The Maine Heritage Policy Center has turned to its own ranks for its new CEO. The Portland-based conservative think tank on Monday said it has chosen J. Scott Moody as its new chief executive.

Moody, who has served as the center’s chief economist since 2006, replaces Lance Dutson, who was hired last week to manage Republican Charlie Summers’ U.S. Senate campaign.

While Moody has worked for the Maine Heritage Policy Center for six years, he also has done work for think tanks across the country and runs his own consulting firm, Public Choice Analytics for the U.S. States. He lives in Woodsville, N.H., but said he plans to relocate to Maine.

Moody said he doesn’t plan any big changes immediately for the policy center, but said he wants to “beef up” the think tank’s policy side. He said the Maine Heritage Policy Center might soon start delving into energy policy after concentrating largely on tax and budget, education and health care policy in recent years.

“Education is in my blood,” Moody said. “I want to continue our educational outreach for free-market policies.”

Since its start a decade ago, the Maine Heritage Policy Center has emerged as the state’s most vocal conservative public policy group, playing a prominent role last year in Republican efforts to pass a market-based health care reform package and calling attention in recent years to what it sees as government waste.

Former CEO Tarren Bragdon was a co-leader of Gov. Paul LePage’s transition team in 2010, and LePage appointed the policy center’s former education analyst, Steve Bowen, as education commissioner.

Dutson, who joined the policy center in August 2011, began The Maine Wire, a conservative news website operated by the think tank.

Moody said the website is “still in its infancy.”

“We’re trying to figure out exactly where we’re going to go with it and a lot of our current initiatives, like getting to zero on the income tax,” he said. “We’ve got a lot on our plate.”

Moody has written a number of position papers and blog entries for the Maine Heritage Policy Center that have called for the elimination of Maine’s state income tax and held up New Hampshire as a tax policy model for Maine.

Moody said the center likely would hire another chief economist to replace him.