Col. Joel Wilkinson, who has led the Maine Warden Service for the past 11 years, is retiring effective Friday, the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife announced Thursday afternoon.
Warden Lt. Dan Scott, who works out of the Bangor DIF&W office, has been named the acting chief warden.
“Col. Wilkinson served the Department and the state for more than two decades,” DIF&W commissioner Judy Camuso said. “I want to thank him for his service and wish him nothing but the best as he enters his next chapter.”
Wilkinson began his career as a deputy game warden in 1992 and was hired as a full-time warden three years later. He has served as captain, sergeant and investigator during his time in the service, and was acting major in 2008 and acting commissioner of the department during the transition from Gov. John Baldacci to Gov. Paul LePage.
“We all work for the very best fish and wildlife agency in the country, and may Maine be proud of the collective work this department provides. I feel like I have worked with, for and beside the greatest professionals in conservation,” Wilkinson said.
The warden service has not been controversy-free in recent months. The abrupt retirement comes two months after Warden Jeremy Judd, 41, of Mechanic Falls was charged with assault, unlawful sexual touching and disorderly conduct based on an incident that was alleged to have happened at a July concert in Bangor. Camuso would not comment on whether that incident or a subsequent DIF&W internal investigation into it had anything to do with Wilkinson’s retirement.
“Joel’s retirement was his decision,” Camuso said. “Given the ongoing investigation, I can’t comment on anything related to the concert.”