ST. PAUL (AP) -- After a long search for someone to lead one of the largest divisions in the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, the agency announced Monday that it would eliminate the position altogether.
The director of Fish and Wildlife job has been vacant since the retirement of Roger Holmes on Jan. 6 after 41 years with the agency.
Three section managers who used to be under that director -- fisheries, wildlife and ecological services -- were promoted and will report directly to the commissioner's office beginning July 1.
''Now, they'll be able to speak for themselves,'' said Commissioner Allen Garber. ''I wanted to give them that kind of a voice here.''
The new division heads will get a small raise and a big increase in responsibilities.
In the past, Holmes was the visible head of those three areas, dealing with the Legislature and with federal initiatives that could affect Minnesota.
Ecological Services Director Lee Pfannmuller, Wildlife Director Tim Bremicker and Fisheries Director Ron Payer each have gotten a taste of that workload during the first six months of this year and say they are up to the challenge.
But they added that some of their current duties may fall to other employees.
''Given my current workload, I would guess that I would have to shed some of that,'' Bremicker said.
The change is expected to save about $86,000 a year initially -- the director's salary minus the raises that Payer, Pfannmuller and Bremicker will receive. Holmes' former assistant is expected to retire in about a year and that position also will be eliminated. The other 10 administrative positions will be split up and moved into the three smaller divisions.
''The governor always speaks about less government. ... If you can have less government through thoughtful deliberation, you should do it,'' Garber said.
By next year, the three divisions will have nearly 700 total full-time employees and a collective budget of about $60 million per year. The DNR's total annual budget is about $200 million.
Garber said the changes will mainly be felt at the central office and shouldn't greatly affect the workload of field staff.
In January, the Fish and Wildlife director job was offered to Kevin Delaney, a fisheries official with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, but he turned it down, partly because the salary was too low.
Moore said Delaney's offer was near the top of the position's salary range of $60,183 to $85,714, but it wasn't much more than Delaney was making in Alaska.
The three new division heads will have salaries in the range of $60,176 to $85,712 -- up from their current salary range of $55,854 to $79,782.
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