Maine: An Encyclopedia

Executive Branch

The governor heads the executive branch of Maine government, which is composed of the Executive Department and the various specialized departments. (The other branches are the judicial and the legislative.)

Executive agencies have been frequently “reorganized” with mergers, divisions, and occasionally abolition.  See some resources describing the history of “government reorganization” efforts in the Additional resources at the end of this article.

Executive Department

This Department established at statehood in 1820, encompasses the Governor’s Office and other related executive offices.  The Governor directs the affairs of the state according to lawand through the use of Executive Orders. He or she also submits to the Legislature a biennial budget for the operation of State government. As Commander-in-Chief of the military forces of the State, the governor may direct the National Guard to respond to emergencies.

The Governor takes care that the laws are faithfully executed; gives the Legislature information regarding the condition of the State, and recommends measures for their consideration.

The Governor nominates and appoints all judicial, civil and military officers of the State, except as otherwise provided by law. He or she may require information from any military officer or any officer in the Executive Branch upon any subject relating to their respective duties.

The chief executive has the power to grant reprieves, commutations and pardons and remit, after conviction, all forfeitures and penalties; and to accept for the State any and all gifts, bequests, grants or conveyances to the State of Maine.

Administrative and Financial Services

Reorganized several times and established most recently in 1986, it provides central administrative services to other departments and agencies of State Government, including human resource and labor relations services; insurance; purchasing, printing, and postal services. This agency also maintains State facilities; data processing and telecommunications services; and employee health and assistance programs. The Department is the principal fiscal agency of Maine State Government.

Agriculture, Food and Rural Resources

Established in 1852 as the Department of Agriculture, its purpose is the improvement of Maine agriculture through: conservation of soil and cropland; the development, compilation and dissemination of scientific and practical knowledge; and the marketing and promotion of agricultural products.

It is also involved with the detection, prevention, and eradication of plant and animal diseases; protection of the consuming public against harmful and unsanitary products and practices; and the sound development of the natural resources of the State.

The Commissioner of Agriculture, and/or the appropriate boards or commissions within the Department, have authority to establish and promulgate grades and standards for Maine agricultural products; to inspect products; to grant licenses and permits; and to collect fines and fees. They also hold hearings for the purpose of obtaining essential information; establish, promulgate and maintain a full record of necessary regulations, and provide for their enforcement. They establish milk prices and harness racing schedules, register pesticides and license their use, participate in the investigation of and, prosecute, cases of cruelty to animals, and administer the agricultural bargaining law.


The Department of Conservation was established in 1973 to preserve, protect and enhance the land and water resources of the State of Maine. It does so by encouraging the wise use of the State’s scenic, mineral and forest resources; insuring coordinated planning for the future allocation of lands for recreational, forest production, mining and other public and private uses; and providing for the effective management of public lands. The primary responsibilities of the Commissioner are to coordinate and supervise the activities and programs of the bureaus and agencies that are part of the Department, and to undertake comprehensive planning and analysis with respect to its functions and responsibilities.


The Department of Corrections was established in 1981 to control all of the State’s correctional facilities, provide for the safety of guards and committed offenders. (These functions were previously the responsibility of the Department of Mental Health and Corrections.) It also is required to undertake appropriate programming for the classification, education and rehabilitation, and maintenance of committed offenders and to assure an effective system for the supervision of parolees and probationers.

The Department is responsible for the direction and general administrative supervision of the Maine State Prison, the Maine Correctional Center, the Charleston Correctional Facility, the Maine Youth Center, the Downiest Correctional Facility and the Division of Probation and Parole. It is authorized to adopt and implement rehabilitative programs, including work release, within penal and correctional institutions. The Department may establish regulations for and permit institutions under its control to grant an inmate or prisoner furlough from the institution in which he is confined; to establish programs which provide an environment of community living and control.

The Department is authorized to provide financial support to persons within its sentenced or committed populations participating in halfway house, pre-release, vocational training, educational, drug treatment or other correctional programs outside its institutions. It may also provide or assist the provision of correctional services throughout the State as authorized by Maine law, and the Department is responsible for setting standards and inspection of municipal jails.

Defense, Veterans and Emergency Management

This Department was established to coordinate and improve the discharge of the State Government’s responsibility relating to military, veterans and civil emergency management.

Economic and Community Development

The Department of Economic and Community Development, prior to 1987 an agency in the Executive Department, has four major policy functions: business attraction and assistance, tourism development and management, community development, and comprehensive land use planning. A significant number of programs require the Department to coordinate a variety of activities with Maine’s public and private sectors.


