Abbott Turns Down IF&W Commissioner Post
Steve Abbott has decided he doesn’t want to be Commissioner of the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, a position he was offered recently by Governor-elect Paul LaPage.
Insiders say LaPage has three other candidates for this important position at the top of his list: Chandler Woodcock, Craig McLaughlin, and Art Wheaton.
The popular Abbott was a candidate in this year’s Republican gubernatorial primary after giving up his long-time job as chief of staff to U.S. Senator Susan Collins. Abbott is currently serving as Athletic Director at the University of Maine in Orono. He is an enthusiastic and lifelong hunter and angler.
At the Orono Sportsman’s Show last spring, Abbott had the best booth I’ve ever seen for a political candidate. The booth featured large photos of him, throughout his life, with deer, turkeys, and fish he had harvested. In the booth was Abbott’s father, Walter Abbott, U. Maine’s legendary former football coach and athletic director. It was my privilege to stand there and listen to Walter’s hunting and fishing stories for about an hour. Steve Abbott comes from good stock!
Each of the three top candidates would bring unique attributes to the position.
Craig McLaughlin is a former IF&W bear biologist who moved to Utah to take a top-level post in that state’s fish and wildlife agency. He also served at a high level in Vermont’s fish and wildlife agency. Craig retired and moved back to Maine, where he now teaches at Unity College. He is very highly regarded and a good choice if LePage wants a biologist with experience managing in a state agency.
Chandler Woodcock is a former State Senator and the Republican nominee for Governor in 2006. Woodcock was a leader on sportsmen’s issues during his tenure in the Senate and sponsored the most important fisheries legislation ever submitted by the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine, the bill that named our native brook trout as a State Heritage Fish and established protections for those fish. He is an avid hunter and angler, who I have had the pleasure of fishing with a couple of times. I submitted a letter of recommendation for Woodcock as part of his application to LePage. He would bring real positive change and leadership to this beleaguered agency, in my opinion.
Art Wheaton, retired Vice President of Remington, lives in Forest City where two of his brothers operate lodges and guide hunters and anglers. Wheaton may be particularly attractive to LePage, who values business experience, but I have a hard time believing Art is willing to give up his well-earned retirement in a gorgeous home on a Down East lake for the day-to-day travails of running a state agency. He’s an outstanding individual with lots of friends and contacts throughout the country.
No members have yet been selected from the Transition Advisory Team to interview candidates for IF&W Commissioner, but it appears that the Governor-elect may bypass that process to make his selection. But it won’t be Steve Abbott.