Craig Campbell closes his AGFC term of major change

From the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission:

LITTLE ROCK – If you had to summarize Craig Campbell's term as an Arkansas Game and Fish Commission commissioner in a word, it would be "change."

Campbell points that out in looking back over his nearly five years on the Commission, the last year as its chairman. He also quickly explains, "The Commission made these changes. The Commission."

Campbell was appointed in 2006 by then Gov. Mike Huckabee to fill the remaining term of John Benjamin of Glenwood, who had resigned.

For beginners on this change topic, the commissioners with Campbell as chairman last year revamped the way it functions. It went to a system of committees to look over myriad matters brought up before acting on them in the regular monthly meetings. "This is the way the Legislature works, Campbell said "We had seven committees, but we saw a need to change that, and now there are five committees."

A key component of the new system is the Governance Committee, which reviews all AGFC policies, practices and procedures.

A tightening of financial operations took place, highlighted by the creation of an internal auditing system. The Commission collaborated with the Arkansas Department of Finance and Administration to review AGFC fiscal practices to make sure proper internal controls and procedures were in place.

When a furor developed early in 2011 over state-owned vehicles, Gov. Mike Beebe ordered changes for the agencies under his wing. Campbell pushed for the AGFC to follow the governor's initiatives, and the fleet of AGFC vehicles was reduced by 145.

It is not immediately visible to Arkansas's legion of hunters, fishermen and other outdoors people, but the AGFC is in the process of sharply reducing its code book, the manual of regulations used in the field by wildlife officers. It is now 90 pages slimmer. "We had regulations in there that had never, not once, been used by our officers," Campbell said.

This trimming of superfluous policies extended all through the agency, too. Outdated procedures were curtailed.

A major event during Campbell's year as chairman was the search for a new director to replace Scott Henderson, who stepped down to an assistant director position, with his retirement not far off. The search was nationwide, "the most diligent search AGFC has ever conducted," Campbell said. The new director was close at hand. Deputy Director Loren Hitchcock, a veteran with the agency, moved up. "Loren is doing an exceptional job," Campbell commented.

For hunters, milestones came with the raising of the statewide season limit on deer from four to five in 2010 and to six in 2011. This is in keeping with the expanding number of deer across the state. In some areas, they have reached the nuisance level. A doe-only season was created for this fall.

With the continued declining turkey numbers in Arkansas, drastic action was needed. Hunting season was shortened, and the fall turkey season was ended.

Testing of mercury in fishing waters was stepped up in coordination with the Arkansas Department of Health and Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality.

Acting in concert with the Arkansas Legislature, the Commission provided special lifetime licenses for military retirees who are over 60 and residents of Arkansas, and lifetime licenses for totally disabled military veterans who are residents of Arkansas.

During Campbell's chairmanship, the AGFC established off-site and secure storage for all its computer files. It began construction on a regional office at Jonesboro to replace a cramped and hard-to-reach existing office.

Campbell is married to the former Elizabeth Stephens. An enthusiastic hunter and fisherman, he has plans now for more of these activities with his children and friends.

His service as an AGFC commissioner is not the first in his family. Grandfather John Campbell was a commissioner from 1948 to his death in 1954, and brother-in-law Witt Stephens Jr. was a commissioner from 1993 to 2000.