AUGUSTA — A longtime Maine National Guard spokesman and former head of two of U.S. Sen. Susan Collins’ Maine offices will be Gov. Paul LePage’s new director of communications.

The governor’s office announced Thursday that Peter Rogers, 47, of Yarmouth, will be on the job July 25.

Rogers serves as deputy commissioner for the Maine Department of Defense, Veterans and Emergency Management, working under Maj. Gen John Libby, the adjutant general of the Maine National Guard and commissioner of the department.

Rogers will fill a position that has been vacant since April, when Dan Demeritt, of Sidney, resigned after it became public he was facing foreclosures at five rental properties in Randolph and Augusta.

Since then, press secretary Adrienne Bennett has been handling all media inquiries to the governor’s office.

“He’s got a great message to get out,” Rogers said of the governor. “They’ve been understaffed for a little while and I’m excited to get that message out.”

Rogers, also a United States Army combat arms officer, has served on active duty and with the Maine National Guard, most notably as director of public affairs during the Gulf War and war on terror.

He said it is critical to have an available spokesman handling news inquiries and said that, in past jobs, he has been “very careful” of meeting reporters’ deadlines.

“Peter brings a wealth of knowledge with him,” LePage said in a statement. “He is committed to effectively and proactively communicating our focused messages on job creation, welfare, energy and education reforms to the people of Maine, and I look forward to working with him.”

Demeritt said Thursday that “nuanced spin doesn’t work” in handling LePage, who is widely known as an outspoken leader.

During his campaign, LePage told supporters he would tell President Obama “to go to hell” if he supported what LePage saw as an overregulation of Maine’s fishing industry. In January, LePage told critics of his decision not to meet with members of National Association for the Advancement of Colored People’s chapter in Maine to “kiss my butt.”

“The biggest challenge is that Paul LePage is a very strong leader and one who’s not afraid to tell it like it is,” Demeritt said. “That’s what makes the job so interesting and challenging.”

James Melcher, an associate professor of political science at the University of Maine at Farmington, said the position is more important with LePage than in previous administrations.

“This is going to be a more difficult job than working for Mr. Libby,” Melcher said. “It’s one of those positions that is mostly visible to the public when things are bad.”

Melcher said Demeritt was a good spokesman, but “picked some political fights.”

He referenced a memo to supporters that leaked in January, in which Demeritt wrote that LePage would “put 11,000 bureaucrats to work getting Republicans re-elected.”

“Maybe (Demeritt) was more what they needed at the beginning — he had the connections to the people who got LePage elected,” Melcher said. “I think they’re shifting to a place where the spokesman won’t be combative, but will be protecting the governor.”

In an interview Thursday, Rogers said he appreciates LePage’s candor, and said it is a defining part of his leadership.

“Obviously, there are a lot of people firing rounds at the governor, because he does come off as blunt,” Rogers said. “But, on the flip side, I’ve heard from a lot of people that find it refreshing to have someone who tells it like it is.”

Michael Shepherd — 621-5662

[email protected]

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