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Chris Dollar: Paul Peditto makes it easier for the rest of us

cdollar@cdollaroutdoors.com

Rare is the leader who is both respected and liked, especially someone who works at a public natural resources agency. Leadership positions can often be a lightning rod on any given issue. No matter what decision is made, you’re bound to tick off someone.

However, over the past nearly 18 years as the director of DNR’s Wildlife & Heritage Division (W&H), Paul Peditto has struck the balance between gleaning input from all stakeholders and making decisions that are ultimately in the best interest for the state’s diverse wildlife and public lands. Those traits are one reason why he is the longest serving wildlife director in the country.

As chairman of the state’s Wildlife Advisory Commission in the early 2000s, I experienced first-hand his commitment to the stewardship of our natural bounty. He listens to all sides — from waterfowlers and big-game hunters to conservationists and birders. Perhaps that’s because he began his DNR career 20 years ago out in the field doing mostly manual labor. In the marine industry I’ve heard it called “coming up through the hawsepipe,” a nautical metaphor for climbing the ship’s rank. I suspect that grounding has help him work under multiple DNR secretaries and four Maryland governors.

Late in January, Gov. Larry Hogan promoted Jeannie Haddaway-Riccio, then his deputy chief of staff, to head up the Department of Natural Resources. I wish her much success navigating the complicated fishery and, to a lesser extent, wildlife issues facing the state. When someone assumes control of a state agency there’s always the possibility that he or she will make changes. I’ve seen past DNR secretaries shake things up sometimes just for the sake of shaking things up. I’ve got no insight or reason to think Secretary Hardaway-Riccio would consider a change in leadership at W&H Service, but if she does it’d be a pretty big mistake from my perspective.

When I talked to him the other day to congratulate him on his milestone, Paul downplayed its significance. “Guess it means we’re getting older,” he joked. He was also quick to credit his team at W&H Service for any success and longevity he’s earned.

True leaders make the people around them perform better while never shying away from responsibility. They’re quick to share the fruits of success and shoulder the blame. Collectively we benefit from the institutional knowledge and commitment that longevity brings. In short, their efforts make it easier for the rest of us to enjoy our natural world.

In the intervening years since my stint on the wildlife commission I’ve come to know Paul personally. I’ve learned that not only does he love what he does professionally, he truly enjoys much of what Maryland outdoors has to offer, a sentiment echoed by Charlie Ebersberger, owner of Angler’s Sports Center in Annapolis, who has known Paul for 25 years.

“We met when he worked for me part-time when his kids were little. He’s a great friend and hunting and fishing buddy. We still hunt together with his father, “Ole Rem” and his son, Nick,” he told me via email. “Both of us have a shared love of wildlife, their habitat and behavior and he knows more about that subject than anyone I’ve ever met. He’s always looking out for game management and hunting benefits as well as the landowner rights and needs. He is so dedicated to his work and he and I are both fortunate that we love what we do!”

So I’ll raise a pint to Paul Peditto, his wife Stephanie, of 30 years, and their grown children, Nick, 23, and daughter, Kati, 25. It’s heartening to know good public servants can also be good people.

COBIA MANAGEMENT TO STATES: Recently, NOAA Fisheries announced that, beginning March 21, it was ceding the responsibility of managing Atlantic cobia stocks to the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC). The announcement came last month and officials said the switch is because the majority of landings being reported are in state waters.

Three years ago, Virginia and North Carolina balked at a NOAA closure, instead opting to create their own more conservative rules for recreational anglers. Currently, ASFMC staff biologists are conducting a new cobia stock assessment to help guide their management plan.

OUTDOORS CALENDAR

March 11: Pasadena Sportfishing Group meeting. Capt. Randy Dean of Bay Hunters Charter Fishing will be guest speaker. Doors open at 6 p.m., meeting starts at 7:30 p.m. Earleigh Heights VFC, 161 Ritchie Highway (Route 2), Severna Park.

March 14: Fly Anglers Fishing Club’s “Brew & Tie.” Kislings Tavern at 6:30 p.m.

March 16: Upper Eastern Shore Anglers & Tacklecove.com host “Saltwater Expo.” Expert speakers and tackle for sale. 8:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m. at American Legion 2619 Centreville Road, Centreville MD 21617. Email cdollar@cdollaaroutdoors.com for details.

March 20: Annapolis Anglers Club meeting. Erik Zlokovitz of MD DNR presents an update on Chesapeake Bay fisheries status and rockfish regulations. Vendor: Jeremy Dempsey of Old 87 Custom Rods. Meeting starts 7 p.m. American Legion Post #7, 1905 Crownsville Road, Annapolis.

March 23: Free State Fly Fishers presents “Everything You Need to Know About Fly Fishing for Pickerel,” with Joe Bruce, nationally recognized expert fly fisher. Saturday morning session, from 9 a.m.-Noon. Davidsonville Family Recreation Center, 3789 Queen Anne Bridge Road, Davidsonville, Maryland.

March 26: Anglers Night Out. Boatyard Bar & Grill. Film is “Tribute to Tuna.” Happy hour 5 to 7 p.m., movie starts at 7 p.m. Boatyard Bar & Grill, 400 4th Street, Annapolis.

April 17: Annapolis Anglers Club meeting. Capt. John Whitman of Patent Pending Charters presents “Spring Trolling Techniques.” Capt. John will also have his Spoonbrella Rigs for sale. Meeting starts 7 p.m. American Legion Post #7, 1905 Crownsville Road, Annapolis.

April 20: Maryand Spring Trophy Season. Get DNR’s website for specific rules.April 8: Pasadena Sportfishing Group meeting. Doors open at 6 p.m., meeting starts at 7:30 p.m. Earleigh Heights VFC, 161 Ritchie Hwy (Route 2), Severna Park.

Chris Dollar writes about the outdoors for The Capital. Contact him with items for his column or the outdoors calendar at cdollar@cdollaroutdoors.com

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