MOREHEAD CITY — State officials have chosen longtime N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries staff member Kathy Rawls to lead the division, starting Saturday.

The DMF announced Wednesday Ms. Rawls, a 25-year division member, will take the top position. Ms. Ralls succeeds Steve Murphey, who retired DMF Jan. 31.   

According to the DMF’s announcement, when Ms. Rawls becomes the new DMF director, she will have “plenty of experience to draw on.”

“Rawls has been with the Division for more than 25 years,” the release said, “the past seven as the fisheries management section chief. She also will be the first woman to head the agency since the Fisheries Commission Board became the Division of Commercial Fisheries in the late 1920s.”

Ms. Rawls said while there are already a number of women in pivotal roles at the division, and she does feel a responsibility to represent them and other female colleagues, she also said she knows “gender is not part of the job description.”

“The best way for me to represent women in the science field is to be a darned good director of the Division of Marine Fisheries,” she said, “and being a good director will involve doing the best I can for the division, the marine fisheries resource, and the people of North Carolina.”

Ms. Rawls began her career at the division in 1990 as a river herring technician, a position she held for three years before leaving to work on her family’s farm. She also ran a private business during this time, but her love for fishing continued to grow.

Ms. Rawls returned to the division in 1999 as a technician on a striped bass project and worked her way up to biologist supervisor, a position she held for eight years until May 2011, when she was promoted to manager of the division’s northern district, based in Elizabeth City. She became fisheries management section chief in April 2014.

Ms. Rawls, 53, was born and raised in Windsor and graduated from Lawrence Academy in Merry Hill. She earned a bachelor’s degree in marine biology from the University of North Carolina at Wilmington in 1989.

She said she attributes her love for fishing and interest in marine biology to her parents. She recalled that when she was growing up, her dad was responsible for catching the fish and she and her mom would cut open fish stomachs to see what they had been eating.

“With this background, Ms. Rawls knew from a very early age that she wanted to be a marine biologist,” the DMF said.

Ms. Rawls continues to enjoy spending time with her family and friends fishing, going to the beach, camping and riding 4-wheelers on the family farm.

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