AUGUSTA, Maine — Maine Labor Commissioner Robert Winglass is stepping down from his post, and Gov. Paul LePage has nominated Winglass’ deputy to take his place.
LePage’s office announced Wednesday that Winglass plans to step down as head of the state Labor Department once lawmakers confirm his replacement. LePage said he plans to nominate Jeanne Paquette to take Winglass’ place.
In a news release, LePage’s office said Winglass, 76, originally committed to serving one to two years as labor commissioner when LePage nominated him. He was sworn in in June 2011.
“The Department of Labor has made significant progress during the past year under his leadership, becoming more efficient and responsive to the needs of our people and businesses,” LePage said in a statement. “I wish him well in his retirement.”
According to LePage’s office, Winglass and his wife recently sold their home in Bath and relocated to their retirement home in Surry.
Winglass, a Massachusetts native, spent much of his career in the U.S. Marine Corps. He retired as a lieutenant general in 1992. Winglass served two terms in the Maine House, from 1995 through 1998, representing Auburn.
Paquette, 53, joined the Department of Labor in July 2011, soon after Winglass, after a career in the human resources field.
In 1999, Paquette, of North Yarmouth, founded Employment Times, a free publication that lists job openings. She also founded HR Times, a Maine human resources trade publication, and the website MyJobWave.com. Those businesses later merged with Sun Media Group, publisher of the Sun-Journal in Lewiston.
She also has overseen human resources for Lewiston-based Androscoggin Bank and Creative Work Systems, a nonprofit organization in southern Maine that serves people with disabilities.
“Having worked with her over the past year, I am confident that Jeanne will provide not only continuity but also effective leadership,” LePage said in his statement. “Her background in human resources provides her with important connections with all of the people and organizations the department serves.”
The Department of Labor oversees the state’s unemployment benefits program, runs a variety of programs to help out-of-work residents train for and find jobs, enforces labor laws and researches employment data and trends.
LePage tapped Winglass to lead the agency in April 2011 after his first nominee, Cheryl Russell, withdrew her name.
“We found him to be someone who was very concerned about working people in our state and genuinely worked on important issues,” said Matt Schlobohm, executive director of the Maine AFL-CIO. “We found him to be a voice of reason within an administration and governor who, far too often, has shown contempt for Maine’s hard-working people.”
Winglass is the fifth state department head to step down since LePage took office in January 2011. LePage’s original economic development, environmental protection and marine resources commissioners — Philip Congdon, Darryl Brown and Norm Olsen, respectively — all left the administration last year.
Adjutant Gen. John Libby retired in February, stepping down as head of the Department of Defense, Veterans and Emergency Management. LePage recently appointed Col. James Campbell as acting commissioner of that agency.
The governor’s cabinet will change again at the end of this month, when the departments of Agriculture and Conservation merge. Agriculture Commissioner Walter Whitcomb will head the combined department and Conservation Commissioner Bill Beardsley will no longer be a cabinet member.
LePage spokeswoman Adrienne Bennett said Wednesday she couldn’t say whether Beardsley would remain with the newly merged department in another capacity.