More than three months have passed since the controversial resignation of Pennsylvania’s environmental secretary, John Quigley, and Governor Tom Wolf is still looking for a permanent replacement.
The law requires the governor to nominate someone to fill the vacancy within 90 days. In order to comply, the administration submitted a placeholder name, Thomas Yablonski Jr., to the state Senate last week. Yablonski is a staffer in the governor’s office, and his name was used for 24 different appointments. Although placeholder names are submitted sometimes, it’s unclear why there is a delay in this case.
Quigley left his job at the helm of the state Department of Environmental Protection in May, following controversy over a profanity-tinged email he sent to environmental groups.
“We need a strong leader at DEP,” says Matthew Stepp, policy director for the environmental advocacy organization, PennFuture. “Quigley was a strong leader and was in the process of setting the agency on a strong path. They need someone to continue that work.”
In recent years there has been a lot of turnover in DEP leadership. Acting Secretary Patrick McDonnell is the fifth person to hold the position since 2013. McDonnell has worked at department for over a decade and has said publicly he wants the top job. He’s viewed as someone with a strong policy background who won’t stir up as much political controversy as past secretaries.
“The process to select a new secretary is ongoing,” says Wolf spokesman Jeff Sheridan. “No one has been interviewed at this point. The governor is still conducting a comprehensive search to fill the role.”