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Ben Ellis retired last week as director of Missouri State Parks, according to the Missouri Department of Natural Resources.

Ellis's retirement was effective Nov. 15, and Mike Sutherland will serve as acting director during the transition, DNR spokeswoman Connie Patterson said in an emailed statement Tuesday.

Sutherland is deputy director for the Division of State Parks, which is part of DNR and administers the state's parks and historic sites.

Patterson said there had not been a news release distributed announcing Ellis's retirement because that has not been the practice for such changes for the past several years.

Ellis sent a brief internal announcement of his retirement to State Parks staff and other DNR leadership Nov. 4.

After announcing his upcoming retirement, Ellis emailed: "It has been an honor to work with each of you. You are an amazing talented and dedicated staff. All the very best!"

DNR's acting director, Dru Buntin, said in a Nov. 4 email to all DNR department staff: "I hope you will join me in thanking Ben for his service. He has worked to improve communication with our external stakeholders and provided effective leadership during a time of difficult transition for the Department and Division. We appreciate Ben's focus on our natural resource, cultural resource, and maintenance and repair initiatives, as well as his focus on outreach and engagement to make state parks accessible to everyone."

DNR division directors are agency-level decisions, not appointed or subject to legislative confirmation, Patterson said.

"While we cannot speculate on the path forward at this time, I can say this change does not impact, change or delay anything related to Missouri's state park system," Patterson said.

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