Walz makes first Cabinet picks

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Lt. Gov.-elect Peggy Flanagan and Gov.-elect Tim Walz met with reporters Tuesday to name their first five agency heads who will begin work next month when Walz takes office. Brian Bakst | MPR News

Updated 1:15 p.m.

Gov.-elect Tim Walz began building his new administration Tuesday with the announcement of five picks to head state agencies.

Veteran agency leader Myron Frans will provide some continuity when Walz takes office next month. Frans will remain as Minnesota Management and Budget commissioner, an important post as Walz puts together his first two-year budget.

Alice Roberts-Davis will get a promotion to Department of Administration commissioner, the de facto landlord and chief goods purchaser of state government. Roberts-Davis is currently an assistant commissioner and worked at Target Corp. before that.

Former House Speaker Margaret Anderson Kelliher of Minneapolis will run the Department of Transportation. She was a candidate for Congress this summer and lost to DFL state Rep. Ilhan Omar in a primary. 

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Kelliher has been working lately on high-tech issues, but has a transportation track record that speaks to a Walz campaign promise: She shepherded the last increase to the gas tax into law the year after the Interstate 35W bridge collapsed in 2007. It took a veto override to bump up the tax that pays for road and bridge projects.

Another former DFL legislator, Nora Slawik, was designated as the new chair of the Metropolitan Council. Slawik recently won a second term as Maplewood mayor but served in the House previously. Her biggest task will be to keep the Southwest Corridor light rail project on track.

The only true outsider in the bunch is Jennifer Ho. She was chosen to head the Minnesota Housing Finance Authority.

Ho is a consultant now, but she held a top position in the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development under former Democratic President Barack Obama. She’s also done extensive work in efforts to tackle homelessness and in the health insurance sector.

Commissioners are subject to state Senate confirmation but can serve while their nominations are pending. Republicans control the Senate by one seat.

Walz says he’s striving to form a cabinet that resembles Minnesota’s diversity -- in geography, ethnicity, gender and other demographic traits.

He has another 18 agency heads to select. There are many more managers beneath them and hundreds of other appointments to commissions and boards awaiting action when Walz takes office.

He is scheduled to be sworn in on Jan. 7.