BERLIN – The Maryland Coastal Bays Program (MCBP) yesterday announced Executive Director Dave Blazer was leaving the program after nearly a decade of shepherding the fledgling quasi-government agency through its infancy and helping raise environmental awareness in the county.
Blazer is leaving the program he helped nurture to take a similar position with an environmental consulting firm in the private sector. He leaves behind a legacy of staunch advocacy for the shallow bays behind Ocean City and Assateague and helped reshape policy in Worcester.
Blazer said yesterday he had mixed emotions about leaving the MCBP and taking a job in the private sector. Although the transition will not require him and his family to move from the area, he said he would miss being involved in the program he helped create in 1999.
“It is a little bittersweet,” he said. “There are really two parts to it. On the one hand, I’m extremely proud of what we were able to accomplish in a short period of time. On the other hand, if I was to take credit for anything as executive director, it would be for assembling so many good people around me. Those are the people who should be given a lot of credit for the successes of the program.”
When Blazer, the former Maryland director of the Chesapeake Bay Commission, arrived at the MCBP nine years ago, he along with a secretary and a public outreach coordinator in Dave Wilson represented the entire Worcester County staff charged with turning things around in the coastal bays.
“With a pittance of a budget and a staff of three, the non-profit organization was gradually but slowly changing the way business was done in the coastal bays,” said Wilson. “Over-worked, underpaid and under-staffed, Coastal Bays personnel struggled to do all of the little things necessary to help the community in its quest to improve water quality and wildlife habitat.”
That all changed under Blazer’s watch, however. In less than a decade, the program’s annual budget has tripled despite stable or falling federal support and now has an additional $1 million endowment at the Community Foundation. During the same span, the program has grown from a staff of three to five full-time and eight part-time staff
The growth has allowed the program to accomplish much on the ground and in the water. Since 1999, according to Wilson, the program has helped restore thousands of acres of forests and wetlands, worked to get all new sewer discharges out of the coastal bays, led the charge for better planning for growth, established a permanent water quality testing program, stopped boat sewage dumping in the northern bays and led countless other advocacy efforts for the local environment.
Perhaps most importantly, the MCBP under Blazer’s watch has been able to leverage over $6 million per year for the coastal bays watershed with great results. For example, every dollar the program has received in federal funding has brought $12 more to the coastal bays for improvement and enhancement projects.
Drawing on his vast experience as a former Maryland DNR Fisheries Program chief, Blazer was able to implement several programs directed at boating and fishing activities in the bays. For example, he helped produce and distribute over 10,000 copies of the program’s popular “Boaters Guide to the Coastal Bays” and was able to secure regular funding for the DNR’s size and creel limit brochures and signs for common coastal bays fish.
Wilson, who will assume the interim executive director’s position when Blazer leaves his post on Jan. 15 and will likely be on the short list of long-term replacements for him, said this week the program will miss Blazer.
“Dave accomplished what was previously thought unthinkable due to his ability to thoughtfully listen to others and understand the many shades of a given issue,” he said. “Consensus building is what the program is about and Blazer personified that.”
Blazer’s new position is with a private sector environmental consulting firm called Talbot Energy Associates, which is a subsidiary of the larger Ecologix Environmental Systems. The company helps businesses and organizations develop environmentally sustainable practices according to Blazer.
“It’s not a big departure from what I’ve been doing, except its consulting private sector organizations instead of governments,” he said. “There is a big movement among corporations to go greener with their practices and policies and we help them through that.”