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    Wildlife agency director to resign

    The wildlife biologist started in 1977, long before the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission was formed.

    By LUCY MORGAN, Times Tallahassee Bureau Chief

    © St. Petersburg Times
    published January 5, 2002

    TALLAHASSEE -- Dr. Allan Egbert is resigning after eight years at the helm of the state agency charged with protecting the state's game, fish and wildlife.

    "This is not an easy decision," Egbert, executive director of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, said in his resignation letter. "This agency and one of its predecessors, the Game and Fresh Water Fish Commission, have literally been my life for 24 years."

    Egbert will remain on the job until April 30 to help the agency get through this year's legislative session and give the seven-member commission that runs the agency time to find a replacement.

    Egbert, 58, is a wildlife biologist who took over the old game commission in 1993 and continued at the helm after it merged with the Marine Fisheries Commission and parts of the Department of Environmental Protection in 1999. Florida voters approved the merger of the two agencies in 1998.

    The combined agencies now have control of fresh and saltwater fishing, hunting, protecting endangered species and enforcing conservation laws. The agency has about 1,800 employes and an annual budget of about $160-million.

    Egbert joined the old fish and game commission in 1977 as a wildlife biologist and worked his way up. In recent years he has become a familiar figure in legislative halls as he worked for money and laws to help operate the growing agency.

    "It has been a wonderful career," Egbert said Friday. "If I'm going to do a change-of-life thing, now is the time to do it."

    Egbert said he kept the job longer than he held any other job and longer than he expected to when he took over in 1993.

    "This agency is a big player now," Egbert noted as he talked about the changes that have occurred since the new commission was created. "The new agency has been a handful. It is unlike either of its predecessor agencies and deals with some very significant resource issues."

    Egbert said he is ready to try "something different" but wouldn't talk about what he'll do.

    He said his departure is not related to the newly appointed commission members, who have become increasingly active in running the agency.

    "It's their job," he said. "They are the policymakers, the equivalent of agency heads."

    Commission chairman John Rood was unavailable for comment, but Commissioner Julie K. Morris of Sarasota commended Egbert's work.

    "He's made excellent choices in recruiting senior management," Morris said. "When faced with tough decisions, he makes the best decision for the conservation of the resources we manage."

    Col. Robert Edwards, a 41-year veteran in state law enforcement jobs, also is leaving as head of the commission's law enforcement division.

    Edwards, 61, said he and Egbert are longtime friends and have been talking about retiring for more than a year.

    "I wanted to get the merger on track," Edwards said Friday. "I've always wanted to retire while I'm in good health, the agency is in good shape and while people didn't think I was a dinosaur."

    Edwards leaves Feb. 15. He plans to travel and fish at his home on Alligator Point, south of Tallahassee. Edwards joined the fish and game agency after a long career at the Florida Department of Law Enforcement and took over as the commission's law enforcement head 13 years ago.

    "I'll spend most of my days down there with flip-flops and cut-off Levis," he joked.

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