BANGOR, Maine — The University of Maine System has hired Dan Demeritt, the former director of communications for Gov. Paul LePage, as its executive director of public affairs.
Demeritt’s newly created position replaces that of Peggy Leonard, who will join the UMS Human Resource Department’s leadership team as a statewide internal communications manager, according to a prepared statement released by UMS on Wednesday. Leonard’s current title is public relations manager.
Demeritt will be paid $125,000 in his new position, he said. Leonard was paid $58,547, according to a system-wide salary report that is dated April 8. Her salary will not change in her new position, according to Ryan Low, executive director of government and external affairs.
Low said the addition of Demeritt will not add to the headcount at the system office because two human resources positions have been frozen due to a retirement and a person leaving, savings from which will cover the financial difference between Leonard’s and Demeritt’s positions.
The human resources department is going to undergo a reorganization, though the details have not been finalized, according to Low.
“The likely scenario is less positions,” he said. Similar reorganizations have taken place in the information technology and procurement departments.
“The University of Maine System (UMS) is making changes to its human resources and public relations teams to better inform and engage system staff, faculty, students, stakeholders and concerned Maine citizens about the transformative work being done across the system to guarantee a stronger and sustainable system of higher education in Maine,” according to the release.
Last month, the system’s board of trustees voted to approve a budget that cuts 157 positions and about $22.7 million. Because of a systemic shortfall, system administrators say that more cuts are expected in the coming years.
“I’d like to bring my experience in communications and on campaigns to make sure we frame the challenges that the university faces,” Demeritt said on Wednesday.
“I’d like to help tell the story better about why the university is important to students and important to Maine,” he added.
He will assume his new role on June 16.
“The University of Maine System is a vital public asset and every Maine resident has a stake in the System’s future,” said UMS chancellor James Page in the prepared statement. “Our leadership team is committed to transparently framing our challenges and engaging our stakeholders as we work together to position public higher education in Maine for a stronger, sustainable future. Dan is a respected communications professional and we look forward to the energy and ideas he will bring to our team.”
David Farmer, a member of the Michaud for Governor Campaign Team, agreed that Demeritt is well respected in the field of communications.
“They need strong people to help them through that process,” he said of the transition underway at the university system. “I think Dan’s an excellent addition to that team.”
Demeritt resigned from his position as director of communications for LePage in 2011 after it became public that he faced foreclosure on five buildings he owned. He has since launched a political initiative and public affairs consulting firm, the UMS statement said.