The commission announced Thursday that Nancy McBrady has succeeded David Bell, who led the commission for 19 years. McBrady is the commission's fourth executive director and the first woman to lead the group, which represents Maine's wild blueberry industry.
Todd Merrill, president of Merrill Blueberry Farms in Ellsworth and president of the Wild Blueberry Association of North America, said in a prepared statement that McBrady's selection was unanimous.
He added: "She brings to the table a wealth of environmental, regulatory and policy experience; a broad knowledge of the issues facing our business and a sheer enthusiasm for the wild blueberry and its importance to Maine that will be powerful in helping us continue to grow our industry on a global level."
McBrady, a Maine native who grew up in Lewiston, studied at the University of Maine School of Law and went on to work for Preti Flaherty in environmental, land use and municipal law.
In her role as the commission's executive director, McBrady is charged with helping grow Maine's wild blueberry industry and advocating for it with state and federal lawmakers. According to a 2007 economic impact study, the most recent available, Maine's industry was found to generate $173 million in direct sales, 2,500 jobs in the Down East and $63 million in annual payroll.
McBrady also will help the University of Maine Cooperative Extension obtain funding for research and development programs related to the wild blueberry industry. She has already helped the commission obtain preliminary approval for a grant from the Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry that would support a new outreach program.
"It was wonderful to be able to make an impact immediately," McBrady said in a prepared statement. "The wild blueberry is a big part of our state's cultural heritage — it's up there with lighthouses, lobsters, Acadia and potatoes. I feel privileged to be a part of this important industry and I want to do everything I can to improve its interests and continue its success."
McBrady started in her new role at the end of 2014.