The last week has been buzzing with talk about who might become the new Commissioner for the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR). A couple of folks from the conservation community have made it into the rumor mix, so let’s go beyond the Deputy Commissioner Holsten logic and speculate…
But first, let’s mention Brad Moore, acting commissioner of the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA). Prior to his fill-in appointment, Commissioner Moore spent 20 years or so working in the DNR. Based off my one or two conversations with MPCA employees, it sounds like he is doing a pretty good job in the new department and the staff are pretty happy working with him. The staff I’ve chatted with would prefer to keep working with him, rather than take their chances with someone else who might be appointed to the permanent position. Obviously, given his experience with the DNR, Moore comes up as a possible DNR appointment, which would then leave his position available to be filled with someone like Rep. Dennis Ozment (who had been the chair of the House Environment Finance committee prior to this year’s election) or perhaps a total outsider from a regulated industry – similar to Commissioner Corrigan. (as an aside, Rep. Ozment’s seat is considered to be somewhat vulnerable to being a DFL pickup, making an appointment of him slightly less likely).
Dave Zentner – Dave is the past national President of the Izaak Walton League of America. He has been in the news the last couple of years mostly for his work on the Ducks, Wetlands, and Clean Water rallies. He was also recently appointed to the Conservation Legacy Council. His name has come up a time or two as a possible appointment, but I am guessing he likes living in Duluth a little too much to take this job.
Perhaps most intriguing to me is the idea of an appointment of Gary Botzek. Gary has been a lobbyist for a number of different MEP member groups, including the Minnesota Conservation Federation for which he is also currently the executive director. He worked in the Governor’s office during the Quie administration. He has extensive knowledge of the inner workings at DNR, but would also bring an outside perspective. I will admit that some of my readily-apparent bias comes from the fact that Gary served on MEP’s Board of Directors for a number of years. He’s a moderate Republican and I think there would be a great deal of consensus around his nomination for Commissioner. Given the amount of contention that could be created with the wrong nomination, choosing Gary seems like a great solution for both the desire to avoid that contention and the need for someone who would really work hard for Minnesota’s environment.
“The staff I’ve chatted with would prefer to keep working with him, rather than take their chances with someone else who might be appointed to the permanent position.”
That’s not surprising, but pretty revealing.
A couple of people have now mentioned to me that Commissioner Hugoson, who oversees the MN Department of Ag, is also rumored to be moving on after his 16 years at the helm, so there may be some more announcements to come soon.