Gov. Asa Hutchinson (R) has reached inside his staff to name Kane Webb as the next executive director of the Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism. The Parks, Recreation and Travel Commission confirmed the Governor’s recommendation in a vote Thursday morning, according to a statement from the governor’s office.
He replaces Richard Davies, who is retiring after being with the department more than 42 years and serving under eight governors.
Webb, 51, who was born in Hot Springs and raised in Little Rock, has made a career outside the tourism industry as a journalist. He began in journalism as a sports writer with the Arkansas Democrat, and his other jobs included executive editor of Arkansas Life magazine, an editorial writer for the Arkansas Democrat Gazette, and editor of the Louisville Magazine.
“I’ve known Kane for almost 20 years, and I’ve gotten to know him especially well since he joined our team,” Hutchinson said in a statement. “He has a deep and abiding passion for Arkansas. He’s written about more people, places and events in this state than I can count, and he understands how important parks and tourism are to Arkansans and its economic importance to our state.
“He’s an outstanding communicator, and I’m grateful for the work he’s done as one of my senior advisors. While we’ll miss him in the Governor’s office, I cannot think of a better person to lead our state’s Parks and Tourism Department.”
Webb joined Hutchinson’s staff during the transition in late 2014 and early 2015. As a senior advisor to Governor Hutchinson, Webb has been responsible for the Governor’s written material, served as a communications aide, and worked on special projects such as the transition of the Department of Health’s in-home care program to the private sector.
Webb also was in charge of the search committee for the next executive director of the Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism.
“I’m humbled and honored to have the best job in Arkansas,” Webb said. “I have massive shoes to fill. Richard Davies is a legend. They say you shouldn’t be the guy who follows the guy, so this may be the dumbest thing I’ve ever done. But I’m excited about it.”
Ironically, heading the search committee is how Richard Davies was named director of State Parks many years ago before he eventually became director of Parks and Tourism.
“It’s not a bad way to find out if you really want the job or not,” said Webb, with Davies laughing in agreement.
Members of the Arkansas State Parks, Recreation and Travel Commission spoke favorably of Webb. Commissioner Bill Barnes, owner of Mountain Harbor Resort, said the Webb family and his in-laws have been customers of his establishment since the 1960s.
“We are like most Arkansas families,” said Webb. “We didn’t vacation at Disney World or anything. We went to the Buffalo River and all kinds Arkansas destinations. I love this state.”