AUGUSTA, Maine -- Commissioner Roland D. Martin announced today that Major Thomas (Tom) Santaguida has been promoted to the rank of Colonel of the Maine Warden Service, effective July 5, 2004, replacing current Colonel Tim Peabody. Lieutenant Nathaniel Berry IV had accepted the position last week, but reconsidered and told Martin that he would not accept the position.
"Tom understands the demands, the commitment and the energy that this job requires, and he possesses the institutional knowledge that will be invaluable as he has served as the deputy chief under colonel Peabody for the past six years," said Commissioner Martin. "The state is fortunate to have someone like Major Santaguida to assume the role of Chief Warden."
Santaguida, 42 of New Gloucester, is currently the second in command of the warden service, a position he has held since 1998. As major, he oversees all field operations for the Maine Warden Service, and his responsibilities include supervision and oversight of 123 officers in the areas of conservation and recreational vehicle law enforcement, and search and rescue. Other responsibilities include policy, budget, and personnel management and oversight. Santaguida began his career as a district game warden in 1988, was promoted to game warden investigator in 1993, a position he held until he was selected as major in 1998.
Santaguida was named the Maine Game Warden of the Year and the Shikar Safari Wildlife Officer of the Year in 1996, and was the Northeast Conservation Law Enforcement Chiefs Association officer of the year in 1997.
"I am excited and enthusiastic about the opportunities and challenges that lie ahead for the Maine Warden Service and the Department," said Santaguida, "I am confident that through the collective energy of the Warden Service, we can continue to enhance our level of service and work through any challenge that may arise."
Among Santaguida's goals for the Warden Service are further implementation of technology which will make for more efficient operations; improved communications, and continued efforts with community relations and public awareness of game wardens and their mission. He will also faces the challenge of balancing the mandated charge of the warden service to protect and conserve Maine's wildlife resources with the increasing demands on the warden service for recreational vehicle enforcement, milfoil enforcement, and nuisance wildlife among others.
An immediate priority for Santaguida will be the hiring of someone to replace him as Major. His plans are to start the promotional process quickly, and have that person onboard soon so that there is a seamless transition for when Colonel Peabody retires on July 2.
Santaguida was one of the three finalists that were interviewed for the head position before Berry was named last week. Commissioner Martin had initiated a "deliberate and methodical process" to select a colonel from within the ranks of the Warden Service. By statute, the chief game warden must come from the Warden Service. Initially a field of ten game wardens applied for the position of colonel. The field of ten was initially narrowed down to three by a committee of eight that included a County Sheriff, a retired state police lieutenant and six members of the Maine Warden service. Then a five-member interview board that included the County Sheriff, the retired police lieutenant, a game warden sergeant, a district game warden and the commissioner interviewed the three candidates.
"While honored and humbled by my selection to head the Warden Service, I informed the commissioner that I reconsidered and I will not accept the position," said Berry, "This position needs the commitment and effort that I can not deliver at this point in my career. I know I can do the job, but not at the level that it needs to be done. It would not be fair to the Warden Service, the Department, the Governor and Commissioner to accept this position, then not perform at the level that this job requires."
Berry, a 31-year veteran of the Warden Service cited family needs as the primary reasons for not accepting the position. He said that after having sacrificed for 31 years to serve the state, the new position would entail more time commitment than he or his family is willing to give at this point.
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