CMR to search for new DMR director - - The News for South Mississippi

CMR to search for new DMR director


Who will replace Dr. Bill Walker as executive director of the DMR? That question will eventually be answered by a search process that's about to get underway.

The Commission on Marine Resources, which fired Dr. Walker on Tuesday, will oversee the search for his successor. CMR Chairman Dr. Vernon Asper said it's very likely that process will include a public meeting where citizens can offer their input about characteristics they'd like to see in the new DMR director.

The state statute is rather vague about qualifications, saying only the person should be experienced in managing marine resources.

Dr. Bill Walker was in his 11th year as DMR director. The commission which voted first to suspend and then fire the director, is responsible for finding his successor.

The Commission on Marine Resources will eventually submit three names to the governor.

"We're going to solicit public input. Once we have a couple of candidates apply, we're going to make those names known. We're going to get input, comments from people. What kind of person do you think this is? We're going to get all the help we can in narrowing it down to the final three that will be submitted to the governor," said Chairman Asper.

An ongoing investigation and questions about spending and administrative decisions by Dr. Walker led to his termination. It also influenced public perception.

"I think a lot of people across the coast have lost confidence in the DMR administration," said Nonnie DeBardeleben, who's with Gulf Islands Conservancy.

She'd like the CMR to appoint a search committee to help choose the new director.

"There are a lot of exceptional people across the gulf south who are administrators with scientific background or they can be scientists with administrative background. I don't think it's mutually exclusive," she said.

Senator Bryce Wiggins of Pascagoula chairs the senate Ports and Marine Resources committee. He commended the action by the CMR in terminating Dr. Walker, calling that an important first step in restoring the public's confidence and trust in the DMR.

Regarding the search for a new executive director, Sen. Wiggins said it's important the commission consider as many qualified candidates as possible.

"I have serious concerns about when the "Restore Act" monies start to come into the coffers. And how much transparency there will be as far as awarding contracts," said DeBardeleben.

Chairman Asper said he was in the process of sending an email to his fellow commissioners, outlining a proposed search process. He said resumes for the job will come through the DMR human resources office.  And again, he'd like a public meeting to allow citizen input.

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