BERLIN – The Maryland Coastal Bays Program began the new year under new leadership after a months-long hiring process.
At the beginning of January, Kevin Smith began his tenure as the new executive director of the Maryland Coastal Bays Program (MCBP), taking over the position vacated by Frank Piorko upon his retirement at the end of last year.
Since that time, Smith said he has immersed himself in his work, taking on the responsibilities of his position and developing goals for the future.
“It’s been going well, but I’m definitely on a steep learning curve,” he said. “There’s a lot to learn.”
Smith spent the past 34 years with the Maryland Department of Resources (DNR). Prior to his retirement, he served as the director of restoration and resiliency under the Division of Chesapeake and Coastal Services, leading restoration and enhancement projects, many of which on the Eastern Shore.
“In my previous job with the Department of Natural Resources, I worked with folks in the coastal bays area and county officials going back several years,” he said. “So, I’m familiar with the area, and I have a pretty close working relationship with folks down here.”
So, when the program’s search to find a new executive director began last August, Smith said he decided to apply.
“When I saw this job was advertised last summer, I had at that point 34-and-a-half years in the Department of Natural Resources,” he said. “So, I thought, ‘Well let’s see what that opportunity looks like.’ I interviewed for the position and got the job.”
Smith has spent most of his career in the field of aquatic and habitat restoration. After graduating from the University of Maryland with degrees in resource conservation and fish and wildlife management, he worked for the North American Wildfowl Trust on waterfowl habitat enhancement before joining the DNR in 1985.
Smith noted that his interest in habitat restoration and management began in high school, when he started birding.
“I was always interested in birds and waterfowl, so that got my interest piqued,” he said. “That led to me trying to understand the ecology and what habitats they preferred, which then led me to looking at how their habitats have degraded and how we can restore those sorts of attributes.”
After spending much of his career working on restoration and enhancement projects throughout the lower Eastern Shore, Smith said he is eager to continue that work at the MCBP and lead the program as it enters an age of new environmental challenges.
“In 2021, the program will be 25 years old,” he said. “And while some of the challenges and goals that were identified back then remain, we are now facing a new set of challenges with things like resiliency, storm events and sea level rise.”