Peter Merrill, deputy director of MaineHousing, has been asked to serve as interim director of the affordable housing agency following the retirement of Director John Gallagher on Jan. 5.

The MaineHousing Board of Commissioners will conduct a search for a permanent replacement.

Merrill, of Portland, has served as deputy director for more than five years, and has been with the agency for more than 20 years, according to a media release from the agency. He is responsible for its general operations and represents the agency before the state Legislature.

Gallagher announced his retirement in November after five years as director of the $1.6 billion financial institution.

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