AUGUSTA, Maine — Gov. Paul LePage’s nomination of Jim Rier to be the state’s next education commissioner sailed through the Legislature’s Education Committee on Wednesday with a unanimous vote. Rier’s permanent appointment is subject to final approval in the Senate.
Rier has been the Department of Education’s acting commissioner since October and has overseen the department’s operations since the resignation of former Commissioner Stephen Bowen in September 2013. LePage announced in early January that he had tapped Rier for the permanent position, a decision that later won unanimous support from the State Board of Education.
Everyone on the Education Committee voiced strong support Wednesday for Rier, who is highly respected at the State House. Rep. Jeff Evangelos, I-Friendship, a former school administrator who testified on behalf of Rier, perhaps summarized that sentiment the best.
“He’s smart, he’s fair and he’s nonpartisan,” said Evangelos. “I think Mr. Rier will do a fantastic job for our state and I endorse his nomination 100 percent.”
Rier, who lives in Topsham, is a former senior project engineer for Buick and was president of his family’s car dealership, Rier Motors Co., in Machias for 25 years. He has also served on the boards of Bangor Hydro Electric Co. (now Emera Maine), the Maine Community Foundation, the Regional Medical Center at Lubec and the Washington County Education & Economic Development Alliance.
He served two terms on the state Board of Education, including as its chairman from 1997 to 2000. Rier joined the Department of Education as its director of finance and operations in 2003 and became deputy commissioner in 2011.
Rier told the committee that his passion for working on education matters hasn’t deteriorated and that his only regret is that he didn’t start it earlier in his career.
“I simply can’t wait to show up to work every day and I’ve felt that way ever since I’ve started this,” said Rier.