State Fair Director Jackie Nokes' job is "not in jeopardy," but the State Fairpark Task Force is still gathering data, and the group's ultimate findings could alter the way future fairs and fair interim rental services operate in the future, a state official said Friday.
Joe Jenkins, executive director, Utah Department of Community and Economic Development, told the Deseret News that Nokes, who has been director of the Division of Expositions since July 1, 1987, has done a "wonderful job. She has brought the fair from ground zero. The fair has been significantly better because Jackie Nokes has been out there."Nokes has been back at her post since Aug. 29, but before that was asked to take three weeks paid administrative leave beginning July 28. Nokes requested an additional week because she said she was expecting family members from out of town. Also, her elderly mother has been in failing health.
Nokes said last month that she was against taking the leave time so close to the time of the fair opening. She said she didn't need the time away from the fair. The administrative time off was given, officials said, because they were concerned that Nokes was under too much stress related to task force studies. When Nokes was given the directive, it raised concerns among some other expositions division employees, who wondered how the department's action might ultimately affect their own employment.
In a recent newspaper story, a statement attributed to Jenkins was made that there might be a change in the fair administration.
Jenkins said Friday he did not intend to give the impression that Nokes, a State Merit System exempt employee, might not be retained as the fair director. However, Jenkins said the task force is "still gathering data. Hopefully, the task force will finish its work by the end of October or (early) November and will visit with the (State) Fair Board." Also, the task force will receive reports on visits of individual task force members to fairs in other states, he said.
Part of the task force recommendations will be on how the Utah State Fair ought to operate, Jenkins said.
"If some of the recommendations are to operate the (Utah State Fair) way other fairs are operated, then we may take a look at changing our operation. The task force has to evaluate all the data. I have no idea what it will recommend," Jenkins said.