The overall emphasis of this agency since its creation in 1931 is to ensure that high quality educational services are available to all citizens of the State of Maine through comprehensive educational planning and leadership that relates such services to other social, economic, cultural and governmental programs and activities.

The Department is authorized to supervise, guide and plan a coordinated system of public education for all Maine citizens; to interrelate public education to other social, economic, physical and governmental activities, programs and services; to encourage and stimulate public interest in the advancement of education. It also encourages in-service education and staff development for teachers in cooperation with local school officials; compiles and distributes copies of school laws to municipal and school officers; acts upon applications for additions to and dissolution of School Administrative Districts.

The Department prescribes the studies to be taught in the schools, and it controls and manages all public schools established and maintained by gifts or bequests. More generally it is charged to perform all duties imposed by any charter granted by the Legislature to educational institutions in the State; to report annually to the Governor the facts obtained from school returns; with recommendations to promote the improvement of public schools.

The Department inspects schools, issues high school equivalency certificates, and produces or contracts for educational television programs. It is also required to cooperate with the federal Department of Education in carrying out the Bilingual Educational Program Act; to approve schools with out-of-state enrollment; to enter into contracts for vocational education programs. It certifies teachers and other professional personnel for service in any public school in the State or any school that accepts public funds.

Environmental Protection

Established July 1, 1972, this agency is charged with the protection and improvement of the quality of our natural environment and the resources that constitute it. It also is responsible for enhancement of the public’s opportunity to enjoy the environment by directing growth and development which preserves for all time and ecologically sound environment. The Department will advocate programs and regulatory decisions that contribute to the achievement of this mission.

The Department, through authority vested in the Commissioner and the Board of Environmental Protection, exercises the police powers of the state to prevent the pollution of the natural environment. It recommends to the Legislature measures for elimination of environmental pollution; and grants licenses, and initiates enforcement actions. Its staff negotiates agreements with federal, state and municipal agencies, administers laws relating to the environment and exercises whatever other duties delegated by the Board.

Health and Human Services

Prior to 1975 known as the Department of Health and Welfare, its mission is to protect and preserve the health and welfare of Maine citizens. More recently known as the Department of Human Services, it is now the Department of Health and Human Services. The change reflects the fact that the department now contains the former Department of Mental Health and Mental Retardation.

Inland Fisheries and Wildlife

In 1880, the Department was established to ensure that all species of wildlife (such as waterfowl, deer, moose, and other mammals) and aquatic resources in the State of Maine are maintained and perpetuated for their intrinsic ecological values, for their economic contribution and for their recreational, scientific and educational use by the people of the State.

Specifically, it is responsible for the establishment and enforcement of rules and regulations governing fishing, hunting, and trapping, propagation and stocking of fish, acquisition of wildlife management areas, the registration of snowmobiles, water crafts, and all terrain vehicles, safety programs for hunters, snowmobiles and water craft, and the issuing of permits and licenses (hunting, fishing, trapping, guide, etc.).


The Department was established to achieve the most effective utilization of the labor resources in the State by developing and maintaining a State employment and training policy. It is intended to insure safe working conditions, protect workers against loss of income and enhance opportunities to improve their economic status.

Through specific powers and duties delegated to its component administrative units, it is authorized to provide services for all workers and employers in the State who desire assistance, and establish and maintain free public employment offices.

The Department collects unemployment taxes from liable employers and pays unemployment benefits to illegible claimants. It also enforces all State laws established for the protection of the health and safety of workers, and laws regulating the payment of wages and employment of minors. It seeks to further harmonious labor-management relations and provide occupational training for the unemployed and underemployed.

Marine Resources

The Department of Marine Resources was established in 1867 to conserve and develop marine and estuarine resources of the State of Maine by conducting and sponsoring scientific research, promoting and developing the Maine commercial fishing industry, and by advising agencies of government concerned with development or activity in coastal waters. Through the authority vested in the Commissioner, the Department is empowered to conserve and develop the marine resources of the State, and to enforce related laws. It has the authority to acquire and hold real property; to accept funds, subject to the approval of the Governor; to enforce relevant sections of the Wetlands Control Law and advise state and federal agencies on the ecological effects of dredging, filling and otherwise altering coastal wetlands. It may also assist the industry in the promotion and marketing of its products; close contaminated shores, waters and flats; and make regulations and to assure the conservation of renewable marine resources in any coastal waters or flats of the State. The Commissioner of Marine Resources serves as an ex-officio member of the Atlantic Sea Run Salmon Commission.

