Gov. Sarah Sanders announced late Friday (June 2) that Parks, Heritage and Tourism Secretary Mike Mills would be stepping away from her administration. In the interim, Shea Lewis, director of Arkansas State Parks, would serve in Mills’ role until a replacement is named.
“Arkansas is the Natural State, and with his strong record of leadership in Arkansas parks and tourism, Shea Lewis is perfectly equipped to step seamlessly into this new role and continue our work to grow our outdoor economy and make Arkansas an unparalleled place to live, work, and raise a family,” Sanders said. “I thank Secretary Mills for his service to this administration and years of work as a pioneer in Arkansas’ tourism industry.”
Mills did not release a statement on his departure. He was announced for the Secretary of Parks, Heritage and Tourism role in December, the second high-profile cabinet secretary Sanders named.
Mills is the founder and owner of Buffalo Outdoor Center (BOC) near Ponca. It was Arkansas’ first log cabin resort. His work in the tourism sector spanned more than 48 years. He served 40 years on the Tourism Development Foundation, 39 years on the Arkansas Travel Council, 28 years on the Board of America Outdoors Association, and 25 years on the Ozark Mountain Region Tourism Association.
Lewis was selected as the 10th director of Arkansas State Parks in 2022. In that role, he was responsible for the day-to-day operation of 52 state parks, covering 55,000 acres across the state.
Lewis started his career with Arkansas State Parks as a seasonal park interpreter in 1995. With nearly three decades under his belt, he has also served as a full-time interpreter, park superintendent, region supervisor, and deputy director for Arkansas State Parks.
He received a bachelor’s degree in parks, recreation, and leisure studies from the University of Memphis and a master’s degree in educational/instructional media design from the University of Arkansas at Little Rock.
A day earlier, another high level state tourism official announced he was leaving his post. Arkansas Tourism Director Travis Napper said he would depart from his job on June 23 to be director of Destination Partnerships for Oxford, England-based Oxford Economics. He is leaving after more than three years of helping manage the state’s leisure and hospitality sector survive and pull through a global pandemic.