AUGUSTA, Maine — Gov.-elect Paul LePage, who expressed confidence last month he'd complete his Cabinet appointments by the end of 2010, has fallen behind schedule, naming only four of his 15 department-head nominees days before his inauguration.
The Republican, who will be sworn into office Wednesday, has announced his nominees to head the two departments that oversee public safety, security, state finances and parks. Still pending are appointments for commissioners of the state's largest departments, such as Health and Human Services, Transportation and Education.
LePage spokesman Dan Demeritt said Monday that candidates were still being interviewed, and LePage hopes to name six or seven more appointments by the end of this week or early next week. He would not say which departments were involved, so candidates for the commissioners' positions could be contacted first.
LePage has invited potential candidates to apply through his transition website and approached others personally and asked them to apply. But Demeritt said the process has gone more slowly than expected because some of the most-qualified candidates also are in demand in other states.
"We're finding that some choice candidates, some of whom we've interviewed, were also being sought in other states with Republican-elected governors," said Demeritt. LePage himself remarked during one of his Cabinet announcements his staff was finding that candidates for Maine jobs were also under consideration in a half-dozen other states.
Another factor is the change of parties in control in the State House, where Republican-backed officials haven't been in such demand for a number of years. The last Republican governor, John McKernan, was re-elected to his second term in 1990.
Demeritt said that once LePage resumes naming appointees, he won't be far off the pace of previous governors as they just took office. In the case of LePage's immediate predecessor, he's right.
Democratic Gov. John Baldacci had announced only three Cabinet nominees by the day after Christmas in 2002, and another a few days into the following year as his inauguration neared. Even after the appointments were completed, the legislative hearing and confirmation process went on for months into the session, with lawmakers still voting on nominees into March 2003.
LePage in December named Sawin Millett, who's served in key administrative posts under three previous governors, as his choice for commissioner of the Department of Administration and Financial Services. He also nominated William Beardsley, who was one of LePage's GOP gubernatorial primary opponents, as Conservation Department commissioner.
LePage also said Maj. Gen. John Libby has agreed to stay on as commissioner of the Department of Defense, Veterans and Emergency Management. John Morris, the former Waterville police chief who was LePage's gubernatorial campaign chief of staff, is the LePage's choice for commissioner of the Department of Public Safety.