Pate, a Walter Wellborn High School graduate, was sworn in by Gov. Robert Bentley, and will replace Linda Casey, who retired in December after six years at the position.
Pate is a graduate of Auburn University and worked for more than 25 years in North Carolina’s Forest Service Department. In 2012, he was appointed to the position of North Carolina State Forester.
“I’m just excited to come home,” Pate said Wednesday by phone from his new office in Montgomery. “I have a relatively young family and I wanted to raise my kids in Alabama. I loved growing up here, and this is where I wanted to bring my family.”
Elishia Ballentine, the public information manager for the Alabama Forestry Commission, said Pate’s extensive government background, as well as experience in North Carolina working with fire suppression, made him an ideal candidate for the position.
“One of our biggest concerns in Alabama is wildfires,” Ballentine said. “So I think the commission took that into consideration when they made the choice.”
Pate said the issues facing the Alabama forest industry are similar across the Southeast, and the biggest part of his job will be creating new relationships with private and public owners and state officials.
“I’m looking forward to meeting new people” Pate said. “I’m excited to work with our landowners and legislature on these issues.”
According to the National Association of State Foresters, the position acts on behalf of the state Forestry Commission, serving as executive secretary and administrative official. A job posting from November on the association’s website said the Alabama Forester oversees a $24 million annual budget and 250 state employees.
More than 667,000 acres of land in Alabama belong to national forests.
Staff writer Brian Anderson: 256-235-3546. On Twitter @BAnderson_Star.