Maine Labor Commissioner Jeanne Paquette is stepping down to accept a position with the University of Southern Maine.

Paquette, who has served as Maine’s top labor official since September 2012, is expected to transition to her new post as director of auxiliary services at the university over the next several weeks.

“I’m very excited by this new opportunity,” Paquette said Friday. “My bachelor’s degree is in education, and I have always had my eye on something in higher education.”

The position of auxiliary services director is new for USM. It consolidates oversight of several enterprises that support the educational, social, cultural and recreational interests of USM while generating revenue, such as the USM bookstore, fitness centers, food service operations, vending, conference services, summer camps, Maine senior college, the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute, and professional and continuing education.

Paquette, who has been a small-business owner, said she intends to bring her business acumen to the new job and find ways to manage university assets to produce more money.

“I understand entrepreneurship,” she said, adding that she appreciates USM President Glenn Cummings’ willingness to be creative about generating revenue for the university.

Before becoming commissioner, Paquette served as deputy commissioner for the Maine Department of Labor. She has a long history in human resource management in the private sector and founded several media publications and websites, including the Employment Times, HR Times and MyJobWave.com.

Paquette said her commissioner’s job carries a salary of about $125,000, and details about her new position are still being worked out, including salary and when she’ll make the transition. A university spokesman said the salary will likely fall in the mid-90s.

KIND WORDS FROM GOVERNOR

A resident of North Yarmouth, Paquette said she’s looking forward to the shorter commute, another part of the job that attracted her.

Her departure from the Maine Department of Labor was announced in a statement from Gov. Paul LePage.

“We are proud of the work Commissioner Paquette has done at MDOL to improve services for Maine workers and the businesses that employ them,” said LePage. “Under her strong leadership, MDOL has become more efficient and more responsive to the needs of both our employees and our employers. The department has stepped up its efforts to provide assistance and retraining when jobs are lost and to help Mainers prepare for and find good jobs. During her time at MDOL, Maine has seen the lowest unemployment rate since 1976 and the highest number of private-sector jobs ever created in our state. We are truly sorry to see Jeanne go, but we wish her all the best in this exciting next chapter of her life.”

There’s no plan yet on how the commissioner’s post will be filled, said Paquette. Typically, the governor makes a nomination that has to be confirmed through a legislative process.

CHANGES COMING FOR DEPARTMENT

Although she will miss her colleagues in the department, Paquette said she will keep watch over changes expected from the new federal budget. The Maine Department of Labor is financed primarily with federal money and in an early budget proposal from the Trump administration, there were significant cutbacks in job placement and training programs.

“It will be interesting to watch how (newly confirmed Labor Secretary Alexander) Acosta will take on the secretary role,” said Paquette, “and where he’ll look for savings.”

Prior to founding her media businesses in 1999, which later merged with Sun Media Group, Paquette was vice president of human resources at Androscoggin Bank in Lewiston. She previously served as the director of human resources at Creative Work Systems, a nonprofit serving people with disabilities.

Carol Coultas can be contacted at 791-6460 or at:

[email protected]