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HARRISBURG, PA - The Pennsylvania Game Commission has a new executive director.

Stephen Smith, who has served as deputy executive director since February, was appointed to his new role Monday by the Board of Game Commissioners, which convened in executive session. 

Smith replaces Bryan Burhans, who served as the agency’s executive director since 2017. Burhans resigned his position on Monday, and his resignation was accepted by the board in executive session. 

Thanking Burhans for his service, Commissioner Scott Foradora explained the moves.

“Not every hunter will agree on every issue or every change that affects them, but with Bryan, and the decisions he had a hand in, you always knew his heart was in the right place,” said Foradora, the board’s president. “He cares immeasurably about Pennsylvania’s wildlife and habitats, and especially about hunters and those who work to carry out the Game Commission’s mission, both now and in the future. He did a lot for all of them during his time with the agency.

“That said, the board became aware of circumstances beyond job performance that caused us to raise questions about whether a change in leadership would be appropriate,” Foradora said. “It recently came to light Bryan had a business relationship with several Game Commission employees and received income through that relationship. That’s not to suggest there were any ethical violations on his part, but there were questions about the appropriateness of those business relationships, and ultimately he chose to resign.”

Burhans said his resignation will create more time for him to spend with family, including a newly born grandson.

“Every wildlife agency director has a lifespan, with the national average about three years of service,” Burhans said. “My seven-year tenure is longer than many. I learned from so many great leaders that you must recognize when it’s time to go. Now is my time.”

Smith said that in taking over as executive director, he will call for an independent third party to review the Game Commission’s supplemental employment policies to assure, for agency employees and all citizens of the Commonwealth, that any questions about appropriate supplemental employment will be answered ahead of time.

Beyond that, Smith said he will work hard in his new role to make sure Pennsylvania’s hunting tradition, and the work the agency does to sustain it through the management and protection of wildlife and habitat endures.

“This is a critical time for the Game Commission and the future of hunting, trapping and the conservation of wildlife,” Smith said. “The work we do now will have lasting impacts for the generations to come, and ensure they will enjoy the same opportunities we have for centuries. It is an honor to serve in this capacity.”

A Berks County native, Smith graduated magna cum laude from West Chester University with a degree in Political Science. He then received a law degree from the Penn State Dickinson School of Law. Smith joined the agency in 2008, after several years of practicing law. 

Prior to his appointment as deputy director, Smith had served as the director of the Game Commission’s Bureau of Information and Education.

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