Gov. Paul LePage has nominated a Maine Maritime Academy administrator experienced with sustainability and energy issues to lead the Maine Department of Environmental Protection.
Paul Mercer currently serves as the assistant to Maine Maritime Academy’s president, William Brennan, on sustainability and environmental initiatives. A former associate professor and chairman of the engineering department, Mercer also worked in the private sector on renewable energy, biomass energy and power generation before joining the academy’s staff in 2006.
Mercer was among three Cabinet-level nominations announced by LePage’s office on Tuesday.
LePage also selected Brig. Gen. Gerard F. Bolduc as Maine’s next adjutant general, overseeing the National Guard and the Department of Defense, Veterans and Emergency Management. The governor also nominated William Beardsley, the current acting commissioner of the Department of Education, to take over the position permanently. All three nominees must be confirmed by the Maine Senate, although Beardsley will also be interviewed by the State Board of Education.
While Beardsley and Bolduc are familiar faces in Augusta, having served in various high-level positions, Mercer is more of an outsider and represents a departure from the attorneys specialized in environmental and energy policy who have served as DEP commissioner for most of the past decade.
Mercer will fill a post vacated by Patricia Aho – a lawyer and former industry lobbyist – in September after a tumultuous four-year tenure during which she clashed with environmental groups but was credited with improving the DEP’s relationship with the business community. Avery Day, an attorney and LePage’s senior policy adviser on environmental and natural resource issues, has served as interim DEP commissioner since Aho left to join the Maine-based staff of U.S. Sen. Susan Collins.
Mercer could not be reached for comment on Wednesday.
According to biographical information provided by the governor’s office, Mercer was lead developer of an energy project that reduced emissions from the Bucksport paper mill by 50 percent and served as president of Northeast Engineering in Bucksport from 1983 until 2008. The company provided consulting services to the power generation field, as well as project development of waste wood, biofuels, de-inking and wood products facilities. He also served as president of Bay Engineering from 1978 until 1982.
Bolduc, LePage’s nominee for adjutant general, has filled the post in an acting position since the governor fired Brig. Gen. James Campbell over a proposal to swap out Maine’s 133rd Engineer Battalion for an out-of-state infantry unit. Bolduc previously commanded the Maine Air National Guard and served as an assistant adjutant general at Camp Keyes in Augusta.
The adjutant general serves as the state’s top military officer, as well as commissioner of the Department of Defense, Veterans and Emergency Management.
If confirmed by the Maine Senate, Beardsley would become the first education commissioner who didn’t have the “acting” in front of his title since Stephen Bowen stepped down in August 2013. He is also well-known in the State House and has served in numerous positions in the LePage administration.
The former longtime president and CEO of Husson University, Beardsley has served on the governing boards of the Maine Development Foundation, the Finance Authority of Maine, the Maine Higher Education Council, Maine Independent College Association and Maine Development Foundation. He served on the State Board of Education from 2012 until this past October, when he took over as acting commissioner from Tom Desjardin.
Beardsley also served as commissioner of the Maine Department of Conservation from 2011 to 2012, when the agency merged with the Department of Agriculture to form the Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry.
Kevin Miller can be contacted at 791-6312 or at: