LePage replaces education commissioner with one of his advisers

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AUGUSTA — Gov. Paul LePage has chosen one of his senior policy advisers, Tom Desjardin, to be the next commissioner of education.

Desjardin was sworn in as acting commissioner on Dec. 23, according to an internal email sent that day to all Department of Education employees. His name will be submitted for approval by the new Legislature when it begins regular business next month.

Desjardin’s appointment was not publicly announced by the governor or the Department of Education, though LePage’s spokeswoman, Adrienne Bennett, confirmed the appointment on Monday.

The email, sent by Department of Education communications director Samantha Warren, said Desjardin will continue to serve concurrently as one of LePage’s senior policy advisers until he is replaced in the governor’s office.

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The internal memo is the first signal from the governor that the sitting commissioner, Jim Rier, is not expected to return to his post after leaving on “indefinite medical leave” in November, when the department’s official word was that Rier’s leave was expected to be temporary.

“Outgoing Commissioner Rier is finally at home where he is fully focused on continuing his recovery and remains appreciative of our cards and well wishes,” she said. “While he does remain on medical leave, he continues to keep in close communication with Tom and the leadership team and may return to the department as deputy commissioner in the coming months, if he is able.”

Rachelle Tome, who was appointed acting commissioner when Rier went on leave, has apparently been placed back into her former role as chief academic officer, according to her public LinkedIn profile.

Desjardin was brought onto LePage’s team in 2013 to serve as a senior policy adviser on education, as well as issues related to the departments of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, Environmental Protection and Marine Resources.

He holds a Ph.D. in U.S. history from the University of Maine and has published several books. He was the Department of Agriculture Conservation and Forestry’s resident historian for more than a decade before joining the governor’s team two years ago.

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