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Turnover at DNR, as four top officials depart

Turnover at DNR, as four top officials depart
Four veteran leaders of the Maryland Department of Natural Resources have departed, marking the first major shakeup of the environmental agency since Gov. Larry Hogan took office. Seen here, the Bay Bridge, just outside Annapolis. (Kim Hairston)

Four veteran top officials in Maryland's Department of Natural Resources have been let go, marking the first major shakeup since Gov. Larry Hogan took office of the agency that manages the state's parks and protects its fish, wildlife and ecologically sensitive lands.

Deputy natural resources secretary Frank Dawson, assistant secretary Kristin Saunders, communications director Darlene Pisani and fisheries director Tom O'Connell all have left, Natural Resources Secretary Mark Belton informed department employees by email Friday.

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Saying that "permanent replacements for these positions will be announced in due course," Belton noted that collectively the four have amassed 98 years of state service. He thanked them for their "tremendous service to Maryland" and for protecting the state's natural resources, wishing them "Fair Winds and Following Seas."

The shakeup follows the recent transfer of another veteran DNR manager. Mike Naylor, who had overseen the state's shellfish programs was replaced. Both O'Connell and Naylor have been the target of complaints from watermen, who objected to catch restrictions and other fisheries polices carried out under the O'Malley administration.

Without explaining the reason for the shakeup, Belton emailed: "DNR has proven time and again to be a very resilient agency; meeting every challenge head-on." He praised the department's workforce and its dedication to what he called "our shared mission."

"Our focus is clearly on fiscal responsibility, economic expansion, reform, and stakeholder inclusiveness,'' Belton added. "I look forward to working with you all and our new leadership team as we move forward toward these goals."

Belton, Hogan's second nominee for natural resources secretary, named Mark Hoffman as acting deputy secretary, Emily Wilson as acting assistant secretary for land resources and Kristen Peterson as acting communications director. Dave Goshorn, assistant secretary for aquatic resources, will also assume the job of directing the fisheriers service for now, Belton said.

The Bay Journal has more on the departures.

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