"I will become Director of Conservation Programs for MDWFP on May 1," Penny wrote in an e-mail addressed to colleagues and friends.
In the letter, Penny said current assistant chief of wildlife Chad Dacus will become the new Director of Wildlife and Chris McDonald will be assistant director. Dacus confirmed the announcement on Monday and said the agency will probably have a news release later this week.
"It is with great excitement that I am moving into the great frontier of Conservation Programs," Penny said. "There will be many projects and programs for which I will be responsible, but the main categories are Outreach and Education, Planning, Partnerships and Funding.
"One of my main duties will be working with the leadership from all the MDWFP bureaus and ensuring that we meet the goals as outlined in our Strategic and Operational Plans. We all invested serious time and resources to develop these plans, and it's time that we refocus our efforts on them."
Penny is happy that his new position will allow him to do what he likes - "working with people and organizations outside the agency and in my new role, this will be another of my primary duties."
Penny followed a rare path to lead the wildlife division, that of moving up through the ranks as a waterfowl biologist. Historically, wildlife chiefs come up through the deer program. Dacus, the popular long-time deer program coordinator, follows in the footsteps of former wildlife chiefs Larry Castle, Bill Thomason, Ed Hackett and Seth Mott, all former wildlife directors who specialized in deer.
Penny said he enjoyed his many years with waterfowl.
"To that end, I will retain my waterfowl and migratory bird management duties by continuing to represent MDWFP on the Mississippi Flyway Council," Penny said. "Another of my duties will be assisting with the development and implementation of a strategy to secure a license fee increase for funding MDWFP as well as developing long-term, stable funding for conservation in Mississippi. The time for action is now, and we must have a sense of urgency if we are to get this done."
With Dacus as the deer program coordinator, Mississippi made some of its biggest strides in management. Two recent seasons each produced 10 Boone & Crockett Record Book of North American Big Game white-tails, including the 2012-13 season.
McDonald moves into the assistant director's seat after serving several years as the deer biologist in Southwest Mississippi.