Maine Senate confirms marine resources commissioner

Posted Jan. 26, 2012, at 12:07 p.m.
Last modified Jan. 26, 2012, at 2:21 p.m.

AUGUSTA, Maine — The Maine Senate on Thursday unanimously confirmed Patrick Keliher as the new commissioner for the Department of Marine Resources.

Gov. Paul LePage nominated Keliher to the post earlier this month about six months after his original DMR commissioner abruptly resigned.

Keliher, who was approved by the Legislature’s Marine Resources Committee earlier this week, has been the department’s deputy commissioner and director of the Bureau of Sea Run Fisheries and Habitat since 2007.

He also has been the acting commissioner since July, when former DMR head Norman Olsen stepped down, citing policy conflicts with the governor.

“Pat has gone above and beyond demonstrating his ability to serve as commissioner,” LePage said in his nomination statement. “He has worked to reorganize the department, focusing on areas that have the biggest economic benefit to the state. Keliher has demonstrated his ability to work with the fishing industry on contentious issues, balancing our need to create and sustain jobs while protecting Maine’s numerous marine resources. I am confident that he will continue to serve Maine people well.”

A handful of senators spoke Thursday, praising Keliher’s leadership during his interim tenure and concluding that he was the best person for the post.

“During the Marine Resources Committee’s confirmation hearings, acting commissioner Keliher was asked a wide variety of questions … and answered and addressed each question with knowledge and honesty,” said Sen. Lois Snowe-Mello, R-Poland, chair of the Marine Resource Committee. “It was clear from his responses that Mr. Keliher has a passion for Marine Resource issues.”

Added Sen. Brian Langley, R-Ellsworth, also a member of the Marine Resource Committee: “I’ve seen Pat Keliher work effectively with the fishermen on the docks as well as with the suits in Washington, D.C. That set of skills is very hard to come by and Patrick has them.”

Before joining DMR, Keliher was executive director of the Atlantic Salmon Commission and executive director of the New England States of the Coastal Conservation Association, Greater New England.

“I am honored to be selected by Gov. LePage to be the next commissioner of marine resources,” Keliher said in a statement earlier this month. “We have many challenges facing our coastal communities — it is imperative that our long-term management plans take into account the sustainability of the resources and also the people who depend on these resources for their livelihood.”

Olsen, who was picked by LePage and confirmed by the Senate early last year, clashed with some members of the state’s fishing community over policy issues right out of the gate. He said his critics were successful in turning the governor against him.

At the time, LePage said he was shocked by Olsen’s sudden resignation but the governor disagreed with his characterization of their relationship.

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