Joe David Rice serves as Arkansas's Tourism Director, a position he's held since May of 1987. He and his team of 65 employees have two major responsibilities: enhancing the image of Arkansas and enticing more visitors to the state.
Prior to his transfer to the Tourism Division, Rice was employed by the Arkansas State Parks system where he worked on the Arkansas Wilderness Act of 1983, the Cossatot River State Park and Natural Area, and the Arkansas Natural and Cultural Resources Trust Fund. He wrote the Department's award-winning community park handbook, edited its festival manual, and produced the "Arkansas Floater's Kit." In addition, Rice was a partner in a canoe outfitting service on the Buffalo National River.
Rice, who was born in Paragould and raised in Jonesboro, graduated from the University of Arkansas in 1974. He also obtained a Master's degree – with an emphasis in environmental planning – from the University of Illinois. He's received commendations from both the National Recreation & Parks Association and the National Park Service for his work, and was recognized by then Governor Bill Clinton as an "outstanding state employee." He headed up Arkansas's delegation to the 1995 White House Conference on Travel and Tourism.
In 2003 he was selected by his peers as the country's State Tourism Director of the Year. He recently served two terms as Chair of the National Council of State Tourism Directors. In 2008, Rice was inducted into the Arkansas Hospitality Association Hall of Fame and is a long-time board member of the both AHA and Travel South USA. In addition, Rice is a former board member of the US Travel Association.