Published: January 8, 2019

Arkansas Scholarship Lottery division subject of study; sales chief leaves post for new job

Arkansas Scholarship Lottery officials are going to study possible changes to its 22-employee sales division after the departure of the agency's sales director, lottery Director Bishop Woosley said Monday.

Mitch Chandler started work Dec. 31 as director of executive communications at the Arkansas Economic Development Commission. His last day at the lottery was Dec. 28, said Scott Hardin, a spokesman for the state Department of Finance and Administration, under which the lottery operates.

Chandler will oversee public relations activities for the commission and make the same $109,588.34-a-year salary that he was paid at the lottery, said Brandi Hinkle, director of communications at the commission. The new position was not advertised, "as that was not required," she said.

Woosley waived the requirement for Chandler to have a bachelor's degree when he hired him starting June 30, 2015.

Chandler's new job at the commission also requires a bachelor's degree, "but like most state jobs, experience can be substituted," Hinkle said.

Chandler worked as communications director for current finance agency Director Larry Walther from 2003-07 when Walther was director of what was then called the Arkansas Department of Economic Development. In a July 2015 interview, Walther said that his predecessor as economic development director, Jim Pickens, hired Chandler. Walther succeeded Pickens in December 2003. Walther had said he was "part of the reason" that Chandler was hired to be the lottery's sales director and he called Chandler "very competent."

Among other things, Chandler also has worked in positions at KATV, Channel 7; Cranford Johnson Robinson Woods public relations firm; and Little Rock Regional Chamber of Commerce.

Woosley said, "Mitch was offered an opportunity at ADEC that interested him and he took it.

"He has worked in that agency in the past and wanted to return there," Woosley said in a written statement. "We enjoyed great progress in the sales division under his watch, including a record number of retailers and robust sales. He will be missed."

Asked how Chandler's replacement will be chosen and whether the position will be advertised, Woosley said, "The sales division has had its current structure since startup" of the lottery in 2009.

"We are going to take some time to look at the structure and how we operate and determine whether there are places we can improve efficiencies or the structure," he said.

"Once that is done, we will make a decision on how to proceed," Woosley said.

According to its reports, the lottery had 66 employees at the end of November -- a dip from 74 on Feb. 28, 2015, a few days after Gov. Asa Hutchinson's administration assumed control of the lottery when the governor signed a law abolishing the independent nine-member lottery commission and placing the lottery under the finance department.

In fiscal 2018 that ended June 30, the lottery collected a record $500.4 million in revenue and raised $91.9 million for scholarships. The latter was the third-largest amount ever for the lottery that started selling tickets on Sept. 28, 2009.

The lottery's number of retailers has increased from 1,899 on June 30, 2015, to 1,928 at the end of last November, according to the latest lottery reports. The lottery has helped finance more than 30,000 Arkansas Academic Challenge Scholarships a year during the past eight fiscal years.

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