The Arkansas Game and Fish Commission today named 25-year veteran Loren Hitchcock to serve as the agency's director. Hitchcock, who began his career with the AGFC in 1985, has served as interim director since Sept. 1. Hitchcock was elected by acclamation with the support of all seven commissioners.
"Loren's experience and vision for the future of our agency make him the perfect fit for our organization," Commission Chairman Craig Campbell said. "He's a top-flight administrator and his knowledge of our agency is unsurpassed. He's the right person to lead us into the future."
Hitchcock began his AGFC career as a wildlife officer. In 1989, he became chief of the Enforcement Division, a position he held until 2003. In 2001, he took on additional duties as deputy director.
"It's a tremendous honor to be asked to lead the dedicated, professional staff at our agency," Hitchcock said. "It is with these wonderful people that we can build a new era of efficiency and professionalism at Game and Fish. We'll work together as a team to take advantage of the opportunities we have ahead of us to tell Arkansans about the wonderful opportunities that exist in Arkansas's incredible outdoors, and the role this Commission plays in managing those resources."
Hitchcock's proactive approach in building a new era of leadership was evident in his first act as director. He announced this morning that Don Brazil would be named deputy director and chief of staff. The Commission voted unanimously in favor of a resolution to support the decision.
Brazil was among four finalists for the AGFC director's position. He has been serving as deputy administrator for the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks.
"Don understands the big picture of wildlife conservation and has been instrumental in helping Mississippi work as a cohesive team to present that state as a prime site for outdoor recreation," Hitchcock said. "Don brings the type of leadership and vision we need to move into a new era at our agency."
The Commission met with the four finalists for the director's post earlier this week. In those discussions, Hitchcock and Brazil emerged as the two leading candidates for the position.
"This is an extraordinary day for the Commission - to have our top two candidates on board to begin building for the future," Campbell said. "We are fortunate to have two visionary leaders whose passion for wildlife and conservation efforts positions us to take advantage of all opportunities ahead of the agency. We're building for the future and this puts a solid leadership foundation in place."
Hitchcock was born and raised in Batesville. He graduated from Arkansas State University in Jonesboro in 1975 with a bachelor's degree in business management. He is married and has two sons. He lives in Conway and is a member of New Life Church.
Hitchcock spearheaded the Enforcement Division's role in the passage of the 1/8th-Cent Conservation Sales Tax in 1996. He was designated as lead administrator in the agency's acquisition of the state's largest conservation easement - 16,000-acre Moro Big Pine Natural Area Wildlife Management Area - and 4,000 acres in fee title property in Searcy County for continued elk restoration. He led the agency's negotiations with Chesapeake Energy in its acquisition of mineral rights and natural gas exploration on wildlife management areas in the Fayetteville Shale play. The leases brought $32 million in mineral lease bonuses, plus unknown gas royalty payments for decades to come.
Additional highlights of his service include appointments to special committees and task forces by former governors Bill Clinton, Mike Huckabee and Mike Beebe. He served as the Southeastern States Law Enforcement Chief's president in 1994. He has testified before numerous legislative committees concerning salary and benefits for wildlife officers and AGFC employees. Numerous equipment upgrades and new training techniques have been implemented during his oversight of the Enforcement Division.