AUGUSTA, Maine — Maine Gov.-elect Paul LePage announced Thursday he’s nominating a state government veteran and a former rival in the race for governor to head agencies that manage state finances and oversee Maine’s parks and public lands. He expressed confidence he’ll complete his Cabinet appointments by year’s end.
LePage, Maine’s first Republican governor since 1995, said Sawin Millett, who has served in key administrative posts under three previous governors, is his nominee for commissioner of the Department of Administration and Financial Services, which manages the state budget, collects taxes, administers lottery and alcohol sales, and oversees Maine’s civil service system.
William Beardsley, 68, a former Husson College president who was one of LePage’s GOP gubernatorial primary opponents, has been picked to head the Department of Conservation, which manages state parks and public lands, the forest service and geological survey. All 15 Cabinet appointees face committee review and Senate confirmation in the GOP-controlled Legislature.
Millett, 73, a great-grandfather who already has served as finance commissioner and was appointed to the top Education Department post 36 years ago, is a state budget expert who sat on the Legislature’s Appropriations Committee and is the chief LePage transition budget adviser.
“He’s an institution in himself,” said LePage. “Without him, I don’t know where we’d be.”
Millett pledged to fashion a state budget for the two years starting in July that reflects LePage’s oft-repeated promises to force state government to operate within its means, pay down debts, find ways to economize and “not spend every nickel we can find.” He said the budget will do that “and do the best we can for the truly needy.”
LePage credited Beardsley for leading Husson College in Bangor over a two-decade span from a small college that was struggling to stay afloat “to a full-blown university.” LePage, a 1971 Husson graduate, praised Beardsley’s diverse background, saying, “You can put him in any position and he’ll thrive.
“In fact, it was hard to keep him out of the governor’s position,” he quipped.
Before serving as Husson president from 1987 to 2009, Beardsley worked in banking, in economic development with Alaska state government, for utilities in Vermont and Maine, and held academic posts in Alaska and Vermont. He has a doctorate in geography and environmental studies from Johns Hopkins University. His family has owned timber lots and operated sawmills in eastern Maine since shortly after the Civil War, his resume says.
While LePage’s appointees are almost assured confirmation given the GOP majority, a Democratic leader voiced mixed sentiments about the latest two.
House Minority Leader Emily Cain of Orono said Millett’s “decades of experience in public finance and dedication to a fair policy process make him the best candidate for the job.” But Cain said Democrats will have a hard time supporting Beardsley because they differ with him on issues of energy development and easing state regulations.
In addition to the Cabinet posts, LePage announced other prominent administrative appointments, including Dan Billings as chief legal counsel, John Butera as senior policy adviser for economic development, and Dan Demeritt as director of communications and legislative affairs.
Billings has served as counsel for the Maine Republican Party and LePage’s transition, Butera has headed the Central Maine Growth Council for nine years, and Demeritt is a former communications director for Maine House Republicans who is widely credited for boosting LePage’s campaign to victory in November.
LePage, who will be inaugurated Jan. 5, said he’s confident he can complete his Cabinet nominations by the end of the year. He already has announced top public safety and security appointments.