AUGUSTA, Maine — News was spreading like wildfire this week on Maine sportsmen’s blogs that Gov. Paul LePage had forced Maine Warden Service spokeswoman Edith Smith to resign.
Smith confirmed Friday that she had resigned. She was also director of information and education for the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife.
In her cellphone message, Smith said that as of Dec. 19 she was out of the office, and her employment at the department would end Friday, Dec. 30.
On Friday, she declined to say whether LePage ended her employment, which began nine months ago in late March. Inland Fisheries Commissioner Chandler Woodcock appointed her to the position. She also worked for Deputy Commissioner Andrea Erskine.
“I’m disappointed, because I’m very proud of my staff and my work,” Smith said.
“A lot of the credit goes to the people in my department, but it’s been a joy working with them,” she said. “I have the highest respect for Chandler and Andrea. They are fantastic and it’s just been a pleasure working for them.”
She said, “It is up to the governor who is in that position [of information and education director], but I think everybody who’s watched me the last nine months knows that I have a very strong work ethic and I’m very proud of it.
“But also, in the same breath, I do want to say that a lot of it goes to my staff. They are a very hardworking bunch and I’m going to miss them terribly.”
Smith’s outspoken brother, George Smith, former executive director of the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine, blogged Wednesday, “Word is spreading that Gov. Paul LePage has forced my sister, Edie Smith, out of her position.”
Rather than expound on that, he touted her accomplishments. Contacted Friday in Mount Vernon, George Smith declined to comment on the situation, preferring to let his blog speak for itself.
Calls Friday to Inland Fisheries, Woodcock’s office and LePage’s office were not returned. An employee answering the phone in Edith Smith’s office declined to comment and directed calls to Woodcock.
Smith said she believed the department would issue a statement, possibly on Tuesday.
Smith’s counterpart, department and Warden Service spokesman Travis Barrett, also has resigned as of Dec. 30 to take a job in the Carolinas, she said.
Barrett, a former outdoor writer for the Kennebec Journal and Waterville Morning Sentinel, could not be reached for comment on Friday.
Smith said Barrett had planned to leave by year’s end, and prior to herself resigning, she was interviewing applicants for his position.
Smith said she would resume work as a consultant for her longtime corporation, Maine Directions Inc., a political and public relations company.
“I was very honored when Chandler called me [in March] and asked me,” she said. “I didn’t look for this position. Chandler asked me to do it and I was thrilled to do so. ”
Before taking the department job, Smith, a Republican since the age of 18, was Republican gubernatorial candidate Les Otten’s campaign manager.
Otten, founder of American Skiing Co. and a former Boston Red Sox co-owner, lost the Republican Party primary to LePage in 2010.
Smith also managed the 2004 campaign against the Maine Bear Hunting Ban Initiative, which sought to make hunting bears with bait, traps or dogs a crime, except to protect property, public safety or for research.
“One of my proudest moments was winning that campaign in 2004, championing the bear hunt and making sure that question didn’t pass,” she said. “Because if that question had passed, bear hunting would have come to a screeching halt.”
The departure of Smith and Barrett leaves the department and wardens without a spokesperson. An acting spokesperson had yet to be appointed, Smith said.
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