LePage announces three Cabinet choices

Posted Jan. 07, 2011, at 11:04 a.m.
Last modified Jan. 07, 2011, at 8:52 p.m.

AUGUSTA, Maine — Gov. Paul LePage on Friday continued hammering themes he has voiced since he started running for governor more than a year ago, with the nomination of three members of his Cabinet.

Though the Department of Environmental Protection, the Department of Marine Resources and the Department of Economic and Community Development serve vastly different purposes in Maine, LePage said they all have an influential hand in improving Maine’s business climate and creating jobs.

LePage expects the DEP to drastically shorten its permitting processes, DMR to help the state’s fishing industry vertically integrate so Maine’s catch isn’t sent out of state for processing, and DECD to become an aggressive advocate for businesses seeking to locate or expand in Maine.

“The Department of Economic and Community Development is going to become one of the most active agencies in the state,” LePage said. “They’re going to be the catalyst to help businesses through the maze of regulations and burden in this state.”

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For the Department of Environmental Protection, LePage chose Darryl N. Brown of Livermore Falls, founder and president of Main-Land Development Consultants Inc., which has been in business since 1972. Brown, who served in the Maine House of Representatives from 1978 to 1986, is a member of numerous boards and organizations in Maine. He holds a bachelor’s degree in soil science and a master’s in agronomy, both from the University of Maine.

“My goal is to cut the project approval time [in the DEP] in half,” said Brown. “I am absolutely convinced it can happen.”

LePage said the DEP was the most often cited problem voiced by business owners during a series of Red Tape Audit sessions being held all over Maine.

To lead the Department of Marine Resources, LePage has nominated Norman H. Olsen of Cherryfield, a fourth-generation fisherman who has held numerous state, national and international posts ranging from the New England Fishery Management Council to associate coordinator for counter-terrorism for the U.S. State Department.

Olsen’s involvement with oceans stretches back to being the owner-operator of a lobster boat in the 1970s and specializing in fisheries and waterfront news as a reporter for the Portland Press Herald from 1976 to 1978. He is also a past executive director of the Maine Fishermen’s Cooperative Association. Olsen echoed LePage’s goal of enhancing the seafood industry in Maine by encouraging the creation of seafood processors in Maine that can turn fishermen’s catches into what are known as value-added products. An example of that would be raw lobsters incorporated into lobster stew.

Asked by reporters what role government can play in creating processing facilities when Maine competes against places such as Canada, where operations are subsidized by the government, LePage said the first step is reducing tax, health care and energy costs. Asked specifically whether he favors government subsidies for this project, LePage said he might be in the “long term.”

“In the short term, we’ve got to plug a lot of deficits,” he said. “As we build our tax base, we’re going to keep the jobs we create.”

LePage nominated Philip A. Congdon of Round Pond to lead the Department of Economic and Community Development. Congdon is a licensed engineer with more than four decades of experience in business management, acquisitions and product development. Congdon’s resume stretches from Raytheon to Texas Instruments.

Congdon said DECD should be a catalyst for economic development in Maine by pulling businesses through the permitting and regulatory process while protecting Maine’s environment and identity.

“I think I’m going to have one heck of a job to do,” he said.

LePage’s Cabinet choices are subject to approval by the Maine Senate.

The accusatory words and tone sometimes used by LePage during the gubernatorial campaign were continued Friday as LePage announced his nominations. He was particularly harsh toward the Department of Environmental Protection.

“We’re very slow,” said LePage of the DEP. “I will accuse the department of being deliberately slow in giving answers.”

LePage also criticized the Land Use Regulation Commission — which was a frequent recipient of his ire during the campaign for its slow movement in approving the Plum Creek development near Moosehead Lake — by saying it was obvious that the development was good for Maine from the beginning.

For two key staff appointments, LePage named Steve Bowen, a former legislator and employee of the Maine Heritage Policy Center, as a senior adviser; and Mary Mayhew, former spokeswoman for the Maine Hospital Association — who LePage quipped brings “youth and beauty” to the administration — as his senior adviser on health care issues.

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