by the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.

Bryant's annual is $123,961.55, according to the Arkansas Transparency website.

The Division of Arkansas Heritage, originally the Department of Arkansas Natural and Cultural Heritage, was created in 1975 to preserve and promote Arkansas's natural and cultural heritage. The agency consists of eight divisions and a director's office, according to the agency's website.

Print Headline: Heritage director retiring by July


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