-- Darryl Brown, Gov. Paul Lepage's choice to lead the state
Department of Environmental Protection, grew up here on
150-acre farm - the kind of self-sufficient farm that has virtually
vanished from the Maine landscape.
The youngest of 16 children, Brown spent much of his youth outdoors,
either working in fields or playing in the woods that the family
harvested for firewood.
His home had no plumbing. All the butter his mother churned was sold,
and she gave her own family margarine because it was cheaper.
"It's a lifestyle you don't see very much any more," Brown said while
eating breakfast at the Railway Cafe on Main Street. "On the other
hand, it does a pretty good job shaping someone's life."
Brown, now 66, said his hardscrablle childhood on the farm has given
him the capacity to work long hours and the desire to conserve natural
and fiscal resources.
A soft-spoken and self-effacing man who prides himself on being
reasonable, Brown has suddenly been propelled into a partisan fight
over the direction of LePage's environmental policies.
Four of the five Democrats on a key legislative panel voted last week
not to endorse his confirmation, and resistance is expected Tuesday
when the Senate takes up his nomination.
His supporters say Brown would work to protect Maine's environment, but
would do so in a way that is more predictable and more responsive to
"Maine is a beautiful and lovely state," he said. "Our clean
environment is what makes us live, work and play here. It is what
brings a lot of people here."
Brown said he sees himself as a conservationist and his critics are
mistaken if they believe he won't protect the integrity of Maine's
Opponents say they don't see evidence from the public record to back
LEAGUE DISLIKED VOTING RECORD
A socially and fiscally conservative Republican, Brown served in the
House of Representatives from 1978 to 1986. In his last session, he
was one of only six of 151 House members to receive a zero ranking from
the Maine League of Conservation Voters.
The group says Brown voted the wrong way on bills related to hazardous
waste, acid rain, energy standards, freshwater" wetlands and chemical
The group's executive director, Maureen Drouin, in a statement called
the record "troubling."
Nobody doubts his technical background, though.
Brown graduated second in his class in 1962 at Richmond High School.
His family could not afford to send him to college, but a teacher
encouraged him to apply for an Eastern States Governors Scholarship,
which was customarily given to one rural student in each New England
He won the scholarship - Gov. John Reed handed him the award at a
gathering of the six New England governors in Massachusetts. Brown
graduated from the University of Maine in 1966 with a soil science
degree and later earned his graduate degree in agronomy.
While he was away at college, Brown's parents sold the farm. As he was
the last of their children to leave home, there was no one left to help
with the heavy work. Today, the farm is turning back to forest.
He used his education to build a career helping developers build
projects, particularly subdivisions and golf courses.
The land-use planning firm he founded in the early 1970s, Main-Land
Development Consultants Inc., guides developers through the site
approval process with the Department of Environmental Protection and
His current clients include the owners of the planned gambling casino
Much of the opposition to Brown in the Legislature stems from worries
that he is unable to address the appearance of conflict of interest
that will arise when his company seeks permits for clients from the
department. Brown, the sole owner, said he plans to sell his company,
although it may take some time.
If Brown is confirmed, his salary - which would be set by LePage -
would range from $71,000 to $103,000. That, he says, would be a big pay
Brown has been one of the Department of Environmental Protection's most
outspoken critics, arguing that its cumbersome procedures lead to
unnecessary and costly delays.
At a public forum last month, he called the department "out of control."
LePage, who has made regulatory reform the centerpiece of his
administration, said Brown has the right technical background but also
brings a "common sense" approach to regulations.
Brown, in an interview, echoed LePage's often-expressed sentiment that
the state's regulators should be more business-friendly.
The department has an "attitude problem" that he plans to fix, he said.
"We need to recognize who our customers are. Our customers are the
citizens of the state of Maine"
A SUCCESSFUL BATTLE
Brown's company has been particularly active in the mountains of
western Maine. He has planned most of the subdivisions in the Bethel
area, and has been working on the expansion plans for the Saddleback
ski area in Rangeley.
Two years ago, Brown took on a public fight when the Department of
Environmental Protection proposed changing the state's site plan law
to steer projects closer to existing services and buildings. Brown
organized the opposition, arguing that the reforms would hurt rural
communities that hunger for new businesses.
He sponsored a series of forums to draw attention to the plans. More
than 100 people testified at a public hearing at the State House. The
parts of the plan that Brown opposed were later removed.
For his efforts, the Maine Real Estate and Development Association
last year gave Brown its annual Public Policy Award.
But Brown's public criticisms of the department preceded the site-plan
In 2006, at a conference in Bethel about managing growth, Brown said
Maine has a harsh regulatory environment, and he pointed to regulations
for managing storm water, wetlands, vernal pools and streams.
Ultimately, despite best growth-management efforts, natural resources
and the market dictate what development occurs, he said at the forum,
according to an account by the Sun Journal of Lewiston.
"The free market system is the final arbiter in land use," he said.
Brown, who supported Les Otten in the primary, said he met LePage
briefly at a fundraiser during the general election.
After Lepage's victory, he decided to apply for the commissioner's job
at the urging of man of his supporters in the site-plan campaign. Brown
said he next met LePage during his interview for the job.
As commissioner, Brown said, he plans to completely review all the
department's regulations and rules.
He said he wants to speed things up, reducing the review time for a
permit from six months to three months.
He said some of the staff seem to have an "unfriendly"
attitude to businesses seeking permits, and he plans to change
The department has made great strides cleaning up polluted rivers and
preserving sensitive wildlife areas, said Donna Gurley, a former
spokesperson for the department who resigned two weeks ago.
But it's a task, she said, that often creates tension between
regulators and developers.
"People don't like being told what they can and can't do," she
House Minority Leader Emily Cain, D-Orono, said Brown appears to have
an "attitude problem" of his own.
"He has in many ways demon-ized the DEP in a way that is very unfair,"
Last week, the Maine Chapter of the Sierra Club announced its
opposition to Brown's appointment, saying that the group has yet to
uncover any evidence that Brown has demonstrated a commitment to the
protection of Maine's environment.
But Dennis Doyon, who has served on the Bethel Planning Board for 16
years, said he has seen that commitment from Brown firsthand.
He said he's watched Brown turn down work as a consultant because the
landowner refused to listen to his advice about how to reduce storm
water runoff or preserve a natural feature.
He said Brown sometimes encouraged subdivision developers to eliminate
lots so they would fit better into the landscape
"He would always take the high road and do what is best for that
particular piece of property/' Doyon said. "He is probably one of the
staunchest supporters in the state for reasonable development versus
capitalizing on the greatest gain on a piece of property."
Brown lives in Livermore Falls with his wife, Peggy. They have been
married 25 years and have four adult children.
Rep. Gary Knight, R-Liver-more Falls, Brown's next-door neighbor, said
Brown is a fastidious workaholic who keeps an immaculate lawn. He said
he's also a fair-minded person who considers other people's views.
"He will reach out," he said. "He's not the my-way-or-the-highway type
Brown works unusually long hours, arriving in his office.
by 6 a.m. and spending many long evenings at planning boardmeetings,
according to his company's office manager, Angela Finkham.
She said Brown leads by example and fosters a strong sense of loyalty
among his employees. Most of the company's 11 employees have worked
there for 20 to 25 years, she said.
Pinkham said staff members at the DEP should consider themselves lucky.
"We work more as a family team unit than as employees and employers,"
she said. "It's very sad for all of us that he is leaving."
MaineToday Media State House Writer Tom
Belt can be contacted at 699-6261 or at: