Former Miss. Fair Commission director, convicted felon tapped to serve as interim parks director
JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - A former Mississippi Fair Commission director convicted of promoting prostitution will head up Jackson’s Parks and Recreation Department, at least temporarily.
On Monday, Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba announced that Steve Hutton would serve as interim director while a nationwide search to fill the position is conducted.
Lumumba touted Hutton’s efforts at the Pete Brown Golf Course, as well as his previous work with the Sanderson Farms Championships and his time with the fair.
“It has made huge leaps in recent years. In fact, they nearly doubled the revenue they had at Pete Brown,” he said. “The course saw significant improvements in terms of the quality of the greens. They were, instead of just maintaining, able to pursue new things at that golf course.”
Despite his successes with the city, Lumumba did not gloss over Hutton’s criminal record.
“I believe it is important that when someone pays their debt, that we give them an opportunity,” he said. “The city of Jackson, some time ago, decided that we would ban the box, and what ban the box meant is that on applications, we would not ask if people had prior criminal convictions unless it was relevant to the job that they served in.”
“And if we believe that we can ban the box for people who work in lower levels of our employment, then certainly it would be hypocritical of us to say that we cannot allow people to work in the areas of their expertise if it were in directorships and so on, and so forth.”
In 2021, Hutton, the former executive director of the Mississippi Fair Commission, pleaded guilty to promoting prostitution. He was ordered to serve 10 years in the custody of the Mississippi Department of Corrections, with the last seven years to be suspended. He was placed in custody of MDOC for one year, and following that year, was under the department’s Intensive Supervision Program.
The mayor said he had spoken with Hutton about his conviction, and about Hutton’s desire to continue to work and to give to the community.
“While many people have shared his mugshot, no one, or very few people actually asked the question, ‘Was he capable of achieving the job?’” Lumumba said. “Having worked for the city before, having been instrumental in the improvements at the Pete Brown Golf Course, having been instrumental in several improvements at the state fairgrounds, I thought it was imperative that we brought someone in who could provide the level of service, the level of quality that our residents deserve in our parks.”
Hutton replaces Parks Director Ison Harris, who resigned last week. Harris was the second department head to resign in September. Khalid Woods, the mayor’s pick for public works director, resigned the for second time on September 4.
City Engineer Robert Lee, who has been with the city for 20 years, will again serve as interim director until the position is filled.
“We do have a few more candidates that have been presented to us, and so we’ll take our time going through that,” Lumumba said. “As always, we want to thank Mr. Lee for his willingness to stand in to keep the department together.”
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