AUGUSTA — Gov. Paul LePage on Friday tapped longtime Maine Department of Health and Human Services administrator Ricker Hamilton to serve as the agency’s acting commissioner.

Hamilton, the deputy commissioner of programs at DHHS, will take over for Mary Mayhew, whose resignation was announced Wednesday by LePage.

“I am pleased to appoint Ricker as acting commissioner of DHHS,” LePage said in a prepared statement. “He has been actively involved in reforming welfare, improving services for the truly needy and bringing fiscal responsibility and accountability to a department that was plagued by massive shortfalls under previous administrations.

“Ricker will provide a wealth of experience and a steady hand to guide DHHS as the department continues to improve and reform the programs that are vital to so many Mainers.”

It was unclear Friday whether Hamilton will hold the post temporarily, or whether LePage will nominate him to the Cabinet-level position for the remainder of his term. DHHS is the state’s largest department and accounts for about a third of all state spending.

Peter Steele, LePage’s communications director, said the governor would be deliberate in considering all of his options and potential candidates for the post. Any candidate nominated to the job in a permanent capacity would face a confirmation hearing before the Legislature’s Health and Human Services Committee and a vote of the full Senate.

Under state law, Hamilton can serve as long as six months in an acting capacity. Finding a permanent replacement for Mayhew may be difficult for LePage. He has only 19 months remaining in office, and qualified candidates might be leery of taking the job and risking being replaced by the next governor.

Hamilton has 40 years of experience in management, program development, strategic planning and social work in programs that provide services for children and families, substance abuse, mental health, sexual assault and domestic violence, aging and disability, and acute psychiatric care, LePage said.

Since 2013, Hamilton has managed and directed the Offices of Aging and Disability Services, Child and Family Services, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services, Dorothea Dix Psychiatric Center and Riverview Psychiatric Center. He also served as program administrator for adult protective services at DHHS and as an instructor at the Maine Criminal Justice Academy, where he developed a curriculum on elder abuse.

Hamilton holds a bachelor’s degree from Saint Anselm College and a master’s degree in social work from Boston College.

Mayhew, a former Democrat who also lobbied for the Maine Hospital Association before joining LePage’s administration, has been a key advocate for LePage’s efforts to revamp programs that affect thousands of Mainers, including efforts to tighten requirements for Medicaid enrollees, re-establish work requirements for food stamps, clamp down on welfare fraud, and advocate for other changes, such as forbidding junk food purchases with food stamps. LePage frequently has praised Mayhew’s fiscal management at the department, which had previously been the source of gaping budget deficits.

There has been persistent speculation that Mayhew will run for governor, but she has not confirmed that or any other plans.

LePage also announced Friday that Alec Porteous will serve as the department’s chief operating officer and chief financial officer, filling a role left vacant by Sam Adolphsen, who departed DHHS this year.

“Alec has a diverse background in the private and government sectors and has been integral in guiding the department to a stable financial footing,” LePage said, also in a prepared statement. “He will continue to be a strong, reform-minded leader within the department.”

Porteous previously worked as a policy adviser on Wall Street reforms and the Consumer Protection Act for Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher in Washington, D.C. He also worked as an associate at Lehman Brothers/Barclays Capital to provide strategic and financial advice to clients, including Procter & Gamble, Hormel and Unilever. Before joining DHHS, Porteous was vice president at Harpswell Capital Advisors in New Gloucester.

Porteous also served from 2011 to 2013 as the state office representative in Portland for Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, and as Collins’ campaign finance director during her 2013 reelection campaign. Porteous received his bachelor’s degree from Colby College in 2002 and his Master of Business Administration from Cornell University in 2007.

Scott Thistle can be contacted at 791-6330 or at:

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