AUGUSTA – Gov.-elect Paul LePage nominated two experienced administrators Thursday for Cabinet positions overseeing the state budget, parks and conservation.

One nomination — Bill Beardsley as conservation commissioner — is likely to be contentious. The other — Sawin Millett as budget chief — is not.

LePage nominated Millett, who has worked for three previous governors, to be commissioner of the Department of Administrative and Financial Services. Millett is now leading LePage’s transition budget team.

“He’s an institution in himself,” LePage said. “Without him, I don’t know where we would be.”

Millett, who served on the Legislature’s Appropriations Committee in the last session, held positions in the administrations of Govs. James Longley, an independent; John McKernan, a Republican; and Angus King, an independent.

To lead the Department of Conservation, LePage nominated Beardsley, who spent 23 years as president of Husson University and then ran for governor in this year’s Republican primary, which LePage won.

LePage said he considered Beardsley, who has an eclectic resume, for several high-level positions and decided he could be most effective as conservation commissioner.

“I don’t know of anyone who won’t agree that Bill did a phenomenal job at Husson,” he said. “I’m very, very proud to ask Bill to join our administration.”

Both men will be vetted by legislative committees and need Senate confirmation. House Minority Leader Emily Cain, D-Orono, praised the nomination of Millett, but raised questions about Beardsley.

“He has publicly indicated his support for drilling for oil and gas in the Gulf of Maine, he supports the construction of nuclear power plants, and views the land protection rules as over-regulation,” she said in a prepared statement. “House Democrats may have a difficult time supporting his nomination.”

During the campaign, LePage and Beardsley criticized the state’s Land Use Regulation Commission, saying it is slow to make decisions and burdensome to businesses. The commission was created by the Legislature in 1971 to be the planning and zoning authority over 10.4 million acres in Maine’s unorganized territories.

LePage said he would like to consider moving that oversight to counties. Beardsley said he needs time to study the issue before he can recommend changes.

“I’m just too green to really know the politics of all of that,” he said. “I won’t venture into that until I know a little more.”

The Natural Resources Council of Maine said Beardsley would have a “huge responsibility” as conservation commissioner.

“If confirmed for the position, we hope that he will represent the overwhelming view of Maine people who support increased public lands and recreational access, sustainably harvested forests that provide jobs into the future, and the protection of wildlife and habitat,” Advocacy Director Pete Didisheim said in a prepared statement.

LePage said he was impressed by Beardsley’s resume, which includes time at Bangor Hydro Electric Co., the Alaska Department of Community and Economic Development, and the Green Mountain Power Corp.

His resume also notes that Beardsley’s ancestors owned timberland and operated sawmills in Hancock County, and that his father headed a paper mill and hydroelectric company in Newfoundland. His son is “involved in the logging industry in Maine,” according to information distributed by the LePage campaign.

The Maine Forest Products Council released a statement in support of Beardsley.

“Bill Beardsley is extremely knowledgeable about the issues facing Maine’s forests and forest products industry,” said Patrick Strauch, executive director of the council.

LePage also announced some of his senior staff Thursday.

As his chief legal counsel, he has hired Dan Billings, who is an attorney in Waterville and lives in Bowdoinham.

Billings was critical of LePage during the Republican primary and backed one of his opponents, Steve Abbott. LePage joked about it during Thursday’s news conference in the State House Hall of Flags.

“The only way I can keep him quiet is to put him on staff,” he said.

John Butera, executive director of the Central Maine Growth Council, was named senior policy adviser for economic development. Butera, who worked for Gov. Angus King from 1998-2002, lives in Waterville.

Dan Demeritt of Sidney has been hired as director of communications and legislative affairs. Demeritt joined the LePage campaign at the end of September as spokesman, a position that will be filled by a yet-to-be named person.

“Within a couple of weeks, he turned the entire campaign around,” LePage said of Demeritt.

LePage also announced that Kathleen Newman of Hallowell, president of Associated Builders and Contractors of Maine, will serve as his deputy chief of staff and legislative director. Newman will work closely with John McGough, who has been named chief of staff.

LePage said he hopes to name all of his Cabinet officials by the end of this year.

MaineToday Media State House Writer Susan Cover can be contacted at 620-7015 or at:

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