Jonesboro Parks and Recreation director resigns to ‘explore other opportunities’

by George Jared ([email protected]) 697 views 

Jonesboro Parks and Recreation Director Wixson Huffstetler abruptly resigned Monday (Feb. 12) afternoon citing personal reasons. His resignation is effective immediately, Jonesboro Communications Director Bill Campbell told Talk Business & Politics.

Assistant Director Danny Kapales will serve as the interim director.

“I am resigning my position to explore other opportunities,” Huffstetler said in a statement. “I have enjoyed the last eight years building the parks department to what it is today.”

Huffstetler’s resignation was not forced, meaning his personnel file is not a public record, Campbell said. Arkansas’ Freedom of Information Act stipulates that a public employee’s personnel file can become public record only if the employee is fired or is forced to resign.

The 36-year-old had worked for the city for eight years, and spent the last five in the director’s job. His salary was $70,000 per year. Huffstetler came under fire in July 2016 after he sent out controversial Tweets following protests in Memphis.

Protesters overwhelmed the Interstate 40 bridge in Memphis on July 10 following the shooting deaths of civilians by police in several parts of the country. Many of the protesters were black, and traffic along the heavily traveled route was blocked for hours. Some of the protesters took selfies with their camera phones during the protest, and it prompted Huffstetler to send a tweet from his personal account that read: “And, no wonder why they are profiled. #idiots.”

Huffstetler apologized for the tweets, and Mayor Harold Perrin suspended him for two weeks. The city opened an investigation into Huffstetler’s social media use, and determined at the time it was a one-time incident. He was required to attend sensitivity training courses as a condition for keeping his job. Huffstetler’s resignation comes as the department is in the midst of major multi-million projects.

The city will spend $1.1 million on a turf project at Joe Mack Campbell Park. Jonesboro hosts about 30 baseball and softball tournaments during the spring and summer. An estimated 40,000 people come as a result of these tournaments, according to estimates. The turf will allow for tournaments to be held even in inclement weather.

Wixon Huffstetler

At the Southside Softball Complex, the city will spend $850,000 to improve the lighting system, and another $350,000 on a new concession stand.

The city broke ground on a new shooting range and education facility earlier this month. The $8 million to $10 million facility is slated to be completed in 2020. The range will boast nine trap stations and three that can convert into skeet shot stations, Jonesboro Police Chief Rick Elliott said. Each station will cost about $35,000. The building will be about 8,000-square-feet, and will include classrooms, a pro shop, a concession stand, a patio, and other amenities. Several 3-D archery targets will be constructed, and a 50-yard pistol range.

A timetable to find a replacement for Huffstetler has not been established. The position pay scale is from $66,000 to $99,000 per year.