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A top port official who once worked for the Maryland Department of Natural Resources has been tapped to be the state's chief fisheries regulator, filling a key job that's been vacant since a Hogan administration shakeup at DNR in May.

David Blazer, deputy director of harbor development for the Maryland Port Administration, takes over Sept. 21 as director of fisheries, DNR announced Wednesday.

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The announcement comes more than three months after the firing of Tom O'Connell, a veteran DNR employee who had been fisheries director since 2008. Hogan administration officials offered no explanation at the time for the removal of O'Connell and three other top DNR officials. While conservationists and even some commercial watermen had urged the Hogan administration to retain O'Connell, the head of the Maryland Watermen's Association, Robert T. Brown Sr., had pressed for changes, reflecting watermen's unhappiness with O'Malley administration fisheries policies.

Natural Resources Secretary Mark Belton said in a statement that Blazer has a "demonstrated ability to bring a range of diverse stakeholders together for a common goal." Blazer's more than 20 years' experience in environmental management, as well as his prior DNR experience "will serve the state and its natural resources well," Belton added.

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A graduate of Towson University, Blazer worked at DNR from 1990 to 1998, first as a biologist and later a manager in the fisheries division. He was the executive director of the nonprofit Maryland Coastal Bays program. He also worked for the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, the Chesapeake Bay Commission and Bluewater Wind, a Delaware-based company that was seeking the rights to develop offshore wind projects along the Atlantic coast from Delaware to North Carolina. He joined the port administration five years ago, where he managed the handling of material dredged from shipping channels and the harbor.

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