Musical chairs: Snyder shuffle directorships at DNR, agriculture department
Just a little over a year and a half after Gov. Rick Snyder made his first appointments to the state Department of Natural Resources (DNR) and Department of Agriculture and Rural Development director positions, he has once again had to decide who should be running both departments. Of course, that’s only because Snyder recently tapped DNR Director Rodney Stokes to become the administration’s special adviser for city placemaking, prompting a shuffling of positions within the DNR and Agriculture Department.
Snyder has chosen Keith Creagh to take over at the DNR and Jamie Clover Adams to head the Agriculture Department.
In his new capacity for the state government, Stokes will work with cities to help them become more vibrant and inviting by enhancing their existing resources.
“Michigan’s cities are brimming with unique natural and man-made assets that can be cultivated in ways which attract families and visitors, retain talented workers, encourage investment, and enhance our overall quality of life,” Snyder said. “Rodney has the talent and experience to make that happen. His expertise in the areas of natural resources, outdoor recreation, policy development and civic engagement make him well suited to partner with cities in these efforts. A strong Michigan needs strong cities. Rodney’s work will be key to that success and we’re fortunate to have a person of his caliber at the forefront of this critical initiative.”
“I am excited to take a lead role in fostering more vibrant urban communities,” Stokes said. “I firmly believe that great states have great cities, just as great states nurture and protect their natural resources. This appointment affords me one more opportunity to make Michigan a more dynamic, inviting place to be.”
After Snyder’s election in 2010, Stokes was picked as one of his first cabinet appointees. Previous DNR Director Rebecca Humphries had retired earlier in 2010 to take a position with Ducks Unlimited.
Stokes began his professional career with the DNR in 1977 and held several leadership positions within the department, including service as chief of the Parks and Recreation Division, legislative liaison, chief of staff, acting chief of the Law Enforcement Division and chief of the Office of Science and Policy.
Following Stokes’ appointment to his new role, Snyder then appointed state Agriculture Department Director Keith Creagh as the new DNR director.
“Keith is a natural choice to become our next DNR director,” Snyder said. “He has a strong understanding of Michigan’s conservation, economic and environmental needs, vast experience and ability to bring people together, and a love of our state’s great outdoors that will make for a seamless transition.”
“I am honored to serve as director of the Department of Natural Resources and to work with such a dedicated group of professionals,” Creagh said. “I will strive to uphold the department’s great standard of excellence and build upon its past successes. As a lifelong outdoor enthusiast, I understand the importance of the state’s natural resources to Michigan citizens. Hunting, fishing, camping, hiking and other outdoor pursuits are not just hobbies in this state. They are a defining part of who we are as Michiganders.”
Gordon Guyer, a former director of both the DNR and the Agriculture Department, praised Creagh’s appointment as DNR director, calling it “outstanding.”
“I’ve had the privilege of working with Keith both as agriculture director and as a Neogen board member,” Guyer said. “He is uniquely qualified for this position and I can’t think of a better fit to take the helm at the DNR. He has a tremendous ability to take a tough issue and build consensus. Keith’s passion for our natural resources, tourism and agriculture industries will help us revitalize and reinvent Michigan.”
Creagh has a vast amount of management experience, including policy development, strategic planning, and operational leadership. He had served as the Agriculture Department director since January 2011.
He first began working with the state government in 1974 and has worked in a variety of capacities for the Agriculture Department, including land use deputy director with the DNR and Agriculture Department, where he coordinated a multi-agency implementation plan in response to recommendation from the governor-appointed Michigan Land Use Leadership Council.
Creagh also provided leadership for the Farm Bill and conservation programs, which brought together conservation organizations, state and federal agencies, and local conservation districts to establish conservation practices in the state.
Throughout his tenure with the state government, he has gained experience with invasive and exotic species, conservation easements, and environmental stewardship, as well as working closely with stakeholder groups, federal agencies, the state Legislature, and the U.S. Congress.
Creagh was also director of industry affairs for the Neogen Corporation, which is a company that develops and provides food and animal safety solutions to the agri-food industry. During that time, Creagh established and maintained relationships with the scientific community and state and federal regulatory agencies.
Creagh holds a bachelor’s degree in forestry from Michigan Technological University. He is also an avid outdoorsman, which should serve him well as the head of an organization such as the DNR, an organization “committed to the conservation, protection, management, use and enjoyment of the state’s natural and cultural resources for current and future generations.”
And of course the state’s natural resources includes lakes.
One of the priorities of the DNR is to encourage fishing among the younger generation and to do so by providing introductory experiences, access to equipment, access to aquatic resources that support fishing, access to a guide or mentor, and social support fishing.
The DNR also monitors the health of the state’s fish population by tracking and understanding the pathogens and disease that cause fish mortality, including viral hemorrhagic septicemia (VHS) and bacterial kidney disease.
As part of its efforts to manage fish health, the DNR has employed rearing strategies in its hatcheries to reduce disease outbreak, and has also conducted surveillance on wild fish populations for a broad range of pathogens.
The DNR also manages the public boating access sites that can be found on many lakes throughout Oakland County.
The DNR director serves at the pleasure of the governor and receives an annual salary of $140,000, plus benefits. According to DNR spokesperson Ed Golder, benefits for state workers are 40 percent of the employee’s annual salary.
To fill the empty director post within the Agriculture Department, Jamie Clover Adams, previously the state Department of Environmental Quality’s (DEQ) Policy and Legislative Affairs director, was chosen by the governor to take over for Creagh.
“Michigan’s food and agriculture industry is one of the most important to our state’s economy, and Jamie has the experience, knowledge and skills to provide the necessary leadership to assure Michigan food and agriculture continues to play a prominent role in our state’s economic recovery,” Snyder said. “She will be an excellent director for (the Agriculture Department).”
“I am honored to serve the people of Michigan and am anxious to get to work to meet Gov. Snyder’s goals for agriculture,” Clover Adams said. “We will strive to double our exports, work to significantly increase farm verifications, and help grow the value chain from farm to fork.”
Clover Adams has a wealth of experience that spans decades in working with both the agriculture industry and legislative policy development.
She has served as the secretary of the Kansas state Department of Agriculture from 1999 to 2003, and was the deputy chief of staff to state Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville. Before that she served as the director of the Senate Majority Policy Office.
Clover Adams was raised on a farm in Michigan, and holds a master’s degree in public policy from Georgetown University and a bachelor’s degree in general studies from the University of Michigan.
Creagh said he approves of his successor.
“Jamie has great vision and leadership capacity,” he said. “Her experience makes her well suited to become (the Agriculture Department’s) next director.”
The Agriculture Department director serves at the pleasure of the governor and receives an annual salary of $140,000. According to department spokesperson Jennifer Holton, Clover Adams has a pension similar to other state employees and does not utilize the state health insurance benefit.
The Agriculture Department’s mission is to “assure the food safety, agricultural, environmental, and economic interests of the people of the State of Michigan are met through service, partnership, and collaboration.”
All appointments became effective on July 9.