Steele's past management experience includes being director of the state Martin Luther King Commission, roiled in turmoil during much of his tenure.
He has no direct experience providing education and rehabilitation services on a large-scale basis to youth, but he's led the STAND Foundation, which has provided leadership training programs to youth. We've written before about STAND, a nonprofit for which Steele raised money from corporate sources while a legislator and which has paid him a salary through the years. He's also led a publishing company that produced periodicals aimed at the African-American market. DHS notes that Steele also chaired legislative committees in which Youth Services matters were heard.
Ron Angel retired as DYS director after six years in the job effective June 1.
Department spokeswoman Amy Webb said Steele would be paid $100,077. She also responded to my questions about specific aspsects of Steele's career that recommended him for the work:
There were a number of characteristics that Director Selig was looking for in a new DYS director: knowledge of the juvenile justice system and the issues DYS has faced and overcome, strong leadership skills, knowledge of state government and an ability to work with legislators, judges and providers as we continue to improve the system. Tracy had all of those.
Steele is a Democrat. I'll note, before a reader does, that added years and salary contribute to the formula by which future retirement benefits for former public employees, including legislators, are figured. He is not the first former legislator to find his way into a state agency job. Nor is he likely to be the last. It is a bipartisan practice, too.
The DHS news release on the appointment follows.
The Arkansas Department of Human Services (DHS) has chosen Tracy Steele, who has years of experience working on behalf of children, as the new Director of the Division of Youth Services (DYS).
As the former chair of both the Senate and House committees that oversee DYS activities, Steele is familiar with DYS’s mission as well as the challenges and successes the division has had over the years. In addition to his legislative experience, he has led the Martin Luther King, Jr. Commission and The STAND Foundation, each of which has a focus on serving underprivileged youth.
DYS oversees a system of programs, both community and facility-based, designed to address the needs of youth who come into contact with the juvenile justice system. It is responsible for eight facilities and contracts with a number of community programs across the state.
“Tracy’s familiarity with DYS and his passion for working with Arkansas youth make him a great fit for the director position,” said DHS Director John Selig. “He also has the support of the provider community and the ability to work with legislators from both sides of the aisle, which will be needed as we continue our work to improve the juvenile justice system.”
Selig said Steele’s extensive leadership experience and knowledge of state government also played a role in
his selection. Steele began his career with the state in 1987 coordinating then Gov. Bill Clinton’s rural development program. He worked for Clinton and later Gov. Jim Guy Tucker until 1994 when he became the executive director of the Martin Luther King Jr. Commission. Steele left after more than a decade at the helm of the Commission to serve as the chief executive officer of The STAND Foundation.
Steele earned his Bachelor of Arts in Political Science degree from Rice University in 1985. He also completed Duke University’s Strategic Leadership for State Executives training in 1995, which focuses on a broad range of needed management skills.
“I am thankful for this opportunity to carry on the work that has been done to make this division a nationally-recognized juvenile justice program,” Steele said. “I will bring an unwavering degree of dedication to support our young people and the families this division serves.”
Steele will start his new role on Aug. 5.