Gov. Janet Mills announced Friday that her chief legal adviser is stepping down and her administration’s top environmental regulator will take over the position later this month.

Derek Langhauser has served as Mills’ chief legal counsel since the Democrat took office in January 2019. Prior to joining the Mills administration, Langhauser was president and general counsel of the Maine Community College System, legal or constitutional counsel to former Gov. John McKernan and former Sen. Olympia Snowe, and as a clerk to two Maine Supreme Judicial Court justices.

Derek P. Langhauser Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

Langhauser will be replaced by Jerry Reid, the commissioner of the Maine Department of Environmental Protection, who previously worked for 24 years in the Maine Attorney General’s Office. Deputy DEP Commissioner Melanie Loyzim will fill Reid’s position on an interim basis until a new commissioner is nominated by Mills and approved by the Maine Senate.

“Derek is a trusted adviser and cherished friend,” Mills said in a statement. “His wise counsel throughout my administration, and particularly during this pandemic, has been truly invaluable. It is with gratitude and great sadness that we have come to accept his departure from this office. I will miss him.”

Langhauser said in a statement from Mills’ office that he was looking to spend more time with his family.

“It has been a privilege to work for the governor, whose thoughtful and pragmatic leadership I have always admired, and to have served the state during a time of such consequence,” Langhauser said.

Turnover is relatively common in the position of chief legal counsel to Maine governors. Former Republican Gov. Paul LePage had at least six different chief legal counsels and former Democratic Gov. John Baldacci had five. LePage subsequently appointed two of his counsels as judges and a third to the Maine Public Utilities Commission.

Reid served under Mills during her tenure as attorney general prior to her election as governor in 2018. As the former chief of the natural resources division within the Attorney General’s Office, Reid advised agencies on legal issues connected to the environment and often served as the lead attorney for the state in complex court or regulatory cases.

As DEP commissioner, Reid has overseen his department’s response to the emerging contamination concerns over per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, the “forever chemicals” commonly known as PFAS. He also helped develop some of the nation’s most stringent water quality standards aimed at protecting tribal members who rely on sustenance fishing, potentially helping resolve long-standing legal disputes between the state and tribes.

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