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October 13, 2022

Gulf of Maine Research Institute leader will step down next year

Photo / Tim Greenway Don Perkins, the outgoing president and CEO of the Gulf of Maine Research Institute

The longtime leader of the Gulf of Maine Research Institute in Portland announced his plans to step down at the end of next year.

Don Perkins, who is president and CEO of GMRI and has been there 28 years, said in a note to stakeholders that his retirement is “one step in a long-term succession plan” that he and the board developed over several years. 

“This is an ideal moment to make our transition to our next generation of leadership,” Perkins wrote.

Spencer Stuart, a recruiting firm, will head up a nationwide search for a candidate. 

“I will remain President/CEO until my successor is named, which we expect to occur in the summer of 2023. I will support our new President/CEO through the end of 2023 as they settle into their role,” Perkins wrote.

“I’ve had the honor of leading GMRI through many changes, challenges, and moments of uncertainty,” Perkins said of his years at GMRI. “Working with several generations of extraordinary staff and board members, we have built a strong, internationally recognized research institute focused on achieving our mission to develop and deliver collaborative solutions to global ocean challenges.”

Earlier this year, the nonprofit made a major commitment to retaining Maine's dwindling working waterfront, agreeing to pay $12.35 million for Union Wharf on the Portland waterfront. 

“Union Wharf is the centerpiece of the Portland waterfront. It’s the firewall between tourism development on the Eastern waterfront and the working waterfront,” Perkins told Mainebiz in February. “It’s really critical to protect it. The hope is that what we’ve done will cause people to think of other options to protect it.”

The Gulf of Maine Research Institute 

The Gulf of Maine Research Institute, which is based on Commercial Street in Portland, had revenue of $15.8 million for fiscal-year 2021, according to its annual report. Its expenses totaled $11 million. The organization lists about 75 staffers on its website. 

Under Perkins’ watch, the Gulf of Maine Research Institute has become internationally recognized for developing collaborative solutions to global ocean challenges. 
Closer to home, GMRI works with middle schools to create science literacy programming, serving 10,000 students a year. 

GMRI works with coastal communities to navigate change, and tackles issues ranging from sustainable fisheries to responsible aquaculture as the “blue economy” adapts to climate change.

Though Perkins pledged to remain on staff through the end of next year, he plans to spent more time with his grandchildren and do more sailing — “starting,” he wrote, “with a circumnavigation of Newfoundland during the summer of 2024.

In a news release from the nonprofit, the board chair praised Perkins' work as president and CEO.

“We applaud Don for his thoughtful approach to this transition and thank him for his excellent leadership in the foundation and growth of this institution,” said Beth Greenlaw, who is GMRI's board chair in addition to being president of Sea Bags. “We will miss Don’s stewardship and, at the same time, we’re excited about the opportunities this brings for the organization to continue to thrive under new leadership.”


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