Concord — February 1, 2006 — Sean O’Kane, commissioner of the Department of Resources and Economic Development (DRED) will leave the agency when his term expires at the end of March. Word of O’Kane’s departure came yesterday in a brief announcement from the office of Governor John Lynch.
O’Kane was appointed head of the agency in April, 2004 by then-Governor Craig Benson. The agency’s previous commissioner, George Bald, resigned at the midpoint of his four-year term.
Shortly after taking office, O’Kane agreed to consider a proposal by Ossipee Selectman and State Representative Harry Merrow to construct a public beach in Ossipee Lake Natural Area. The agency had previously studied and rejected the beach idea in 1999, with Commissioner Bald calling it inappropriate and environmentally unsound.
DRED consists of four divisions – travel and tourism, forest and lands, parks and recreation, and economic development – that require a constant balancing of competing interests by the agency’s commissioner.
Last year O’Kane and Lynch differed publicly over a Benson-era plan to expand the Mount Sunapee Resort to facilitate the construction of a privately-owned condominium complex bordering Mount Sunapee State Park. Lynch opposed the expansion during his 2004 campaign for governor, and tabled the plan after O’Kane approved it and sent it to the new governor last May.
Lynch has not announced who he will nominate to replace O’Kane. His choice is subject to the approval of a majority of the state’s five-member Executive Council.