“She’s irreplaceable.” That was the comment of one of my friends after he heard that Andrea Erskine, Deputy Commissioner of the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, is retiring. And I agree with my friend. We will never have a Deputy Commissioner with the depth of knowledge and experience that Andrea brought to her job.
In her message to DIF&W staff, announcing her retirement, Andrea wrote, “It is with a heavy heart, nervous belly, and worried mind (mixed in with a little excitement) that I announce my upcoming retirement from the best agency in State government. Easily, the most difficult decision I have ever had to make. The heavy heart results from having such a fulfilling career, working with some of the most talented, caring and dedicated people, and having to walk away from all that. I have loved every (well, almost) minute of my time here. The nervous belly and worried mind are merely a result of not knowing what the next chapter will bring for me, as all I have known and lived is ‘fish and wildlife.’ We shall see!”
I first got to know Andrea during the years she represented the department at the legislature. As the years went on, I came to depend on her for objective information and advice, and particularly valued her knowledge of previous legislative and agency action on the issues. She was also responsible for the agency’s rule-making process. Andrea was a key member of SAM’s Pickering Commission during our periodic review of hunting and fishing laws and rules to make recommendations for simplifying and clarifying those laws and rules.
Some people thought Andrea was too quick to defend members of the agency’s staff, whenever they came in for criticism, but I think her personality, her experience, and her deep love and respect for the agency and its work, has to be respected.
Andrea worked for two years for the Department of Transportation, followed by five years at the Department of Conservation, before moving to DIF&W for the last 30 years of her career in state government. When she was presented with the opportunity to leave her protected position to take on the politically-appointed job of Deputy Commissioner, many of us encouraged her to do so, and I am very pleased that her decision to do that worked out well for her. She sent a “special thank you to Commissioner Woodcock for having faith and trust in my abilities to serve as… Deputy Commissioner.” That could not have been a difficult decision for Chandler!
I remember well a previous time when Andrea was considering retirement. Many of us begged her not to do that, and she came within a few hours of the final deadline of turning in her completed retirement papers, before deciding to stay on at the agency. I have to thank her for that.
In her message to staff members, Andrea explained, “My official date of retirement is October 1 and I will be leaving on the 4th for Florida with my husband who has worked for a company there for the last two years and recently accepted a management position requiring his presence ‘on site’ rather than working remotely which is what he had been doing. We are fortunate to have a summer home here that will eventually be our full-time home and while I am looking forward to a winter in the warmth, I am already looking forward to our return to Maine.”
I had a long and wonderful visit with Andrea last week, some of which was focused on her desire to volunteer in Florida to assist patients and staff in hospice care. That didn’t surprise me, because she is a very caring person. I encouraged her to write about her experiences at DIF&W, because we would all benefit from that.
She told staff members, “I have been most fortunate to have had all of the opportunities that working here has presented – from stripping fish eggs to holding bear cubs along with many others…. My ‘dash’ is extremely full.” No surprise that her work at the legislature did not make the list of favorite experiences!
If you would like to send Andrea a message, thanking her for all that she did for the sportsmen and women of Maine, her email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.