Maine education chief placed on indefinite medical leave

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AUGUSTA — State Education Commissioner Jim Rier of Topsham has been placed on indefinite medical leave, according to Department of Education spokeswoman Samantha Warren.

Warren did not provide details about Rier’s condition, but she said his absence is expected to be temporary and that Rier remains in close contact with department leadership.

In the interim, Gov. Paul LePage has appointed Chief Academic Officer Rachelle Tome as acting commissioner.

“The commissioner is proud of the progress the department has made under his leadership to advance key student-centered reforms that will better prepare Maine kids for success in their college and career,” said Warren in a written statement. “He and we look forward to him getting back to that important work in the coming weeks.”

Rier is originally from Washington County, where he was president of his family’s Machias car dealerships, Rier Motors Co., for 25 years.

He also has served on the boards of Bangor Hydro Electric Co. (now Emera Maine), the Maine Community Foundation, the Regional Medical Center at Lubec and the Washington County Educational & Economic Development Alliance.

Rier served two terms on the state Board of Education, including as chairman from 1997 to 2003, before joining the Department of Education as director of finance and operations in 2003.

He became deputy commissioner in 2011 and was nominated by LePage as commissioner in January 2014. Rier’s nomination sailed through the Legislature with no opposition.

Rier has earned respect in Augusta for his professionalism and expertise in state-level public school finance issues, as well as his enthusiasm for the job.

“I simply can’t wait to show up to work every day, and I’ve felt that way ever since I’ve started this,” Rier told the Legislature’s Education Committee in February.

Jim Rier

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