by Max Brantley
Just last week, he survived a lengthy executive session over two days with commissioners and vowed afterwards to improve his communications with staff. Commission Chairman George Dunklin described Hitchcock's survival of the session as a vote of confidence, but perhaps it wasn't. Hitchcock said after last week's meetings he was not looking to retire. He had persistent critics on the commission and in the public, where a variety of initiatives have been discussed about amending the constitution to change Game and Fish powers.
He was chosen in January 2011 on a 4-3 vote.
The news release:
Arkansas Game and Fish Commission Director Loren Hitchcock today announced his retirement effective June 30. Hitchcock, who began his career with the AGFC in 1985, has served as director since January 2011. Before that, Hitchcock had served as the interim director.
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.
Hitchcock said it has been an honor to work with and for so many great people throughout his career. “This agency by far has the most dedicated staff ever assembled in state government. My sincere ‘thank you’ to the scores of past Commissioners, Gov. Mike Beebe and past governors, legislative leaders, co-workers and everyone that I have come into contact and worked with,” he said. “Moreover, my gratitude goes out to our current Commissioners for the guidance and wisdom they’ve given me,” he added.
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 to the state of Arkansas, 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.
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.