Vestas 11th Hour Skipper Charlie Enright and R.I. Dept. of Environmental Mgmt. Dir. Janet Coit at today's Ocean Summit at the Volvo Ocean Race Newport Stopover. Image: Jesus Renedo/Volvo Ocean Race

Governor Dan McKee today announced that Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management (RIDEM) Director Janet Coit will be departing on June 18. Terrence Gray, RIDEM’s Deputy Director for Environmental Protection, will ascend to the role of Acting Director of the Department.

The Boston Globe‘s Dan McGowan has reported that Coit is leaving for a job opportunity under U.S. Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo.

“Since taking the lead at DEM in 2011, Janet Coit has been a powerful advocate for our state’s environment, agriculture, parks, fisheries, and so much more. Her commitment to protecting our environment and addressing climate change will benefit Rhode Islanders for years to come,” Governor McKee said in a statement. “Janet has connected countless Rhode Islanders and visitors to the natural wonders that our state has to offer, all the while improving customer services, sustainability, and morale within RIDEM. We are grateful for her public service and wish her all the best in her next endeavor.” 

According to a press release from Governor McKee’s office, Director Coit has worked in the environmental field for over 30 years, becoming RIDEM Director in 2011. Over the past 10 years, she has made a positive impact on Rhode Island’s environment, including leading efforts to improve water quality and confront climate change. Director Coit has chaired the Executive Climate Change Coordinating Council since its creation, working across state government to promote clean energy, reduce emissions and implement plans to increase Rhode Island’s resilience to the impacts of climate change. Under her leadership, Rhode Island created new grant programs to promote climate resiliency and to increase the remediation and reuse of contaminated sites.

Coit has been a strong voice for addressing the needs within the State Park System, and steady progress has been made to improve the staffing and facilities at these amenities that attract over 9 million visits each year. From the East Matunuck beach pavilion, to the award-winning Lincoln Woods facilities and soon-to-be completed boat ramp, to new boat ramps and recreational fishing amenities in Narragansett and Goddard Park and many other places, Coit has presided over projects across the state to improve and promote public access to parks, waterways and natural areas. Director Coit reliably and successfully worked with three governors, General Assembly leaders, and partners to promote green bonds every two years – with Rhode Islanders voting overwhelmingly to support tens of millions of dollars of investments in open space, recreational amenities, farmland preservation and water quality improvements.

“Being at the helm of DEM for over 10 years was a great privilege, given the consequential nature of the department’s work to improve public health, quality of life, and the economy of Rhode Island,” said Director Janet Coit in a statement. “I feel confident in the leadership and initiatives underway at DEM as I move on to my next chapter. Governor McKee’s recent signing of a strong Act on Climate establishes a clear imperative to adopt clean energy and increase our efforts to improve air quality for all communities, with a particular focus on places that have been overburdened by pollution. As I look back, I am struck by the incredible dedication and quality of the staff at DEM. The department has a very broad scope, and Rhode Islanders are fortunate that so many fine people have chosen to serve the public at DEM.”

Terrence Gray will ascend to the role of Acting Director on June 19. He has 34 years of experience at RIDEM. He received his Bachelor of Science in Chemical Engineering from Lehigh University, a Master of Science in Civil Engineering from Northeastern University, and a Master of Business Administration from the University of Rhode Island. “Terry Gray is a dedicated public servant who has decades of experience in protecting Rhode Island’s natural resources,” Governor McKee said. “Terry has a record of hands-on leadership and an unwavering commitment to building a healthier, safer environment for all Rhode Islanders. I am confident that Terry will be able to lead the department as we continue to tackle the climate crisis, address environmental justice issues and preserve our natural resources.”

“I appreciate Governor McKee’s appointment and will work to continue to deliver responsive, clear, and predictable customer service across DEM,” said Acting Director Gray. “This ethic is one of Director Coit’s greatest legacies. DEM has a broad mission important to all Rhode Islanders. We have much work ahead of us and I look forward to working with DEM employees, our partners in other state and municipal agencies, and public stakeholders to accomplish it.”

As Deputy Director for Environmental Protection at RIDEM, Gray has been responsible for overseeing all major environmental regulatory programs in the Department and directs the implementation of the compliance, technical assistance, permitting, remediation, and enforcement programs. Since 2019, Gray has been the primary point person on the Rhode Island interagency team for the Transportation and Climate Initiative. He has also led several permitting and enforcement program initiatives and reforms at DEM and has been directly involved in Rhode Island’s Brownfields program since its inception.

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