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MAD president, COO resigns

Posted on January 31, 2019

Barrow’s departure effective today; Griffin to take over position

By The News-Times Staff 

Austin Barrow, president and chief operating officer of the Murphy Arts District, is leaving his position, effective today.

Barrow’s departure was announced in a news release Wednesday afternoon. Barrow had been with El Dorado Festivals and Events, Inc., the organization behind MAD, since it began in 2011. The release noted that Barrow was a key individual in the organization’s founding, being recruited to return to his hometown of El Dorado to spearhead what would become the Murphy Arts District.

“El Dorado Festivals and Events is sad to say goodbye to Austin, EFEI’s first employee and one of our founders. He is a visionary who understood the potential of arts and entertainment to positively impact the economic vitality of El Dorado,” district CEO Terry Stewart said in the release. “Austin was instrumental in the conception of the project, as well as leading the organization during the construction phase of MAD. He has tirelessly carried our message at the state and city levels, and to our many members, donors and other supporters.”

According to the release, Barrow has decided to return to his original passion of performing arts. Before joining MAD, he worked in acting, film production and performing arts in Los Angeles, and taught theater at the college level. The release noted that Barrow will be involved in several performing arts projects around the country, including in the El Dorado area.

“We will miss him, but I am also happy that he will be pursuing his dreams,” Stewart said. “Austin and his family are staying in El Dorado and he has agreed to consult on various EFEI projects as needed.”

With Barrow’s departure, the release announced that Pam Griffin, current chief financial officer, will take over the position of president and COO. Griffin, another South Arkansas native, is noted in the release as a key player in the formation of El Dorado Festivals and Events since she joined the organization four years ago.

Griffin previously served as chair of the El Dorado-Union County Chamber of Commerce, as well as a board member at the South Arkansas Arts Center and Turning Point. She previously worked as controller with AmerCable, now known as Nexans AmerCable.

“We are so lucky to have such a knowledgeable, experienced executive as a member of our team who can step in and take over the COO position,” Stewart said in the release. “Pam’s background of many years in finance and senior management is a perfect blend for her new responsibilities.”

When asked by the News-Times who would take over Griffin’s duties as CFO, Chief Marketing Officer Bob Tarren said those would “transition to her staff.”

“We have someone inhouse who is ready now for the majority of those duties and is surrounded by a great accounting department staff,” Tarren said in an email. “We have been preparing for the smoothest transition possible.”

In the release, Barrow called the last eight years spent back in his hometown “an amazingly rewarding period of my life,” and promised to look back with pride and respect on the creation of MAD.

“I could never have imagined that so much could be accomplished when we started on day one and I am genuinely excited to see where the years to come take the district and the community as a whole,” Barrow said. “Our past successes and imminent future accomplishments are reasons why I feel satisfied with stepping down as President and COO of the organization to continue to pursue my personal artistic goals. Regardless of my course change, my family and I are firmly ‘El Doradoans’. I’m looking forward to getting back to coaching teams and being the father and husband I’ve always wanted to be.”

Barrow also said he has promised to assist Griffin and the organization whenever called upon and noted that he looks forward to experiencing MAD programming in the future as a patron.

“Having been a part of creating such a fun environment for our community, coming to the district to join the party will be a happy moment for my entire family,” Barrow said. “I look forward to having a good time with each of you as the district continues to grow and attain new heights in the coming seasons.”

Griffin said she is excited to take on a new position as MAD continues to grow and looks toward the future.

“We have some great plans for the continued evolution of MAD and El Dorado as a Southern Arkansas cultural destination,” she said in the release. “With just over a year of operating under our belt, we’ve seen a significant increase in tourism interest, sales tax receipts for the city, and hotel occupancy. All of these indicators are pointing to a more economically healthy and vibrant El Dorado.”

Tarren did not respond to questions about what Griffin’s new salary would be.