The state Fish and Wildlife Commission voted Saturday to hire Phil Anderson as director of the state Department of Fish and Wildlife. A 15-year veteran of the department, Anderson has served as interim director since Jeff Koenings resigned in December.
The commission is recommending Anderson be paid $141,000 a year to lead the department with about 1,380 employees and a budget of more than $350 million.
The commission voted 5-4 to offer the job to Anderson.
The 59-year-old Anderson takes over a department still dealing with a $30 million cut in its 2009-11 budget. That forced Anderson and the agency to eliminate 76 jobs through layoffs and leave vacant another 67 positions.
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“I’m relieved, I’m humbled by the incredible support I’ve received from so many people across the state,” Anderson said. “What I told the commissioners after I accepted the offer, is one of the greatest things I get to do is work with the really fantastic employees at the Department of Fish and Wildlife.”
Looking ahead, Anderson identified three priorities.
“One of my first priorities is to continue my efforts to establish the conservation of our fish and wildlife resources,” he said.
Anderson also wants to enhance fishing, hunting and wildlife watching opportunities across the state, including maximizing public use of the more than 900,000 acres the department owns.
He also wants to continue to make sure the agency uses sound business practices.
“I’m delighted and honored to have this opportunity,” he said.
“We’ve had a healthy discussion on the future of the Department of Fish and Wildlife and we’re confident that together the commission and Phil will set the priorities to guide the department in its vital mission of protecting Washington’s natural resources,” commission chairwoman Miranda Wecker said in a news release.
Anderson joined the department in 1994 and was promoted to deputy director for resource policy in 2007. Prior to taking over for Koenings, Anderson’s most prominent role was serving as the state’s lead negotiator in the North of Falcon process during which federal, state and tribal officials set salmon fishing seasons.
Anderson beat out five other candidates to become director. The names of the other candidates were not released.
The commission voted to hire Anderson after defeating a motion to offer the position to the other finalist.
“I’ve known Phil for 35 years. We’ve worked together and fished alongside each other. When it comes to knowledge of the job, how do you compete with Phil Anderson,” said Tony Floor, director of fishing affairs for the Northwest Marine Trade Association.
“He has earned his stripes and we look forward to working with him,” added the recreational fishing advocate and former department employee.
Helen Engle, a longtime Tacoma conservationist and avid birder, said she was glad to see someone familiar with the issues get the job.
“When you get a new director from somewhere else, it takes them so long to get up to speed,” she said. “This man already knows everybody and he knows the issues.”
Anderson came to the department after serving seven years on the Pacific Fisheries Management Council as a private citizen, including serving as vice chairman and chairman. Anderson began his professional fishery career more than 30 years ago as owner and operator of a charter fishing boat business.
He attended Grays Harbor College.
Anderson and his wife, Chris, have two sons. Anderson is an avid hunter, fisher and birdwatcher, and has served as a school board member of the Ocosta School District.
Jeffrey P. Mayor: 253-597-8640