Wanted: A leader for Fish and Wildlife

OLYMPIA -- The search has begun in earnest to find the next person to lead the state Department of Fish and Wildlife.

The job has been posted on the department's website as well as one maintained by the state Department of Personnel, which is managing the recruitment process.

The personnel department will develop a short list of candidates to be interviewed by the Fish and Wildlife Commission.

Commission chairwoman Miranda Wecker said she expects interviews to be held in August, with the commission making a decision in September so the new director can begin work in October.

The commission delayed the search to replace Jeff Koenings, who resigned on Dec. 11, until after the Legislature adjourned.

Koenings stepped down after 10 years with the department under pressure from the commission, who wanted better communication with constituents.

Members also were more involved in department operations than in the past.

Phil Anderson, the department's deputy director for resource policy, has been serving as the interim director.

At its meeting June 5-6, the commission outlined the search process and job description, Wecker said.

The commission is seeking "an experienced executive motivated by a strong conservation ethic, a seasoned professional with an established reputation for strategic and visionary leadership. This individual will be tasked with laying the foundation for a stronger, more effective and respected agency and must have the ability to make firm decisions in an economically challenging environment. The candidate will be an expert in management techniques that effectively hold employees accountable, while also leading those employees with humility and open-mindedness."

Wecker stressed the importance of the candidate's conservation ethic.

"We want someone who will put the state's fish and wildlife resources first," she said.

The commission also wants a director who will move the department forward in dealing with some long-standing issues.

"One example is the listed runs of salmon. It has been over 10 years now, and many of those runs will take a very long time to recover," Wecker said. "But that is no excuse for an acceptance of the status quo. We're looking for someone who will lead us forward."

The new director will oversee a 1,500-person staff and a biennial department budget of more than $327 million.

The director's position pays up to $151,705 annually.

The new person will be walking into a department that's dealing with a $21 million budget cut for the 2009-11 budget, forcing the agency to eliminate 76 jobs through layoffs and leaving vacant another 67 positions.

The search also comes after the commission itself came under fire during the last legislative session.

Bills were introduced but eventually fended off that would have reduced the size of the nine-member panel and stripped away some of its powers, including the hiring of the director.