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NOAA Selects Barry Thom as Next West Coast Regional Administrator; Will Stelle to Transition to New Role under NOAA Administrator




Barry Thom has been selected as the agency’s next West Coast Regional Administrator. In that role, Thom will lead more than 300 employees in nine offices from Seattle to Southern California. Thom starts his new role on September 12, 2016.

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"This is a win-win for the agency and for staff. Both Barry and Will are supremely talented and they will both bring energy and unmatched experience to their new roles. And, since we were able to make this critical leadership transition before the end of the year, our attention can be fully applied to the mission of the agency, the sustainable management of our nation’s fisheries and the conservation and restoration of protected species.”
--Eileen Sobeck, NOAA’s Assistant Administrator for Fisheries

NOAA Fisheries West Coast Regional Office
 

Sept. 6, 2016

Today, NOAA announced the selection of long-time Fisheries employee Barry Thom as the agency’s next West Coast Regional Administrator. In that role, Barry will lead more than 300 employees in nine offices from Seattle to Southern California. He will continue the region’s work to recover threatened and endangered populations of salmon and steelhead, protect marine mammals, and also oversee fisheries programs along the coasts of Washington, Oregon and California.

Also, as part of this transition, the West Coast Regional Administrator position has been reclassified as a ‘career’ position which means it will no longer be a political appointment. Reclassifying the Regional Administrator position as a ‘career’ position brings the West Coast Region into alignment with the rest of the agency and signals a maturing of the salmon program as it enters its third decade. Completing this transition before the end of the year also maintains continuity and increases focus on our mission.

At the same time, the agency also announced that two-time West Coast Regional Administrator and political appointee William ‘Will’ Stelle will be named as a Senior Advisor to NOAA Administrator Dr. Kathryn Sullivan.  He will assume the role of the NOAA Water Initiative Team Lead, working across the NOAA line offices to build a five year water strategy for the agency.  He will also assist Barry on California water and Puget Sound/Tribal issues and on other issues on an as needed basis. 

Both of these changes will be effective September 12, 2016.

“This is a win-win for the agency and for staff. Both Barry and Will are supremely talented and they will both bring energy and unmatched experience to their new roles,” said Eileen Sobeck, NOAA’s Assistant Administrator for Fisheries. “And, since we were able to make this critical leadership transition before the end of the year, our attention can be fully applied to the mission of the agency, the sustainable management of our nation’s fisheries and the conservation and restoration of protected species.”

For the last 15 years Barry has held various positions with NOAA Fisheries including, most recently, the Deputy Regional Administrator for the region. As deputy, he had a wide range of responsibilities, including strategic planning, planning and execution of budgets in excess of $100 million, human resources, information technology, safety and environmental compliance, and facilities management.

He is also the United States Commissioner to the Inter-American Tropical Tuna Commission (IATTC). In that role, Thom served as head of the U.S. delegation and as lead U.S. negotiator responsible for the formulation of U.S. positions related to potential resolutions for tuna and tuna-like species in the Eastern Tropical Pacific, and for domestic stakeholder interaction in the development of U.S. positions. This included negotiation and agreement on Pacific Bluefin Tuna conservation measures, a first-of-its-kind Mobulid Ray conservation measure and a strengthened measure to combat illegal, unregulated and unreported fishing, also known as IUU fishing.

In addition to his work with the IATTC, career highlights for Thom include successfully merging the NOAA Fisheries Northwest and Southwest Regional offices in 2013; administering NOAA’s $65 million Pacific Coastal Salmon Recovery Fund on behalf of the Southwest, Northwest, West Coast and Alaska Regions; and serving as Acting Regional Administrator for 18 months in 2009 during the previous administration transition.

Stelle Named New Senior Advisor to Dr. Sullivan

Will also has a long history with NOAA Fisheries on the West Coast beginning in 1994 when he joined the then-Northwest Regional Office as Regional Administrator under the Clinton Administration, a role he served in until 2000. During that time, he managed the listings of salmon and steelhead populations under the Endangered Species Act in Washington, Oregon, Idaho, and California. He also focused heavily on improving the agency’s Tribal and Congressional relations. Following that, he was a partner at the law firm of K&L Gates. His practice concentrated on projects involving complex federal and state environmental regulatory challenges, specializing in freshwater and marine habitat issues and endangered species, CERCLA, CWA and NEPA issues.

In June 2010, he joined the Obama Administration as Northwest Regional Administrator. In April 2013, pending the creation of the new West Coast Region, he was also named the Acting Southwest Regional Administrator for Fisheries. In October 2013, when the two regional offices were officially joined, he was named the Regional Administrator of the new West Coast Region.

Before settling in the Northwest, Will held a variety of policy positions dealing with a range of environmental and natural resource programs in Washington, D.C. Within the Federal Executive Branch, he served as the Associate Director for Natural Resources with the White House Office on Environmental Policy overseeing Federal lands, endangered species and natural resource policies. Before that he was Special Assistant to the Secretary of the Interior where he helped promulgate and implement the Northwest Forest Plan, governing federal Forest Service and BLM lands in California,
Will Stelle has been named senior advisor to Dr. Sullivan. Stelle starts in his new role September 12, 2016.
 Oregon, Washington and Idaho. Prior to entering the Executive Branch, Will served as Chief Counsel for the House Committee on Merchant Marine and Fisheries, as General Counsel for the House Fish and Wildlife Subcommittee, and as staff counsel to the Senate Select Committee on Indian Affairs.

Will received the Department of Commerce Gold Medal Award in 1997, and the NOAA Administrator's Award in 2000. His education includes: LL.M., Marine Resource Law, University of Washington School of Law, 1981; J.D., Coastal and Marine Law, University of Maine Law School, 1978; and a B.A. from Boston University, 1974 (magna cum laude).  He also studied international marine resource law at Dalhousie University Law School in Halifax, Nova Scotia.