Professional and Financial Regulation

Established: October 3, 1973, the Department serves the public by examining and overseeing state-chartered financial institutions and regulating bank holding companies. In addition it is involved in regulating insurance companies, agencies and agents, grantors of consumer credit, the real estate industry, commercial boxing and wrestling, approving the sale in Maine of oil and solid fuel heating equipment, and licensing and regulating numerous professions and occupations.

The Department protects Maine consumers through its licensing, examining, and auditing activities; by conducting programs aimed at increasing voluntary compliance with State laws; by investigating possible violations of law; and by undertaking enforcement actions. It responds to consumer complaints and requests for information and conducts educational outreach programs to make consumers aware of their rights under Maine laws.

In order to encourage the development of sound ethical businesses that serve the needs of Maine citizens, the Department seeks to foster a healthy business environment through competent, impartial and efficient regulation.

Public Safety

The Department of Public Safety was established in 1971 to promote the safety and well-being of Maine citizens by coordinating and efficiently managing the law enforcement responsibilities of the State.

The Department is empowered to coordinate and mange the law enforcement responsibilities of the State vested in the State Police, the Maine Criminal Justice Academy, the Capitol Security Force, the State Fire Marshal, the Bureau of Liquor Enforcement and the Bureau of Intergovernmental Drug Enforcement.

It is responsible for collecting and publishing the Uniform Crime Reports statistics tracking current and historical trends in criminal offenses, arrests, and law enforcement resources.

The Maine U.S. Marshal’s office has authority to support the federal courts i Maine and to carry out all lawful orders issued by federal judges, Congress, and the President.


The Department of Transportation (DOT) was established to plan and develop adequate, safe and efficient transportation facilities and services that contribute to the economic growth of the State of Maine and the well-being of its people. Through the authority vested in the Commissioner, the primary responsibilities of the DOT are to develop comprehensive, balanced plans and policies to meet present and future needs for adequate, safe and efficient transportation facilities in the State of Maine.

The Department also assists in the development, operation and maintenance of services and facilities and stimulates active support for transportation safety throughout the State. DOT assists in the planning, construction, operation and maintenance of the internal highway system, which should address scenic value, safety aspects, economic implications and compatibility with national, regional and local programs.

The Department acquires, constructs, operates and maintains harbor facilities, to support and implement the planned development of coastal resources, ports and harbors, and operates and maintains safe, adequate and efficient port and water transportation facilities essential to the well-being of Maine citizens and the economic growth of the State.

DOT administer laws relating to aeronautics, advances interest in aeronautics, and plans, develop, assists and advises in the development of aviation resources within the State. The Department receives and administers for the State, all federal or other funds intended for transportation or which would advance the purposes for which the Department was established.

Additional resources

Maine. Citizens’ Committee on the Survey of State Government. Recommendations of the Citizens Committee on the Survey of State Government. Augusta, Me. The Committee. 1959.

Maine. Citizens’ State Government Committee. Report of Citizens’ State Government Committee to Ninety-Sixth Legislature. Augusta, Me. The Committee. 1953.

Maine. Governor’s Task Force on Government Reorganization. Summary of State Government Reorganization Recommendations. Augusta? Me. The Task Force. 1967.

Maine. Legislature. Joint Select Special Committee on Governmental Reorganization. Maine Department of Human Services. Augusta, M. The Committee. 1971?

Maine. Legislature. Joint Select Special Committee on Governmental Reorganization. Proposal for State Department of Education and Cultural Resources. Augusta, Me.  The Department of Education. 1971.

Maine. Office of the Governor. Maine Management and Cost Survey, Final Status Report. Augusta, Me. The Office. 1974.

Maine. Special Commission on Governmental Restructuring. Executive Summary: Special Commission on Governmental Restructuring. Augusta, Me? The Commission., 1991.

Maine. Special Commission on Governmental Restructuring. Final Report. Augusta, Me. The Commission. 1991.

Maine. State Planning Office. Cost savings, State Governmental Reorganization; a summary of information presented on cost savings made possible by state government reorganization. Augusta, Me. The Office. 1972.

Maine. State Planning Office. State of Maine Governmental Reorganization: a summary of new departments and agencies approved by the first special session of the 105th Legislature, March, 1972. Augusta, Me. The Office. 1972.

State of Maine, Annual Report, Maine Department of Administrative and Financial Services.

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