State environmental department Secretary Donald R. van der Vaart today named Braxton Davis, director of the state Division of Coastal Management, to lead the state’s Division of Marine Fisheries effective immediately.
For the immediate future, the divisions will remain separate entities housed under the state’s environmental agency, and Davis will lead both divisions as director. The department intends to examine ways in which the two divisions can achieve efficiencies in operations.
“Braxton’s knowledge of state and national coastal issues, and his experience as director of our coastal management division, made him the perfect choice to lead both groups,” said Secretary van der Vaart. “His extensive background in coastal science and management will allow him to bring these two groups together in an effective and exciting way, and enhance protection of our state’s coastal and marine resources.”
Davis began his tenure as director of the state’s coastal agency in September 2011, after serving as policy director for the South Carolina coastal program. He holds a doctorate in marine affairs from the University of Rhode Island, a master’s degree in biological sciences from Florida International University, and a bachelor’s degree in environmental sciences from the University of Virginia.
“I am honored by the trust placed in me to lead these two very important coastal divisions,” Davis said. “Both divisions have a long history of working collaboratively in many areas, including regulatory, research, planning, conservation, and outreach activities, and I believe this move will only strengthen the partnerships we’ve developed over the years. I look forward to continuing our collaboration, and bringing both teams together to find more ways that we can improve our work and services.
“I plan to listen to, and work closely with staff, commission members, and other interested groups – both internal and external – to identify opportunities for efficiencies and improvements,” Davis continued. “I hope to develop draft recommendations for the future of both agencies later this year.”
Davis named Mike Lopazanski, chief of the coastal division’s policy and planning section, as acting assistant director of the Division of Coastal Management. Col. Jim Kelley will continue to serve as acting assistant director of Marine Fisheries, a role he has held since February. Lopazanski has worked for the coastal management division for 25 years, and has been head of its policy section since 2012. Kelley has been with the N.C. Marine Patrol for nearly 27 years and has served as its leader since February 2014.
The state’s coastal agency regulates development in the 20 coastal counties, balancing coastal development needs with the protection of North Carolina’s coastal and marine resources, navigation, recreation and property rights. The agency also helps local governments establish accessways for the public to reach coastal waters, assists with local land use planning, and administers the Coastal Reserve and National Estuarine Research Reserve Program, which sets aside coastal lands for research, education and stewardship.
The state’s marine fisheries division is responsible for the stewardship of the state’s marine and estuarine resources, and is dedicated to ensuring sustainable marine and estuarine fisheries and habitats for the benefit and health of the people of North Carolina.
Louis Daniel, who had led the Division of Marine Fisheries since 2007, abruptly stepped down on Feb. 29. His departure was announced in an email to employees but not in a news release.