The new administrator at Percy Quin State Park took a roundabout path to paradise.
“How many jobs can you have where you wake up every morning in the premier state park in Mississippi?” said Joshua Hinton, 37.
To top things off, Hinton is something of a newlywed, having married Shaunna in November 2019.
Originally from Jones County, Hinton worked in the restaurant business, at a body shop and towing company, for the State Department of Agriculture, at Camp Shelby and the U.S. Census Bureau before applying for a state park position.
He started Oct. 1 at Percy Quin, replacing longtime manager Will Busby, who now works as an officer at the federal courthouse in Natchez and helps out as part-time administrator at Percy Quin, Lake Lincoln and Natchez state parks.
Hinton grew up in the country, helping his grandfather run cattle and fishing in creeks like Tallahala, Bogue Homa and Maynard.
He got a degree in culinary arts and restaurant management from Jones College and worked in the restaurant business for 10 years before getting burned out.
He went to work at a friend’s body shop, which grew into a towing business. Hinton figured that would be short-term but wound up working there for five years.
He put in an application at the Department of Agriculture, which hired him as an inspector. Hinton expected to inspect food-related operations like meat plants due to his culinary background, but the ag department had noticed his tow-truck experience and put him in charge of inspecting heavy trucks.
In 2018 Hinton graduated to the position of fleet and property manager in Jackson, figuring it was time to settle down to a desk job. In the meantime he met Shaunna, a Jackson school teacher, and they got married.
Hinton discovered desk work was not for him, and the couple moved to Ellisville, where he has a house. He hoped to find a job there, but COVID-19 intervened.
“The Good Lord will put you where He wants you to be whether you know it or not,” Hinton said.
Unemployed, he was able to assist in recovery from the April tornado, which did a lot of damage in that area, including destroying his grandmother’s house.
Hinton then took a temporary job at Camp Shelby assisting with National Guard training, followed by a stint with the Census Bureau until COVID cutbacks.
Looking for something permanent, he talked to Andre Hollis, who had recently taken the position of state parks director after serving as longtime administrator of Roosevelt State Park.
Hinton applied at Roosevelt, but the Percy Quin position came open and he went to work here after training at Clarkco State Park.
Hinton is a longtime fan of state parks. He and Shaunna got engaged at one and have visited many across the South.
Pike County is a good place for the couple, as Shaunna is kin to Brumfields and Boyds.
“My wife’s family is from here. She has friends in Baton Rouge. This is just the perfect job. I love being in the outdoors,” Hinton said.
He arrived at a time when the park’s hotel, convention center, group camp and pool are all closed due to COVID.
The day-use areas, pavilions, trail and campgrounds are open, and recent renovations to the RV campground are nearly complete. The cabins and cottages are open on weekends only.
“These state parks are hidden gems,” Hinton said. “Not a lot of people know about all the things we have, and it doesn’t cost a lot.”
Three priorities for parks statewide is to install Wifi, expand camp stores and make the parks more pet-friendly.
In the short-term, there’s a lot of sprucing up to do at Percy Quin — cleaning, painting, and repairing equipment.
“This is my home now,” Hinton said. “I look at it that way, and I’m going to take care of this park like I do my own home. And all the employees feel the same way.”