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Governor-elect Tim Walz picks first five state agency commissioners

December 18, 2018

Gov.-elect Tim Walz announced Tuesday he will be keeping on a couple hires from the previous administration as cabinet members, while bringing in some new state agency leaders including two former legislators.

The Metropolitan Council, Department of Transportation, Minnesota Housing Finance Agency and the Department of Administration will have new executives all of whom are women. Minnesota Management and Budget Commissioner Myron Frans, who has been the states top financial and human resources official for the past four years under Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton, will remain in place. Alice Roberts-Davis, an assistant commissioner at the Department of Administration, will shift into the top job there.

Maplewood Mayor Nora Slawik will become the chairwoman of the Met Council, former House Speaker Margaret Anderson Kelliher will lead MnDOT, and Jennifer Ho, a former senior advisor at the U.S. Department for Housing and Urban Development, is taking over at the Housing Finance Agency.

We chose these folks who are standing up here based on their dedication to the idea of servant leadership, Walz said at Tuesdays news conference. Minnesotans are looking for leaders who have passion and energy, grounded in a humble approach that builds coalitions to improve the lives around the state.

The five cabinet member announcements were the Walzs first round of appointments, and he has another 18 posts left to fill as he and Lt. Gov.-elect Peggy Flanagan prepare to be sworn in Jan. 7.

There were three or four finalists for each of the five positions.

For the Met Council leadership job, all three of the finalists were mayors: Democrats Slawik and Edina Mayor James Hovland, as well as Republican Woodbury Mayor Mary Giuliani Stephens. Giuliani Stephens ran for governor this year, but dropped out after Jeff Johnson took the lead at the GOP endorsing convention.

Slawik was just re-elected as mayor and said she will resign that position. She previously served seven terms in the state House.

Anderson Kelliher, who leads the Minnesota High Tech Association, will return to the State Capitol to focus on transportation. She spent 12 years in the House and has relationships with many legislative leaders, including incoming Democratic House Speaker Melissa Hortman, whom Anderson Kelliher mentored.

At the Minnesota Housing Finance Authority, incoming commissioner Ho will bring Washington, D.C., connections to the job. Ho was the senior advisor for housing and services at the U.S. Department for Housing and Urban Development during President Barack Obamas administration.

Walz and Flanagan recently spent five days traveling around the state and held 23 meetings with residents. They were trying to gather insight on what qualities and values Minnesotans want in the top state agency officials, and what issues they should take up.

The administration has noted concerns about health care, including mental health services, were a common theme, along with education, transportation, housing and child care. They planned to use the public input, as well as advice from a transition advisory board, when selecting commissioners.

Nearly 500 people applied for the 23 top agency jobs, Flanagan said, and almost 1,500 have people applied for jobs within the new administration.

The deadline to apply for a commissioner position has passed, but those who are aiming to become deputy or assistant commissioners can continue to apply through Dec. 28.

Jessie Van Berkel 651-925-5044

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