At public hearings and advisory council meetings and moose lotteries held over the past two decades, Andrea Erskine went about her business in her typical, understated way.
Officially the “assistant to the commissioner” of the Department of Inland Fisheries & Wildlife, Erskine was actually much more than that, and it didn’t take long for alert observers to begin noticing the essential role the soft-spoken woman played in the day-to-day management of the department.
On Tuesday, Erskine was sworn in as the deputy commissioner of the DIF&W, the second-ranking official at the department. She became the first woman in the department’s 130-year history to hold that post.
It’s about time.
Time for a woman? Sure, if you choose to define this milestone in those terms. Time for Erskine to be recognized, officially, with a major promotion? Absolutely.
Andrea Erskine is one of those state employees who, while easy to overlook, is impossible to ignore. As DIF&W commissioners arrived and left as new administrations took office, Erskine remained. And at hearings and meetings covering any combination of fish and wildlife issues, when commissioners ended up stuck for an answer on a question that they had not anticipated, they often paused, looked for that familiar face, and asked for her input.
Erskine was always there.
In a department where the top four administrators — commissioner, deputy commissioner, chief warden and director of information and education — are all political appointments, Erskine was the one who toiled behind the scenes, making sure things got done.
She is a DIF&W lifer who listened, learned, paid her dues and possessed the institutional knowledge that proved essential on a daily basis.
Erskine knew what had been tried before and how it had panned out. She knew the issues inside and out. She knew how to run a moose lottery, how to facilitate a public hearing and how to provide vital information to the public and to the commissioners she served.
Now Erskine is the deputy commissioner and will help chart the course of the DIF&W in coming years.
That’s a very, very good thing.
Wilkinson, Smith get top posts
While Erskine’s appointment garnered much of the attention, the DIF&W commissioner also appointed two others to management positions on Monday.
One came as no surprise: Col. Joel Wilkinson will remain in his position as chief warden of the Maine Warden Service. Wilkinson has been a Maine game warden since 1992 and has held the service’s top post since 2008.
Wilkinson has twice been named the winner of the William Twarog Award, a departmental honor for the top manager in honor of exemplary service in the protection of the state’s fish and wildlife resources.
Also appointed to a top-level post was Edie Smith of Winthrop, a longtime political insider who played a key role as manager of the campaign that eventually defeated a 2004 referendum that sought to eliminate bear hunting over bait, with hounds and by trapping. Smith will serve as the director of the DIF&W’s information and education division.
Smith is the sister of George Smith, the former executive director of the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine.
MYFGA holding annual banquet
For several years eastern Maine youngsters have flocked to Maine’s Youth Fish & Game Association’s clubhouse on Pickerel Pond for a variety of outdoor-related activities.
Now it’s time for supporters of the MYFGA to step forward (again) and show their appreciation for the group’s efforts.
On April 9 the MYFGA will hold its annual benefit dinner and auction at the Old Town Elks Club. A preview of auction items begins at 4:30 p.m., dinner will be served from 5 to 7 p.m., and a live auction will be held at 7 p.m..
Admission is free for kids under 5, $3 for those 5-15 and $5 for adults.
To donate an item for the auction, call Travis Roy at 852-5069 or Ed LeBlanc at 385-5506.
Bass class begins tonight
Those who’ve always wanted to learn more about bass fishing will have the chance to do just that over the coming weeks as Bangor Adult Education is again offering its popular evening class.
Ken Hoehlein, a competitive bass angler, will return to teach the class and will supplement his lessons with appearances by biologists and other experts.
The class begins Thursday, March 24. Sessions run from 6 to 8:30 p.m. for seven consecutive weeks.
To register or find out more, call Bangor Adult Education at 992-5522 or Hoehlein at 667-0061.