LA Gov. Names State Rep. Montoucet New Wildlife And Fisheries Agency Leader
BATON ROUGE (AP) — Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards has named a new secretary of the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries after its former leader called it "a troubled state agency" and resigned abruptly.
State Rep. Jack Montoucet will be the agency's new secretary effective Jan. 16, replacing Charlie Melancon, Edwards announced Friday.
Earlier this month, Melancon said that some people in his office were sabotaging recovery efforts from the Gulf oil spill and he would resign. This came after Melancon had said previously that officials in Edwards' administration asked him to leave office in mid-February and he had agreed. When he announced he was moving up the departure timetable, he said continuing until February would be a strain on his family, and decided that he would resign Dec. 31.
A November audit report raised questions about missing property and millions of dollars in agency spending. For instance, according to the audit, oil spill recovery money intended for fish testing was used for unnecessary iPads, cameras, boats and now-missing fishing equipment.
Montoucet, a Democrat, was elected to the Louisiana House of Representatives in 2008.
Montoucet is the owner of Jacques' Croc's & Farm Pride Processors and is a retired chief of the Lafayette Fire Department, Edwards said in a statement. He has also worked for many years to grow and market alligator farming in the state, the governor said.
"As a businessman, he understands the complex nature of running an organization such as Wildlife and Fisheries, and as an alligator farmer in Acadiana, he shares my belief that nothing should get in the way of Louisiana remaining the sportsman's paradise," the governor said.
In the release from the governor's office, Montoucet pledged to be "a uniter, not a divider, on important decisions about access to wildlife and fisheries that impact our environment and our way of life."
He also vowed to make reforms within the agency.
"I understand the seriousness of the issues raised by a recent audit, and the governor and I are committed to making the necessary reforms to this agency," Montoucet said in the statement.
Patrick Banks, assistant secretary of the agency's Office of Fisheries, will serve as interim secretary until Montoucet's appointment takes effect in mid-January, the governor said.