OLYMPIA—Dr. Jeffrey P. Koenings, an Alaska fisheries manager, was chosen today to head the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW).
Koenings, of Juneau, will be formally offered the job on Wednesday.
The Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission voted in a meeting tonight to select Koenings from among five finalists. The commission interviewed about 20 applicants for the position.
Koenings has served since 1995 as a special assistant to the head of the Alaska Department of Fish and Game and has represented the agency on the Pacific Fishery Management Council, which manages ocean fisheries off the coasts of Washington, Oregon and California. He has extensive experience in stream restoration and hatchery operations.
He joined the Alaska fish and wildlife department in 1978 and has directed the department's commercial fisheries management and development division. Since 1992 he also has served as a University of Alaska associate affiliate professor.
His duties with the Alaska agency included coordinating the state's response to federal requirements resulting from Endangered Species Act listings of salmon stocks.
"We are delighted to have a director with extensive experience in a natural resource agency and a keen knowledge of fisheries science," said Lisa Pelly, chair of the nine-member citizen commission which oversees the department.
"We feel that we have found a leader who can guide the Department of Fish and Wildlife through the challenges which lie ahead."
Koenings will replace Bern Shanks, who resigned last summer from the $96,468- a-year director's job. He will lead a 1,600-employee staff and oversee the department's $248 million biennial operating budget.
The new director will face numerous challenges including overhauling the department's business systems and practices. Outdated and inefficient business practices were largely responsible for a department budget shortfall earlier this year which resulted in layoffs and other cost-cutting measures.
The department also faces increasing natural resource challenges as it steps up efforts to restore wild fish populations which soon may come under federal endangered species protection.
"The search for a new department director has been arduous, but we have found what we were looking for—someone with exceptionally strong management skills and a solid understanding of natural resource issues, "said Commissioner Will Roehl, who headed the commission's director search committee.
Koenings holds a doctorate in natural resources from the University of Michigan and received a bachelor's degree in fisheries and a masters degree in water resources from the school. He also completed a National Science Foundation fellowship at the University of North Carolina.