- Associated Press - Tuesday, December 9, 2014

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) - Gov.-elect Asa Hutchinson announced Tuesday he won’t keep the current head of the Arkansas Department of Workforce Services, an agency that’s a key part of a jobs training system Hutchinson has vowed to overhaul.

A spokesman for the incoming Republican governor confirmed that he planned to replace Director Artee Williams when he takes office next month.

“I appreciate the years of service that Artee Williams has provided as Arkansas Workforce Services director and am grateful for his work during the transition,” Hutchinson said in a prepared statement. “I look forward to building upon the leadership that Artee established.”

In a news release earlier Tuesday, Williams said Hutchinson told him last week he planned to hire a new director for the department, which administrates the state’s unemployment benefits and assistance.

Williams was appointed by Republican Gov. Mike Huckabee in 2004 and reappointed by Democratic Gov. Mike Beebe in 2007.

During Williams’ time heading the department, DWS began locating workforce centers on two-year college campuses to help job seekers and several certification programs to demonstrate workers’ readiness in basic skills.

The department also had to borrow a large sum of money from the federal government to pay for unemployment benefits. Beebe announced earlier this year that debt, which had reached nearly $360 million in 2011, had been paid off. The debt was reduced through a compromise between labor and business groups that called for a reduction in tax credits for companies and stricter eligibility requirements for receiving benefits.

Hutchinson, who ran for office promising to be the “jobs governor,” proposed earlier this year changing Arkansas’ workforce training system, calling for the creation of eight councils around the state that would guide how funding for the program is distributed.

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Follow Andrew DeMillo on Twitter at www.twitter.com/ademillo


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