Insider Roe picked by PGC as director

By Bob Frye Capital Correspondent

Harrisburg — When Pennsylvania Fish & Boat Commissioners
conducted a “nationwide search” for a new executive director, they
found their man, Doug Austen, in Illinois, far beyond the state
line.

When Game Commissioners did a similar search, they found their
guy, Carl Roe, in the same building they started in.

Does that make their pick any better or worse? That depends on
who you talk to.

Commissioners received 67 applications for the top spot in the
agency. Roe, a 57-year-old Montgomery County native, emerged as one
of five finalists – commissioners are not identifying the other
four – and was ultimately awarded the job Dec. 1.

Game Commissioner Russ Schleiden, of Centre County, said Roe’s
combination of experience and education made him the logical
choice.

Roe currently heads up the agency’s bureau of administrative
services. He joined the agency in 2001 after concluding a 30-year
career with the U.S. Army, from which he retired as a colonel. He
has master’s degrees in public administration, management, and
Latin American studies, a bachelor’s degree in political science,
and has managed operating budgets of $120 million and capital
improvement budgets of $140 million.

Roe came close to serving as retiring executive director Vern
Ross’ right-hand man on one other occasion, only to see that
rebuffed. In October 2003, Ross tried to promote Roe to deputy
executive director, to take the place of the retired Larry Harshaw.
But Gov. Ed Rendell’s office of administration, which must approve
those kinds of hires, nixed Roe’s candidacy.

Schleiden said Roe is the right man now, however.

“I believe without a doubt that, when you look at his resume,
you could see he has all the experience, he has all the
credentials,” Schleiden said. “Certainly, there were other
qualified people. But they might have been strong in one area and
not so strong in another.

“(Roe) has a proven track record. This is not an easy task he
has. But I believe he is the right individual to take us
forward.”

At least some sportsmen seem to agree. Ted Onufrak, president of
the Pennsylvania Federation of Sportsmen’s Clubs, is pleased with
the selection of Roe. While admitting Roe’s selection may have
surprised some, Onufrak said “We’re looking forward to working with
him.

“He’s one of those guys that, when you asked for something, you
got it without having to wait for it. He’s easy to get along with,”
Onufrak said. “I think he’s a straight shooter.”

Others are not so convinced. State Rep. Dan Surra, an Elk County
Democrat who has sparred with Roe in public meetings in the past,
said he had been hopeful game commissioners would choose their next
leader from outside the agency, as fish & boat commissioners
did. The Game Commission “needs to be innovative, forward thinking
and come up with new ideas,” Surra said, but Roe is “the consummate
insider.”

“I’m afraid it’s going to be more of the same,” Surra said.
“I’ll work with the guy. I don’t want to get off on the wrong foot
with him. But, I believe they need some serious changes in
direction and attitude over there. Maybe Carl is the right guy to
do that. We’ll see, I guess.”

Bryon Shissler, director of the Ecosystem Management Project,
which focuses on deer management issues, said he is willing to work
with Roe whenever and wherever possible. He, too, though, wonders
whether anyone from within the agency can really change its
culture.

“As was pointed out in the (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Management Assistance Team) report, one of the greatest challenges
facing the Pennsylvania Game Commission is to evolve from primarily
a law-enforcement agency that focuses on game management for those
of us who hunt to a science-based organization that serves all
wildlife for all the people of Pennsylvania,” Shissler said.

“Guiding that needed transition is going to be difficult for a
Game Commission insider.”

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