Cec McConnell has been named the new leader of agricultural research and development at the Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development, filling a role left vacant by Mark Sweetingham nearly two years ago. Ms McConnell will step into the role as deputy director general of primary industries development at DPIRD later this month, after nearly two years of working as the State’s Soil and Land Conservation Commissioner. She took on role September 2020 when it was reclassified and elevated in rank within DPIRD, under WA Agriculture Minister Alannah MacTiernan and then-DPIRD director general Ralph Addis. As Soil and Land Conservation Commissioner, Ms McConnell was responsible responsible for administering the Soil and Land Conservation Act 1945, including preventing land degradation, promoting soil conservation and educating about land management. In her new role, she will work to ensure DPIRD delivers strong research and development outcomes for WA. “I am excited to take on this role and look forward to working with the department’s Primary Industries Development team, our research partners and the agricultural and aquaculture industries,” Ms McConnell said. Dr Sweetingham retired from the position nearly two years ago and it has since been filled in an acting capacity by various DPIRD staffers since his departure, including senior leader Carl Binning. Ms McConnell will report to DPIRD acting director general Terry Hill, who was seconded from his role as CEO of the Pilbara Development Commission to fill the role left vacant by Mr Addis when he resigned to take on a new job as Lotterywest CEO in January. Mr Hill said DPIRD was committed to driving research and innovation in collaboration with industry to benefit WA’s vital agriculture, fisheries and food sectors. “Ms McConnell had been an important part of the department’s executive team since 2020, ensuring soil and land conservation has had a strong voice at the table,” Mr Hill said. “She has provided excellent policy and scientific leadership, including overseeing the development of WA’s first Soil Health Strategy.” Prior to becoming Commissioner, Ms McConnell ran her own consulting company providing business development, planning and natural resource management advice and held board director roles, including with Wheatbelt NRM. She previously held senior leadership roles with the then-Department of Agriculture and Food, including as a regional director based at Northam. “Her extensive knowledge of agriculture and natural resource management, as well as business experience, will be a huge benefit to the department as we focus on research and development, and support industry to tackle issues such as climate change,” Mr Hill said.