Head of Pennsylvania Fish & Boat to call it quits

Harrisburg, Pa. — John Arway will retire in November as executive director of the Pennsylvania Fish & Boat Commission, ending a 38-year career marked in recent months by conflict with state legislators.

“You know when it’s time,” said Arway in announcing his plans July 31. He cited “a variety of factors, both personal and professional,” including spending more time with his grandchildren and to hunt and fish.

Arway, 66, expressed disappointment that he was leaving the commission having “failed to achieve a sustainable future for the agency and its programs.”

He said that while he has contemplated retirement for the past couple of years, he had hoped to stay on until he could convince state lawmakers to approve a license fee increase or alternative funding source for the commission – a prospect that had grown increasingly dim.

Arway rankled key legislators with threats to cut trout production, and they retaliated by vowing to ignore the funding problem as long as Arway was at the helm, even threatening to force him out with legislation (SB 935) that would limit his term.

“For the politicians who said they won’t get us revenues until I’m gone, this is my chance to remove that excuse. They will still need to solve the problem.”

The lawmaker behind the push to oust Arway, Senate President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati, R-Cameron, did not return requests for comment. But Rep. Keith Gillespie, R-York, chair of the House Game and Fisheries Committee, said the retirement news came as a surprise.

“I met with the commission board a couple of weeks ago and made a commitment to do everything possible to get a license fee increase next year,” he said. “I thought things were starting to heal.”

Many in the conservation community expressed disappointment that Arway will be leaving, but praised his work to protect as well as promote healthy fisheries, including Jacquelyn Bonomo, executive director and CEO of PennFuture, which had voiced support for Arway in his battle with legislators.

“John’s true worth was always the science and what it compels us to do in terms of managing our fisheries,” she said. “His leadership is now part of the legacy within the commission that endeavors to put natural resources first.”

Charlie Charlesworth, president of the Pennsylvania Council of Trout Unlimited, chided lawmakers for “tainting the commission with politics,” and added, “You have to applaud John because he was faced with a hostile legislative environment and a lot of political bullying, yet he was able to leave the agency on his own terms.”

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