AUGUSTA – Gov.-elect Paul LePage revealed his first Cabinet nominees on Wednesday, tapping top campaign aide and ex-Waterville Police Chief John Morris as Maine Department of Public Safety commissioner and Maj. Gen. John Libby to continue as commissioner of the Maine Department of Defense, Veterans and Emergency Management.

LePage, a Republican, said he was prioritizing safety and security with his first Cabinet announcements.

“There’s no greater duty for a new governor than to protect the state of Maine and the Maine people and so today, it’s my pleasure to be here to announce the individuals that will be heading up the security and the safety of the state of Maine,” he said.

Libby has served as commissioner since 2004. Although he and Morris have strong ties to Waterville, where LePage is mayor, the governor-elect said such a connection will not be a common trait among the candidates he is considering for his Cabinet.

Libby, 66, of Sidney, served in the Maine Army National Guard for 33 years, before serving in several state government positions, including director of the Maine Emergency Management Agency.

He also volunteered for years in the Waterville sports community, including serving as president of the Waterville Area Youth Hockey Association and the Waterville High School Hockey Boosters, as assistant coach of the Waterville High School hockey team, vice president of the Waterville Area YMCA and as a high school hockey and soccer official.

“I’ve known the general for a while and I know he’s so dedicated to working with kids in the Waterville area, but I read his credentials today and wow, I am honored to be in the same room with him,” LePage said. “He has been the commissioner since 2004, and we are so, so fortunate that he’s agreed to stay on.”

Earlier this year, Libby announced plans to retire once the new administration took over. During the press conference Wednesday, however, he said it just was not his time to stop working.

“The fact of the matter is, I really love what I do,” he said. “I look forward to bringing perhaps some institutional knowledge, taking some of the security concerns off your plate initially as you deal with other things.”

Libby said he has known Morris for decades and anticipates having a close working relationship with him, just as he has had with outgoing Commissioner of Public Safety Anne Jordan.

Morris, 71, of Waterville, served as Waterville’s director of public safety from 2003 to 2007 — overseeing both the police and fire departments — and as the city’s police chief from 1994 to 2007.

He was LePage’s chief of staff during the gubernatorial campaign.

“John and I have just a great relationship,” LePage said. “While he was police chief and I was mayor, we fought like cats and dogs — him for more money, me for less money. He then retired and when I announced I was going to run for governor, he was one of the first people that called me and said, ‘What can I do to help?’“

Touting his 30 years’ experience as a naval officer and 17 years as a police chief, Morris said he is very comfortable with the responsibilities he would command as Maine’s public safety commissioner.

LePage’s nominees are subject to legislative approval.

Libby’s re-nomination was greeted with praise by both Republicans and Democrats on Wednesday.

But House Minority Leader Emily Cain, D-Orono, said she and fellow Democrats were unfamiliar with Morris’ credentials and would reserve judgment on his nomination.

House Speaker Robert Nutting, R-Oakland, called Morris’ nomination a “good decision” in a release Wednesday.

MaineToday Media State House Writer Rebekah Metzler can be contacted at 620-7016 or at:

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