The executive team includes Grobmyer as chief of staff, Sowers as chief of communications
(LITTLE ROCK) – Mike Mills today begins his tenure as secretary of the Arkansas Department of Parks, Heritage and Tourism. He replaces Stacy Hurst as secretary of the department. Mills is the founder and owner of the Buffalo Outdoor Center in Ponca and served as Arkansas’s director of tourism from 1982 to 1986. He was inducted into the Arkansas Tourism Hall of Fame in 2018.
“I am energized to begin work as the secretary of the Department,” said Mike Mills, secretary of the Arkansas Department of Parks, Heritage and Tourism. “Arkansas is such a gem – from the natural beauty and recreational opportunities to the vibrant stories that make up our shared heritage – our state is a hidden treasure. I’m ready to take the Department to a higher level and spread the word about the value of our natural state.”
Mills has served 40 years on the Tourism Development Foundation, 39 years on the Arkansas Travel Council, 28 years on the board of the America Outdoors Association, and 25 years on the Ozark Mountain Region Tourism Association. He started the program Partners in Tourism, was a founding member of Arkansas Resorts, and was a charter member of Arkansas Scenic Highway 7 and Arkansas Scenic Rivers Commission. He spent 18 years on the Arkansas Parks, Recreation, and Travel Commission.
Suzanne Grobmyer, former executive director of the Arkansas Parks and Recreation Foundation, serves as chief of staff for the department. As executive director of the Parks and Recreation Foundation, she was responsible for strategy, communications, operations, and philanthropic efforts. Prior to her work with the Arkansas Parks and Recreation Foundation, Grobmyer served as director of major gifts for the CHI St. Vincent Foundation. She was responsible for the development and construction of the Monument Trails within Arkansas State Parks.
“I am honored to be named as chief of staff for the Department because of my deep passion for our state,” said Suzanne Grobmyer, chief of staff for the Arkansas Department of Parks, Heritage and Tourism. “I am excited to help grow opportunities to cultivate and share our natural and cultural heritage.”
Shealyn Sowers served as director of communications and spokesperson for Gov. Asa Hutchinson from June 2021 until the end of his term. She grew up in Clinton and graduated from Clinton High School, earning a bachelor’s degree in accounting from Ouachita Baptist University and a broadcast journalism degree from the University of Central Arkansas. Sowers started as an associate producer at KARK in 2012 and worked her way up to produce every newscast. In 2019, she was promoted to executive producer and producer of KARK’s political show “Capitol View.” Sowers won an Emmy for best newscast and an Edward R. Murrow award for the station’s coverage of the 2014 tornado that struck Mayflower and Vilonia. In 2018, she was awarded an Emmy for best producer.
“I am excited to serve my beautiful home state in this new role,” Sowers said. “As chief of communications for ADPHT, I’m excited to market the state’s beautiful parks and rich heritage, collaborate with our tourism industry partners, and grow the outdoor recreation economy as we continue to elevate Arkansas as a prime vacation destination. I’m grateful for the opportunity to continue to promote how amazing Arkansas is nationwide.”
Other new hires include Marty Rydall as director of legislative affairs and Daniel Faulkner as general counsel.