New Regional, NOAA Administator
by Andy Walgamott
The regional administrator position itself will no longer can it be filled by
a political appointee and instead will be considered a career position.
Barry Thom is taking over as NOAA's new regional administrator starting next week, it was announced yesterday.
He will head up over 300 staffers working on salmon, steelhead, marine mammal and fisheries issues out of nine offices from Washington to California beginning Sept. 12.
Thom replaces Will Stelle, who has been in charge of the federal agency's West Coast operations since October 2013 and before that was the Northwest chief since 2010.
No stranger to fisheries issues, Thom is the current deputy regional administrator, with responsibilities that have included managing a $100 million budget and strategic planning.
He's also the country's representative on the Inter-American Tropical Tuna Commission, has administered the Pacific Salmon Recovery Fund, led the consolidation of NOAA's two former regional coastal offices into one, and served as an acting regional administrator for a year and a half between the Bush and Obama Administrations.
Stelle is moving further upstairs and will be a senior advisor to NOAA's big boss, Dr. Kathlyn Sullivan, but will also still help Thom on thorny topics such as Puget Sound-tribal issues.
"This is a win-win for the agency and for staff. Both Barry and Will are supremely talented and they will both bring energy and unmatched experience to their new roles," said Eileen Sobeck, NOAA Assistant Administrator for Fisheries, in a press release. "And, since we were able to make this critical leadership transition before the end of the year, our attention can be fully applied to the mission of the agency, the sustainable management of our nation's fisheries and the conservation and restoration of protected species."
The changing of the guard also marks a reclassification of the regional administrator position itself. No longer can it be filled by a political appointee -- Stelle was an appointee of both the Clinton and Obama Administrations -- and instead will be considered a career position.
Doing so "brings West Coast region into alignment with the rest of the agency and signals a maturing of the salmon program as it enters its third decade," NOAA stated.
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